Blair Witch is back in 2016, after a stealth production campaign that saw its latest iteration developed under the faux title “The Woods”. 17 years after the original film rocked the comfort zone of an entire generation, audiences will have the chance, if they dare, to experience another chapter in the saga which inaugurated the “found footage” genre. ComiConverse has compiled everything you need to know about the 2016 Blair Witch movie, including a complete run-down concerning the early reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, where the film is currently enjoying a 100% rating.
The Blair Witch Movie: Everything You Need To Know (No Spoilers)
The newest Blair Witch film, distributed by Lionsgate, made its debut at the 2016 edition of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), and reportedly left audiences “thoroughly shaken”. Directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) and written by his regular creative partner Simon Barrett, Blair Witch was filmed on location in Vancouver throughout 2015, under what Jason Constantine, (President, Acquisitions and Co-Productions, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group) called “CIA level security“.
How Did Blair Witch Stay A Secret For Three Years?
The stealth title “The Woods” didn’t entirely conceal what was at work in 2015, deep in the Vancouver woodlands. Clearly, a major production of some kind was underway. Vancouver, often called Hollywood North by those in the industry, remains a hot spot for cinema, with all of the associated media activity. Yet, as Jason Constantine told IndieWire.com, the efforts to keep most of the important details under wraps were almost entirely successful.
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It really has been fascinating, all the CIA-level security that we have put around this project, from the very beginning. I’ve been at Lionsgate for 16 years, and I’ve had the privilege of working on a lot of movies that I love, and are a lot of fun: horror movies, and action movies, and Oscar movies. But never have we ever set out to make a reboot movie, and keep it in total secrecy, with a brand that’s as well known to the public as this one. It’s incredible to think about how many people needed to know about it to bring this movie to life — and yet we ended up not having any leaks in that regard.
Lionsgate’s efforts obviously paid off, as the fan reaction and social media buzz in response to the eventual reveal was massive. It would be nearly impossible to recreate the tidal-wave of publicity that surrounded the original Blair Witch film, but the studio’s efforts in this area would certainly have to be judged a success.
So, Is This A Blair Witch Remake?
This isn’t so much a remake as an effort to revive the franchise. Think about what was done recently to the Jurassic Park franchise with Jurassic World. Elements of the original are, apparently, reflected, however, Wingard and Barrett set out to pose as many new questions as they answer.
The plot of 2016’s Blair Witch movie picks up exactly 22 years after the supposed events of the original film The Blair Witch Project (1999). The Blair Witch Project was largely credited with beginning the “found footage” genre of movie-making, which went on to spawn projects like Cloverfield, District 9, and Paranormal Activity.
In the original, a group of film students Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard (all of whom play fictionalized versions of themselves) head into the Maryland woods, cameras in-hand, to document the mythology surrounding the Blair Witch; a local legend that had resurfaced after a set of grizzly murders. At the time of the film’s release, great pains were taken to ensure that audiences were able to suspend their disbelief regarding the story’s authenticity.
Horror fans everywhere wanted to believe, on some level, that the film’s subjects, who had used their real names, may actually have endured the horrors depicted on screen. That the “found footage”, in other words, may actually have been found footage.
For a brief moment in time, thousands debated whether or not the Blair Witch could actually be real.
Thousands more refused to go camping again. Ever.
The horrifying and mysterious ending of The Blair Witch Project saw the film’s subjects meet an ambiguous end in the basement of a run-down cabin deep in the forest.
The 2016 Blair Witch movie kicks-off at almost exactly the same place, with a fresh new crop of college students dedicated to finding out what actually happened to Heather Donahue and her friends; with one group member having more personal reasons.
In that regard, the 2016 Blair Witch movie is the sequel we were all desperately waiting for.
Wait, Was’t There Already A Blair Witch Sequel?
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) was the Blair Witch sequel that no one wanted. Artisan Entertainment, which had the good fortune of being the distributor behind the successful first movie, pushed forward a second film only one year later.
The rushed sequel had all the hallmarks of a money-grab by a studio still overcome with their good luck at having created such a splash with the original.
The reaction to Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was resoundingly negative. The film holds a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 15/100 on MetaCritic. Book of Shadows was also nominated for five Razzie Awards, including “Worst Picture” and won for “Worst Remake or Sequel”.
This tragedy of a remake doomed a successful franchise to an early grave and resulted in the cancellation of a scheduled third Blair Witch movie, which was to be released in 2001.
Fortunately, fans won’t need to sit through Blair Witch 2 to enjoy the revived 2016 edition. Book of Shadows has been entirely eliminated from the franchise’s timeline, leaving only the chilling events of the first Blair Witch film as an optional primer for fans to enjoy.
Why Was The The Blair Witch Project So Special Again?
Wingard and Barrett have created a film that can be experienced without reference to the first Blair Witch movie, but you’ll want to check it out anyway.
