While it was definitely not the very first, The Blair Witch Project was the film that started the popularity of the low budget found footage horror that seems very commonplace today. In its day, the film benefited from a world not yet fully connected by the internet where not every fact could be immediately analysed allowing the filmmakers to trick audiences into truly thinking this film could have been real footage. Even inside the film itself, nothing really happens that looks like a film-effect so the belief was not unfounded. In today’s marketplace this type of thing is just not practical. The public is aware of how viral marketing works and even most things that are actually real on the internet are seen through the frosted glass of incredulity. It is in this cynical world that director Adam Wingard attempts to follow up on the film that started a genre in Blair Witch.
The footage in this film is said to have been shot in 2014 and portrays Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez), a student filmmaker, making a documentary about James Donahue (James Allen McCune) who has received a new piece of footage related to his older sister’s disappearance in the Black Hills that portrays her as alive at the end of the encounter. Personally I was going into this thinking that they were going to be going after the Blair Witch again but the focus was initially focused on James’ search for his missing sister. While the group is cautious, none of them really focus on the legend of the Witch. This group is vastly better prepared for the journey than the original group was bringing extra food, GPS locators, long range radios, and a host of advanced camera equipment including a drone camera. The plot becomes more complex when the group takes two locals on the trip with them who are true believers in the legend. After the first night, the trip has fallen apart, the group is lost, and something is obviously after them.
I have not seen a lot of horror movies so I will not claim to be an expert. This movie definately updates the found footage genre by adding in slow background effects and sounds to amplify the tense psychological moments. Also there are a couple of things toward the end that i’m not sure why they made it through the editing process as they took you out of the film for a moment. But with all of this said, this movie wholly and truly scared me. The mix of jump scares, some truly amazing sound work, the feeling of being in the character’s shoes, and the horror of the house updated with a proper budget had me on the edge for at least the entire third act.
It’s very possible that this film won’t hold up after a first viewing and I don’t know how it will work when viewing at home but I implore you, if you are any kind of a horror fan, see this movie in the cinema. In fact, find a theater that has as many speakers as possible because the sounds that Andy Hay and his team have put together make the woods itself a character. This movie has set a high bar for the rest of this year’s horror offerings.