Hey, Adam Wingard made a secret Blair Witch movie for some reason. I was vaguely aware that he was making a new horror movie, and I knew it was set in the woods – I suspected that initially because it was called The Woods – but then they threw out a trailer and suddenly we have Blair Witch 2: Pretend That Other Blair Witch 2 Never Happened.
I liked the original Blair Witch, and thought the ending in the house was downright terrifying. The film seems to have grown divisive over the years, probably due to the infinite nexus of cheap, shaky, is-anything-actually-happening-here? horror movies it spawned. But if you’re with me on the first Blair Witch’s ending, you’ll probably enjoy this one, because it’s that level of intensity sustained for about a solid hour.
This time we have slightly more, better equipped, much sexier (sorry, original cast) twentysomethings off to Burkittsville (formerly Blair) to stomp around the woods. Our main guy is the brother of Heather from the first batch of found footage, and, in possibly the least plausible bit of plot, thinks she may still be alive somewhere in the woods nigh on seventeen years later. They take along all the stuff you have on your list of “well why didn’t they bring [x]” just so you can’t make that argument; GPS, walkie talkies, a drone with camera, etc.
The original, much like real life, operated on a night-day structure. Scary things happened at night, and then they had the day to reflect on them and try to escape before night happened again. This new Blair Witch goes all in all supernatural pretty quickly and just drops the idea of “day” entirely. This also has the slightly unfortunate side-effect of dropping recognisable rules – such as physics – that we the audience use to orient ourselves and get the stakes lined up in our heads. My only advice on this point is to go with it, weird shit will happen, time will pass differently for different people, there will be loud noises to frighten you.
On that topic, curse the man who discovered that loud noises are frightening, curse Pierre Jules César Janssen! I could be watching pandas learning to read, and a loud noise out of nowhere would cause a jolt. So in horror movies it always feels like cheating. Why bother crafting an atmosphere when you can just push the “scare the audience” button? It’s even worse in a film like this, where you actually have a really good, unsettling atmosphere, and yet every climactic image is accompanied by screaming on the soundtrack that may as well include a flashing block of YOU ARE NOW FRIGHTENED text on the screen.
That (and a few cul-de-sacs with the redshirts in the cast) aside, the whole thing works pretty well. It expands cleverly on the Blair Witch mythology, such that it is, and when the witch herself shows up to say hi, it’s suitably terrifying. We probably didn’t need a Blair Witch sequel (we definitely didn’t need that first Blair Witch sequel), but at least it turned out to be worth some time.