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“Blair Witch” poorly attempts to replicate the vital essence of horror

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts

October 14, 2016

The second sequel to Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s cult classic “The Blair Witch Project,” the aptly-titled remake “Blair Witch” recently hit theaters as yet another Halloween-time butchery of a classic horror story.

1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” remains one of the few “modern” horror films that truly takes a psychological toll on viewers to this day, even given its meager $60,000 budget. In fact, it has had such an impact in the world of motion pictures that it has been the foundation on which the “found footage” genre was launched into pop culture, being the inspiration for contemporary films like “Paranormal Activity,” “Apollo 18” and “Project X.” Given the success of the first film, 2016’s “Blair Witch” had extremely large shoes to fill, yet instead, director Adam Wingard chose to increase the budget a hundred fold to produce a $5 million, piece-of-garbage film in standard Hollywood fashion.

The biggest draw of the 1999 movie was its originality at the time of release, and the emotional valence and relatability that intrinsically came with the lo-fi quality and mostly improvised dialogue, all of which are absent from the sequel. Wingard’s version, which features myriad filming equipment from drones to ear cams to GPS-capable walkie talkies, removed the thrilling sense of isolation that the three-person, two-camera crew experienced in the original. Likewise, the added special CGI and audio effects in the sequel completely ruin the feel of the “found-footage” aspect of the film to such a degree that it is impossible to see it as anything but Hollywood-produced, especially in scenes that utilize the overdone “creepy music effects” and even those at the end that feature an animated representation of “The Blair Witch” itself.

Another factor that earned the original its place in the film world was its complete believability. Given their small budget, it comes as no surprise the original is nearly void of any type of special effects. This, combined with aggressive and realistic marketing selling the “realness” of the film, led many to believe that it was, in fact, true footage of a group of college-aged students’ last moments alive. This, along with the absence of the three relatively unknown indie actors, caused an enormous media explosion at the time of release, helping to achieve the final box office earnings of $248.6 million and secure the film as one of the most successful indie films to date. Today, the movie has received much backlash, as many viewers go into it knowing the truth behind the footage and are unable to appreciate the film for its truly terrifying and mind-bending style. The new movie, simply for the fact of it being a sequel, leaves little room for the imagination, and what is left is completely demolished by its unrealistic effects.

As a whole, this movie has faced the biggest dilemma of contemporary horror: the integration of technology. It comes as no surprise that the majority, if not all, of the greatest horror films were produced before the age of cellphones, and of those that came after, the majority are set in a time period before the 1980s. While the original film developed an intimate relationship with the sole purpose of video production, the sequel pulls out all the bells and whistles of a typical “ghost hunting” team with a group of technology-dependent twenty-somethings who seem as though they’ve never set foot outside their suburban lifestyle, let alone spent a week camping in the northeastern wilderness.

Not only was the production of the film a mess, but the acting and dialogue were nothing to applaud for either. The actions and reactions of the characters are not only unconvincing, but also completely stupid, for lack of a better word, and Wingard even manages to find a way to insert not one, but two love interests into a plotline that already has minimum buildup to the climax of the film. On a more positive note, there is one thing that this movie did right – adding an interesting storyline to the open ends that were left in the original movie. However, the rest was so untactfully done that this seems to be the only correlation between the two films. If you’re looking for a scare this Halloween, I suggest saving $15 and watching the original at home instead.

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