Saturday, 17 September 2016

BLAIR WITCH - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Decent sequel to 1999 original

Blair Witch (2016)
Dir. Adam Wingard
Scr. Simon Barrett
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott,
Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Having directed a couple of solid low budget genre films like You're Next and The Guest, Adam Wingard (with longtime screenwriter partner Simon Barrett) continues in this tradition with this very decent direct sequel to The Blair Witch Project. When I first saw the original found footage film by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez in 1999, all I allowed myself to know about it is that, given the title, it would be some kind of horror film about a witch. I was also aware it had a huge buzz from its Sundance film festival screening and that there was a huge internet campaign behind it. That's it. That's all I knew.

Now, if truth be told, my first helping of The Blair Witch Project blew me away. I loved it. The found footage business, the late 90s penchant everyone had to camcorder their way into moviemaking (as the characters in the film do) and the mounting creepy-crawly tension knocked me on my formerly lardy posterior. I didn't buy that it was "real", but I bought into the conceit as I was quite enamoured with the clever approach and, for me, genuine chills and jolts of terror. I kind of detested the grungy youthful characters, but at least the actors played them well enough that I was gradually drawn into their plight in spite of my curmudgeonly detestation of these rejects from Kurt Cobain fandom.

Not that this sort of thing had never been done before - the brilliant David Holzman's Diary by Jim McBride in 1967 not only creeped me out, but I actually DID believe that what I was seeing was real. When I found out the picture was a "fake" documentary, it was still so layered and intelligent that I've had no problem watching it many times.

However, The Blair Witch Project did little for me on repeat viewings. I quickly filed it away in my movie-soaked-brain-file-folder with the label: "clever-conceit-clever-moviemaking-but-not-much-else-going-for-it". And there the picture stayed.

As such, I had no real investment to like or hate Wingard's sequel, but like it I did.

Utilizing a multi-camera approach, Wingard's picture takes us back to the haunted Maryland woods with a bunch of college kids and a couple of local inbred guides. Searching for the original young lady who disappeared in the first film and a mysterious old house that purportedly houses the witch, our attractive cast goes through the motions of the first forty five minutes of prepping and wandering.

The last forty five minutes is where things get mighty creepy and ramp up to a thoroughly nerve-jangling climax. There's not much in the way of new ground covered here, but good goddamn, when it delivers the thrills and chills, it delivers with a whole lotta kick-ass.

Oh yeah, and the movie has babes in it.

One can't really ask for more.


Blair Witch is a Midnight Madness presentation at TIFF 2016.