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Belittling Horror Excessively: Blair Witch01:37 AM -- Wed November 1, 2017

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Blair Witch (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister Heather, James and a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch.”
IMDB Rating: 5.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 47/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 35% critics, 29% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So for our big Halloween day finish, we’re going back to the well! We both have a history with The Blair Witch Project, and hadn’t seen this recent sequel (though we did see the stupid Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2). So how would you set up your experience with the Blair Witch Franchise?

Solee: Well, there are exactly two theater movies I can remember being truly afraid of while watching. One is E.T. (I was six and those hazmat suits were terrifying.) The other is the BWP. I watched it literally on the edge of my seat and I distinctly remember feeling VERY unhappy that I had to walk across a dark parking lot to get to my car afterward. I did NOT feel the same way about BW2.

Mikey: No no, that was a silly movie. I also had the scariest experience watching BWP in the theater. I don’t think anything else has ever matched it. And we did rewatch that movie, and found it was actually pretty scary even in retrospect, though obviously not the same as a first-time viewing in the theater, the first time we ever saw a found footage movie!

Solee: Was it really the first of that genre? That explains why I found it so terrifying then. I always have a very physical reaction to the panting-into-the-microphone aspect of found footage films. If I’d never experienced it before, I’m not surprised I was so wrapped up in it.

Mikey: Yeah, people say The Last Broadcast was the original (and many claim Blair Witch Project is a total rip-off of it). I’ve always wanted to see that movie, but it’s not easy to come by. But they came out at nearly the same time. I’m sure there were some indie found footage movies before that, but whatever. That reaction you mentioned leads me to a moment, near the end of this movie, when Lisa is crawling through a teeny tiny dirt tunnel. That was very claustrophobia-inducing. I honestly can’t be sure that the found footage aspect of it helped that, but it sure was something that made me feel like I was right there, trapped in a very tiny space.

Solee: I felt the same. Most of the footage designed to raise anxiety (swirling camera, minimal lighting, running through the woods) was just annoying to me. But that crawling through the increasingly narrow tunnel scene was very stressful. I did not like it. Especially after having that moment of “oh, she’s the safest one of the bunch” after she got locked into that wooden box.

Mikey: Well, she was being stored for later killing, I assume, so not a great place to be. But I do feel that same feeling, where it just doesn’t match the original in terms of anxiety. It felt so much less real, and had so many pointless gimmicks (like… what did the drone ever accomplish?), that I just wasn’t sucked in by the realism that you had in the first movie. You could say this movie was a lot more exciting - we weren’t left with effectively nothing happening, which is what the first movie had. But more isn’t always more!

Solee: The drone was a complete waste of opportunity. Basically, the only thing it did was give Ashley a reason to climb into and then fall out of a tree. BWP was original and edgy. This was very commercial and [word for basic, boring, done plot]. It felt like they were trying everything and even though they gave explanation (which was lacking in the original), I still feel like I don’t understand most of what happened. If the backstory is all about a witch, why does it have such an alien invasion feel to it??

Mikey: Oh yes! At the end of the movie, we get that light-through-the-walls moment that is straight out of any UFO movie. I really thought they were gonna go with aliens (honestly, it could be aliens as written, who knows?). And yes, they had a whole lot of disparate elements which don’t really seem to clearly connect. Full disclosure: just before writing this review, I was looking for a freeze-frame of the “Stick Monster” that we see very briefly in the movie, just out of curiosity (wondering how much like the stick figures it looked - not very, actually), and I ended up tumbling down a rabbit hole of Blair Witch Theorists. There were so many screenshots and explanations and ideas going around. Turns out nobody actually knows what it is all about. But apparently the filmmakers at some point declared that the stick monster is not the witch - it’s another one of her victims. Which is silly, since the extended limbs on it fit the whole story about the witch being left to die on a makeshift rack. I have so many more ideas in my head now from this journey I went on… I dunno man. Whoa.

Solee: The part that REALLY doesn’t fit for me is the thing living in Ashley’s foot.

Mikey: YES!

Solee: I mean, it was one thing to have her be injured and get an infection and have that play into the chase, but there was clearly a critter in there and I don’t know what that has to do with anything. It’s almost ridiculous.

Mikey: Like it was from another movie. Specifically, The Ruins. I had this notion that the witch is connected to the woods, and the stick-men, so like sticks were gonna grow through her leg and basically replace her with a giant stick-woman. That would’ve been silly, but at least it would’ve connected to the concept. Maybe it’s what was happening, but we got not enough info to know, just one little weed yanked from her leg. Her constant tripping got real old, for sure. I don’t know what they were trying to say there. Was it that her foot hurt so she couldn’t walk right? It sounded like her ankle broke in about twelve places overall.

Solee: I like that theory, actually. I dunno, man. At first I thought she was tripping because of the pain. Then I thought maybe because the critter or branch was moving around in there. Finally, I just gave up trying to figure it out. She’s just real clumsy. There were lots of little homages to the original movie. Were there any that particularly stood out to you, good or bad?

Mikey: Oh, that’s one thing I found in my rabbit-hole! All the little video glitches throughout the movie actually were super-quick, scrambled up, shots from the first movie! Speaking of homage. I think the part at the end where Heather’s brother was crying and apologizing to her was good… it was pretty on-the-nose, but it makes the connection we want for a sequel.

