Moments after it premiered, The Woods was revealed to be the third Blair Witch film and the Internet went crazy. A third film was not something anyone could have anticipated, but now that it is out in the world, it’s time to talk about this surprise sequel to the film that kicked off the found footage horror genre.
Do not watch any trailers or footage for the movie. Going in cold is the optimal way to experience Blair Witch. The scares in this will seem ineffective if not experienced properly. It’s astounding how superbly crafted Blair Witch actually is, and any trailer would be a misrepresentation of that.
Now that that’s out of the way: WOW. Blair Witch feels like the pinnacle of the found footage sub-genre. It almost creates a perfectly constructed loop that starts and ends with this simple campfire tale of friends getting lost in the woods and running afoul of something evil. What Blair Witch brings to the table is a production design that is out of this world. Director Adam Wingard has managed a nearly impossible task: making a found footage film that maintains the unique aesthetic of the sub-genre while being incredibly cinematic.
Another stellar element of Blair Witch‘s construction is its cast of characters. Horror is such a difficult genre when it comes to crafting characters that the audience knows aren’t going to make it. Creating people we don’t want to see die is often a struggle for most horror films, but Blair Witch pulls it off almost flawlessly. That’s helped by an array of shockingly great talent. The entire ensemble is so on point that the film could benefit from spending more time with them before the terror happens.
But oh, that terror. This writer — a veteran of horror films who does not scare easily — was yowling constantly and suffering from multiple outbreaks of gooseflesh. Blair Witch is a classic distillation of haunted house filmmaking, and it uses these tricks like a masterful dark magician. The sound design alone, also done by Wingard, is oppressively eerie and nightmarish. In a better world, Blair Witch would be getting Oscar nominations for sound mixing and sound editing. The effectiveness of the soundtrack is almost unbelievable.
To be fair, Blair Witch is something of a soft reboot. The beats of Simon Barrett‘s script are the same but it’s the way they are told that makes the movie something special. You can see Blair Witch without having seen the original film, and it would be great to see this version become the standard for a new generation. Truth be told, it’s actually a better experience than its predecessor (and we aren’t talking about that other sequel). The supernatural elements are explored in grander and more disturbing ways, and the craftsmanship behind the camera has been amped up to a level that could compete with any large scale studio picture. Blair Witch proves that Adam Wingard should be getting bigger budgets, because when he has room to play it is awe-inspiring.
Of course, the secret reveal of the film was a treat. The same kind of old school showmanship was successfully utilized earlier this year with 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that element of mystery is something the horror genre could use more of. In fact, the theater lobby where the screening took place changed all their signage while the movie was playing!
After the screening, Adam Wingard talked about how he was a true fan of The Blair Witch Project as soon as the movie was released. At sixteen years old, he saw the movie multiple times in theaters and became obsessed with the mythology that the film hinted at. That love of the world this story inhabits is so prevalent throughout Blair Witch that only a fan could have crafted it.
As it stands, Blair Witch is the best horror film of the year, and that says a lot when 2016 has had an abundance of great horror films. As soon as this hits theaters on September 16, you need to see it. This is one for the books.