If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a terrible surprise…
When my local cinema advertised the chance to see a yet-to-be-released and unnamed horror movie for just £5 I jumped at the chance. In my gut, I knew it was going to be either Ouija: Origin of Evil or Blair Witch and I did a little fist pump of joy when the Blair Witch title came up on the screen.
Not everybody did, though. About half a dozen people walked out at this point. Perhaps they had traumatic memories of watching the original Blair Witch Project? I certainly do. I was twelve when the found footage movie hit the big screen and revolutionised the way in which we experience horror movies. I didn’t get to see it until it was released for rental and then my mum talked me into sitting up to watch it with her.
Back then I wasn’t a paranormal researcher (I was just 12) and I believed that ghosts were real and the film terrified me. My head was full of real-life anecdotal stories of terror from around the world (because I was a ghost geek even then) and I couldn’t get my head around whether or not this was another one of those, or entirely fictional. For days afterwards I couldn’t look up into trees just in case there were stick effigies hanging in them (just as I couldn’t look out of a window at nighttime in case I saw the red eyes of Mothman.)
So when the ‘Blair Witch’ classification notice came onto the screen revealing what our movie would be, this time, 29-year-old me made a commitment to watch it without fear. For 12-year-old me. To restore honour to my family.
I really enjoyed the film. It was interesting to see how modern technology was used by the group of friends exploring that notorious woodland and the forward-planning by the characters added to the authentic feel of the story.
And until this evening I always thought that the notion that a horror movie could make you jump out of your seat was just a saying but there was one moment that really did make me do that. I freaked right out but managed to contain myself.
The suspense in Blair Witch is carefully crafted and toe-curlingly good. It builds superbly and paces well but sometimes the payoff was a little bit too predictable and cliched. Other times, not so much.
Having revisited The Blair Witch Project (1999) in my adulthood and now having watched Blair Witch (2016) I’d say that I prefer the 1999 film simply because the fear was of something unknown and mostly unseen.
The occasional glance, the movement in the peripheral, the suggestion, noises and signs that indicated something was just beyond the reach of observation… all combined this gives it the edge over the 2016 sequel. A sequel that has all of those things but also used a few too many scare tactics resulting, at times, in something that was supposed to be scary but actually had people chuckling.
There were many bits of the story left unresolved and I can’t help but wonder if this is to lay foundations for a follow-up. I am divided on whether I want that to be true.
All in all, Blair Witch is the second best movie to come out of this franchise and I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. If you enjoyed the 1999 film I am confident you’ll enjoy this one too.
Blair Witch is released in cinemas September 16th.