The long-awaited Blair Witch Project follow-up doesn’t have a theme song, but if it did I’d suggest Teddy Bear Picnic. In particular the line, “If you go out in the woods today you’re in for a big surprise,” because, boy, there are some shockers in the movie’s dense woods.
“When I saw our film I was scared,” says Corbin Reid who plays Ashley in Blair Witch, in theatres today.
“I actually had chills,” chimes in co-star Wes Robinson. “I thought that was cool because I don’t think that’s an easy feat for someone who was there shooting it, who read the script and knew everything that was going to happen. It is the combination of the shots and the sound design and everything.”
Shot last year with the woods of Squamish, B.C., subbing in for the story’s haunted woods, the movie follows James (James Allen McCune) who was only four years old when his sister vanished while making a 1994 documentary about a witch said to haunt the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland. James thinks his sister may still be alive. Cue the jump scares, red herrings, things that go bump in the woods and close-ups of scared young people.
“Not to get too macabre,” says Corbin, “but I think one of the reasons people are attracted to horror is because you’re dealing with death in a safe space. It is something unknown to everyone. We don’t know what happens after we die, but you get this fictional setting that you can live it out in. There is something about exposing yourself to your fears. If you can laugh at it or move through it, it forces you to deal with it. You become the master of it.”
Robinson praises director Adam Wingard’s skill at scare making. “Adam always gives you a real sense of security in his films. Then when you’re not expecting it, he takes it away.”
“It gives you time to really sink into the psychological aspect of it,” adds Corbin. “You establish the relationships, and then you have something to lose. It’s not just trick after trick after trick. That’s the thing I love about the filmmaking. It’s not cheap. Everything is earned and everything is smart. It is thought out. I think that’s why there is such an effect.”
In Blair Witch, Wingard does a good job with body horror — ick — and primal fears of the dark, small spaces in the unknown. “Everyone’s fear is represented at some point in this movie,” says Wes.
Corbin and Wes spent two months in the woods shooting and getting inside the new story, but how familiar were they with the 1999 film? Corbin was just eleven years old when the original movie caused a sensation but that didn’t stop her from trying to see it. “I went with my sister and she didn’t know it was rated R,” she says. “She got in but my mom had to come pick me up.”
“I actually saw it in the theatre,” says Wes. “I was with a lot of adults. We went to see it and it traumatized me. It’s weird where life takes you, though, because I had no idea when I watched it that I would do the sequel one day.”
The long awaited “Blair Witch Project” follow-up doesn’t have a theme song, but if it did I’d suggest “Teddy Bear Picnic.” In particular I’m thinking the line, “If you go out in the woods today you’re in for a big surprise,” because, boy, there are some surprises in the film’s dense woods.
“Blair Witch” begins with the core cast preparing to return to the scene of the strange disappearances documented in the original film. James (James Allen McCune) was only four-years-old when his sister vanished in 1994 while making a documentary about a witch said to haunt the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland. James thinks his sister still may be alive after he found some blurred footage online that seems to contain a shot of her. Teaming with friends Peter (Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and student filmmaker Lisa (Callie Hernandez) he sets off to find answers, camera gear in hand.
They meet up with Darknet666, the Burkittsville stoner couple named Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) who posted the footage that grabbed James’s eye and proceed into the woods in search of the house seen in the 1994 footage. “This area has a history happening that nobody really wants to talk about,” says Lane ominously.
Lane, an expert in Blair Witch lore warns the troupe, “The legend says if you look directly at the witch you die of fright,” as strange things begin to happen. Cue the jump scares, red herrings, things that go bump in the woods and close-ups of scared young people.
This really should have been called “Blair Witch: Return to Burkittsville” because the style of the film so closely apes the original film. Shadowy, half lit images fill the screen as the camera careens around the screen as if it was tied to the back of an agitated mule. It’s all over the place, rarely resting on any one image for longer than a fraction of a second.
In the first hour it’s same old, same old. It feels like every other found footage film that came after ‘Blair Witch Project. ” Then, about sixty-minutes in things get really shaky… I mean scary. When director Adam Wingard gets over his love of jump scares and does a pretty good job with some body horror—ick—and primal fears of the dark, small spaces in the unknown.
“Blair Witch’s” final third actually made me say “yuck” out loud and question why I was spending my life watching this movie. In a good way. When Wingard moves past the cheap theatrics he concentrates on the uncomfortable scares that horror fans crave. If you want to feel scared in a place where you are actually safe, go see “Blair Witch” in a theatre. For me, the best part of “Blair Witch” was listening to the audience, the other people in the dark, give in to the film’s frights.