The original Blair Witch movie came out in 1999 (wow, where has the time gone?!) in the good old days when you could get hold of a US DVD import in the UK before a movie was even released on UK cinema screens. I remember The Blair Witch Project being released in the UK on Halloween, the same day that the US DVD was delivered to my house! I excitedly sat down to watch it that evening with my family while everyone else had to go out in the cold rainy weather to watch it at the cinema, and I remember at the end of the movie we all kind of looked at each other as if to say “is that it…?!” All the hype, all the usual crap about it being absolutely terrifying and the scariest movie ever made and it was just a bunch of people getting spooked in the woods! To be fair, it wasn’t that bad, but it just wasn’t as scary or as fantastic as we’d been led to believe. The movie spawned a forgettable sequel and since then, despite being done to death, far superior found footage movies have come along and done it all a hell of a lot better. Then, out of the blue in July this year, a movie which had been previously marketed as ‘The Woods’ was revealed to actually be ‘Blair Witch’. The trailer looked OK, not great but interesting enough. But, once again we’re being subjected to all the usual marketing crap about it being terrifying and the scariest thing you’ve ever seen… blah, blah, blah…
James Donahue is the brother of Heather, who was one of the central characters in the first film. We join him 22 years after the original, as he prepares to lead a new bunch of characters into the Burkittsville woods. They meet up with a couple of young locals, who offer to be their guide, and off they head, into the woods where their video footage will later be discovered. This time round, the array of cameras capturing the footage has vastly improved. As well as the standard handhelds, we’ve got ear piece cams, drone cams, night cams. All offering new and interesting ways to capture the action.
Things mostly follow a similar path to the original – strange noises, weird stuff happening with time, thinking you’re heading in one direction when you’re going around in circles, juddery camera movements where it’s difficult to tell what the hell is going on. But… you do actually see things this time, the noises that you hear are terrifying, the characters are far more interesting and believable than original. And the final act when we find ourselves back in the house from the first movie is seriously the stuff of nightmares.
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, both have an excellent recent track record (see You’re Next and The Guest) and their influence on this movie has taken this story to another level. This is a far superior movie to the original and yes, it is truly terrifying.