In 1999, The Blair Witch Project was released and changed the horror film genre. Although it inspired many great horror films, Blair Witch, the 2016 remake did not live up to expectations. Even though the remake was an exciting prospect, hope for the film to live up to its predecessor was limited.
Despite this, the beginning of the film was well done. The first half hour sets up the plot cleanly; the dialogue is realistic and steadily-paced, as are the friendships and storylines that are introduced. The use of quick cuts, point of view camera and angles are effective – the original film was iconic due to its entrepreneurial use of “found footage” shots. “Found footage” is a term used to describe films that are entirely, or mostly, made up of footage taken from a camera that is later found; the discovered footage reveals the events that took place, typically seen through the camera of one or more of the film’s characters.
Currently, “found footage” is huge in the horror film industry. With The Blair Witch Project heading the list before its time, some other notable and more recent films that have used the technique include the Paranormal Activity series, Quarantine, Cloverfield and The Amityville Haunting. The Blair Witch Project did it before it was cool.
In Blair Witch, director Adam Wingard does pay attention to and tries to update the technology used within the “found footage” technique. With the remake’s release in 2016, the film was able to include small cameras placed on the characters’ ears, giving a view that aligns almost exactly with their perspective, as well as a drone camera that allowed the audience to see aspects of the setting that they were unable to in the original film.
Still, The Blair Witch Project was entrepreneurial in more ways than how it was shot. The original film focused on only three main characters, out in the woods, with absolutely no plot devices other than their own paranoia and fear – or, at least, that’s the question that the film ends on. The Blair Witch Project had no love interests or romantic plot lines either, which is another singular aspect of the film that sets it apart from many others in the horror genre.
Meanwhile, Blair Witch simply has too many things going on. The film brings in a lot of crazy, chaotic, half-formed ideas and the result is a messy final hour. Plus, they included a ton of love interests without any substantial rationale as to what point it had in the larger plot; Blair Witch used romantic plot points as a crutch to potentially add interest to the film. Worth noting is another crutch the remake relied upon, heavily: the jump scare.
Although it was to be expected that the film could not match the singularity of The Blair Witch Project, it did try. A for its effort, F for its execution.