Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Because They're Made of Wood, or Thoughts on the Blair Witch

No longer a project, Blair Witch (2016) features smug millennial film students with a drone, in much the same way The Blair Witch Project (1999) featured smug Gen-Xers with a VHS camera.  Like the first film, these kids have no business in the woods; they’re warned at every step, they live in a universe where the first movie actually happened and there are viral videos on YouTube, not to mention warnings from locals, No Trespassing signs and one of the college kids is the younger brother of Heather, from the first movie.
Directed by Adam Wingard, Blair Witch is not necessarily a found footage movie anymore, but rather a movie filmed in the POV, found footage style.  The woods can be an inherently scary place, even if there weren’t any witch legends there could be wolves, bears, Bigfoot or raptors.  The movie plays on these primordial fears as the cast provides endless exposition and keeps giving each other jump scares.  The drone is a clever but disappointing tease; it can never rise high enough to clear the tree line.
The movie also updates the scares by adding a sci-fi element including time loops, strange lights in the woods and some gory bio-horror scenes.  But the movie’s called the Blair Witch, not the Blair Alien, and these X-Files-esque side tracks get lost in the woods, (pun intended) and like the cast running in circles, lead nowhere.
The POV style is more comfortable with the video game generation, but the audience is not in control, we only see what the camera sees, and the overall effect is watching someone else play a horror game.  There’s no clear resolution or payoff, or even a clear glimpse of the witch to reward the viewer for making it to the end.  Additionally, the night scenes are filmed with a single light source that creates an annoying black frame on the screen.  It’s filmmaking by deletion where you only give the viewer 30% of the screen and tell the story with sound effects and dialogue.  There’s an expectation that audience will pick up the slack, which they are more than happy to do, provided the writing, performances are memorable, clever or compelling.

Adam Wingard contributed to the far superior V/H/S (2012), in addition to one of my favorite modern killer in the woods movie, You’re Next (2011).  Devotees of the modern found footage/POV horror film will be better served with Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek, in addition to the Spanish zombie outbreak movie REC (2007) and the American remake it inspired Quarantine  (2008).



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).