Find an evening this Fall put a screening party together. You won’t regret it.
For those of you who may not have seen The Blair Witch Project, its hard to explain just how ground breaking and innovative a film it was.
It was special on so many levels.
We’ve discussed the “found footage” idea at length, as well as the film’s marketing, but its worth repeating. There were people distributing missing persons flyers at and around screenings of The Blair Witch Project. Serious efforts were made to depict the film’s stars as missing, and the actors deliberately kept excessively low profiles during the promotional season.
People bought it hook, line and sinker.
It was innovative and intoxicating.
Secondly, The Blair Witch Project was originally made by a small group for $25,000 and filmed over the course of 8 days. The movie went on to gross nearly $250 Million worldwide. It was a staggering once-in-a-generation accomplishment.
Lastly, what The Blair Witch Project did for “The Woods” cannot be exaggerated. A generation of people developed phobias about open-water swimming after seeing Jaws (1975) for the first time. Whether young or old, thousands of people developed similar feelings towards hiking and camping in the woods following their viewings of this movie.
It changed the way people looked at nature and the unknown. It changed human beings.
It was horrifying.
What’s So Different About The 2016 Blair Witch Movie?
From what we’ve learned so far, there are two significant differences between The Blair Witch Project and its 2016 revival.
To begin with, audiences are now unlikely to suspend their disbelief that the footage they are watching is actually real. Instead, the filmmakers are seeking to change the viewing experience by updating the tech available to those documenting their experiences in the deep woods.
Go-Pro’s, drones and other tech augment the viewing experience and make for a series of more interesting shots and reveals.
Secondly, the reporting is that this film takes a very different approach to the on-screen action and horror than its predecessor did. For those that were left uncomfortable after their first viewing of The Blair With Project, you are not alone. Many fans criticized the film for never entirely portraying what happened to the film’s characters. Many loved it for the same reason.
That dynamic is likely to be largely absent from the 2016 Blair Witch movie.
The reviews speak of a fairly light first act within the film, an incredibly tense second act, and a final sequence that will have many, if not most, running for the exits.
Which brings us to the reviews.
If The Reviews Are Right, We Should All Be Very Afraid
Eight lucky outlets were gifted the chance to review the 2016 Blair Witch movie, and their critiques have been compiled at Rotten Tomatoes where, as mentioned, the film currently enjoys a perfect 100% approval rating.
Here are some brief selections from those reviews:
This new iteration still comes across as downright inspiring. – Ben Travers of IndieWire.com
Wingard crafted a relentlessly creepy affair that is a perfect tribute to its revolutionary originator, but also takes the story in some frightening new directions. – Heather Wilson of DailyDead.com
Make no mistake: Blair Witch is that game-changer horror fans desperately have been waiting for. – Brad Miska of BloodyDisgusting.com
Blair Witch honors its tradition and uses all the tricks filmmakers have learned in the past 17 years to make us scared of the woods again. – Fred Topel of SlashFilm.com
Chilling and intense. It is a truly terrifying cinematic experience. – JimmyO of Joe Blo’s Movie Emporium
The scares come fast and furious, and they do not relent until the very last frame, leaving the audience thoroughly shaken. – Steve Barton of DreadCentral.com
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett may not reinvent the Blair Witch, but they definitely prove that it can still be scary. – William Bibbiani of CraveOnline.com
The idea that a secret sequel could bring a long-stale franchise like this back to life is, frankly, the most surprising thing to happen to horror in ages. – Jen Yamato of TheDailyBeast.com
Why We Can’t Wait To Go Back Into The Woods
Despite how our friends at The Daily Beast feel, we know that successful franchises can be reborn for new generations in a thoughtful and innovative way. Jurassic Park and Star Wars are two examples of this. One can debate the creative merits of each of these franchises, but one cannot argue with the level of interest they generated or with their financial success.
Deep down, the feeling of anticipation that will be shared by many movie-goers is surely the quality that drove this project through from concept to completion.
Those who bare the scars of The Blair Witch Project will link hands and prepare themselves to learn the answers that so eluded them the last time they ventured into the forests of Maryland.
Younger fans, whether they identify as horror fans or not, will flock to the theatres to see what all the buzz is all about, and perhaps receive the scare of their lives.
Its Fall, the leaves will soon be on the ground, the nights are getting shorter and before long Halloween will be in our minds.
How wonderful would it be for long-suffering audiences, if this the newest Blair Witch movie could recreate the flood of emotions that took over popular culture back in 1999?
Movies are best when they evoke powerful emotions, and after a summer of disappointments, haven’t we all earned at least one night at the movies that will stay with us for a while?
Take one last walk in the woods tonight while you can.
Camping supply stores may dread it, therapists everywhere may drool at its approach, but whatever your feelings, get ready!
We’ve prepared you as best we could but, in the end, no preparation may be adequate.
The Blair Witch is back on September 16th.
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Source: Rotten Tomatoes