SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Ah yeah suckas... we going to the original! I figured since I watch so many found-footage movies, and I haven't seen Blair Witch since it originally came out (in the theater!), and I am always comparing found-footage movies to it, that it was about time I actually watched it again and saw how it holds up. Actually my thought process was more like "Hey, Blair Witch is on Netflix! [add]" but I find my retroactive justification also of interest.
This movie is the story of 3 documentary filmmakers who wander out into the woods to film a movie about the legend of the Blair Witch. They end up very lost, and river-map-kicking ensues.
Well, I have always said this was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, so did the fear hold up? Absolutely not. The main kick in the teeth to any sense of fear with this repeat viewing is simply that: it was a repeat viewing. Spoiler alert (you really should see this movie unspoiled if you can, it is pretty intense): when you know that nothing is ever going to pop out of the woods at you, then the endless shots of creepy woods are no longer scary. It was that anticipation and the unknown that was so nerve-wracking. Because in truth, nothing
happens in this movie. Almost.
But nonetheless, the movie as a whole did hold up for me. It's interesting to see it now, after a decade and a half of clones, and I honestly think it's right at the top of all the found footage I've seen. Maybe not as a piece of entertainment, there are probably others (which I can't think of offhand) that are more interesting than people being lost in the woods while nothing happens, but in terms of the elements that are unique to found footage, the pretenders have still not surpassed the original. This movie looks totally real - perhaps because it practically is. Everything in it is ad-libbed and most of it consists of the actors reacting to things they didn't know were going to happen. It also is not nauseating and awful in the use of the camera, and the rationale for always filming is handled much better than in almost every other found-footage movie (they even turn off the camera sometimes, if you can imagine that!), though it's still not plausible by any means.
As a video documenting 3 people getting lost in the woods and freaking out, this is utterly convincing. I saw a lot of talk about bad acting in this movie, and I think it's insane. I can't picture how you could act more realistically than they did. You may not want to hear people be screechy and whiny, but that's what happens when you're lost in the woods.
As a magical ghost/witch/whatever story, it falls a lot flatter. The legend is really just a bunch of disconnected tales, and the few supernatural things that occur have no relation to any of the tales. They hear a lot of sticks snapping in the woods around them, something scratches at their tent, and their packs get tossed around and rummaged through while they're gone. None of which relates to the legend at all. In fact, I'm not really sure what the legend is, because the ending connects to this story they heard about a serial killer, but he wasn't the witch, so who knows. Maybe he was possessed by the witch (who is a ghost. I think witch means ghost in this movie. Or it's just a witch who's dead, and thus a ghost). Anyway, it all manages to be plenty creepy, it just doesn't make any sense when you try to piece it together.
So, in the end, we have 3 bodies of course (otherwise these wouldn't be lost tapes!), and a score of 4 out of 5 Wet Maps
. It really is good, and I think better than the found-footage which has come out since. Though I have seen many people say Blair Witch itself is a "rip-off" of The Last Broadcast. I haven't seen that, and I'd like to. Anyway, watch this one with the lights off!
Fun facts I learned on IMDB after watching:
- They considered, but didn't shoot, an alternate ending where a giant stick man chased them through the woods (now that would've been something to see!).
- The actors had to stay in character, actually out camping, for 8 days straight, and if anybody did have to break character for any reason, they used the safety word "taco" first.
- They were given less food each day to make them more and more irritable.
- When they're running through the woods in terror at night, and Heather yells "What [on earth] is that!?!" she's actually referring to a member of the crew who's standing on a hill in an all-white outfit with a ski cap on. He's not visible on camera, which is probably good because what would that be in the context of the movie?
For this movie, I decided to step back into the past to my own creation which was itself inspired by the Blair Witch originally - the Happy Stick Witch! (note: I don't think she actually looks anything like this, but I did it from memory. Should she have hair? Seems like she should)