Solee: Yeah, every Blair Witch movie needs a good snot-face monologue. Or dialogue in this case. I liked the way Peter had a temper and started kicking that tent like he wanted to kick it all the way to the river.

Mikey: Blair Witch movies are mostly about kicking things into rivers, as we all know. Not an homage (I think) but I did like one thing about the structure of this movie: right away, after the first night, when stick figures showed up, everybody immediately agreed “this is just too weird. Not worth it, we’re leaving.” Of course, they were trapped by witch-magic, which just goes to show other horror movies: people don’t have to make stupid choices to keep the plot going (not that this movie was devoid of them). I like that immediate appropriate reaction instead of demanding to press on.

Solee: It’s always easier to relate to people who aren’t being complete morons. Regarding the witch-magic … did the first movie have a never-ending night, too? They made a big deal out of how this darkness was lasting for days.

Mikey: I am pretty sure it did, only on the final night. They were waking up and it was still dark, and it just never stopped being dark. But one thing I know it had, which this movie was full of, was time being screwed up in general. Like Lane and Talia being lost for days, in the course of half a day for the other people. The witch clearly can manipulate time and gets things all out of whack. I really enjoyed that element and have a whole ending discussion about it.

Solee: Hmm. I’m excited to hear your discussion of it, but I didn’t love that aspect of the movie.

Mikey: What! That’s the whole joy!

Solee: Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but it didn’t seem like it made sense. I mean, I get that it was trying to be confusing and discombobulating, but it was just too much.

Mikey: I think “just too much” was the whole agenda for this sequel. Turn Blair Witch up to 11. Bad idea. I don’t really think it made sense, I was mostly in my head in a better movie that took that idea and ran with it. Here’s the thought: in the ending, we have James going into the house, and doors keep shutting behind him (standard ghost stuff). Then Lisa goes into the house, and what’s the first thing she does? She shuts and locks the front door. Immediately I was like “Oh snap are they going there??” I was really hoping for the ending to be this thing where it was all time looped around on itself, so that there were no ghosts or anything weird, just these two people causing things to happen for each other, out of time sequence. There is some of that in the movie - Peter appears in the corner, then is gone, Heather even appears in a brief flash, and we get the shot of the mirror from the very beginning of the movie which was supposedly old footage. It all adds up to time wrapping around, I just don’t think they worked it out cleanly, or executed it well enough. And they added a stick monster.

Solee: That is a really good idea. That would have made it very clever. Without making that obvious enough to understand, thought, it’s just chaos. How did you feel about the addition of the “locals” who made fake stick monsters and then got lost in the woods? Were they necessary? Or were they like the drone?

Mikey: I don’t know… I can’t actually think of a purpose they served, other than the misdirect of the first night of stick men. Which was sort of interesting, but ultimately doesn’t matter. And I guess they gave us our replacement for the old serial killer. OH WAIT. They gave us my favorite moment of the movie! When Ashley snaps that stick man, it is so incredibly shocking. And it also is what starts off the fireworks. The movie from that moment on is in full endgame mode, just running around crazy. Too crazy, I’m pretty sure, but that little event is just… wow. What’d you think of that, and the locals themselves?

Solee: The snapping of the stick figure with Talia’s hair, which resulted in the very dramatic snapping of Talia, was nothing short of genius. It came on so suddenly that I didn’t have any time to get there on my own. Usually, with this sort of thing I’ve already thought, “oh, what if they …” so I’m braced for it. In this case it was a total shock, like a bus coming from off screen, and I loved it. Aside from that, I didn’t love the locals. I feel like everything involving them could have been cut out and that time could have been used to elaborate on the time-manipulation. Or the foot worm. Or give the drone some usefulness. Anything would have been better.

Mikey: I totally agree, more movies need to move with that kind of speed (not constantly), to really surprise you. It was cray cray. Sadly it was also in the trailer, and it’s also why I clicked off the trailer while you were in the kitchen and said “oh yeah, we need to see this one!” so that’s the lesson for this movie, kids: never watch the trailer! It ruins everything.

But our time here is up. There’s lots more I could say about this here witch, but I’ll let you instead say how you rate it!

Solee: I’m kind of sad about this rating because I wanted to love it for nostalgic reasons even if it wasn’t all that good for itself. It didn’t really work that way. It wasn’t the worst movie we’ve seen, but it is a far cry from the best and a far cry from the original. I was NOT scared while watching this movie at all. My overriding emotion was one of annoyance. I’m going to give this movie a solid 3.

Mikey: I see those annoyances. We forgot to mention all the horrible sound in the first half of this movie - tons of super loud noises out of the blue for no reason, probably meant to build tension, but it just made it hard to watch. And that’s where I think this movie would’ve done much better by dropping the found footage and just being a real movie. The ear cameras, the drone, all that was silly. Just send the kids into the woods and make it real. But with that said, I didn’t hate it all. I didn’t love it either, so you know I’m going full 3 out of 5 on this one. It was not the crass cash-in sequel I thought it would be, but it was a long drop down from the original.

So that’s it for 2017! So sad! I’m gonna watch lots more movies anyway and just not tell anyone about them. Join us tomorrow for a quick (unlike last year) wrap-up about the whole month. Happy Halloween, everybody!

Solee: You say quick … but have you MET us? I’m not sure we can possibly rehash the whole month in a reasonable amount of time! I guess we’ll have to see what we can manage.
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