Even contemporary ear-piece cameras and drones can't keep me from longing for the simpler Exorcist.
Director: Adam Wingard (The Guest)
Screenplay: Simon Barrett (The Guest)
Cast: James Allen McCune (The Walking Dead), Callie Hernandez Alien: Covenant
Runtime: 89 min.
by John DeSando
“Stop doing that!” (A scream from a character that’s had enough jump scares)
It’s chaos-camping time in Blair Witch as James (James Allen McCune), the brother of Heather, who was lost in the Blair Witch Project (1999). It’s the Black Hills Forest of Maryland again as he looks for her hoping she is still alive after almost 20 years. James is accompanied by Lisa (Callie Hernandez), a newbie documentarian, and two friends, Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid), all of whom seeming stupid for going into the notoriously man-eating woods.
More than scary is my recollection of how ancient seems the found-footage motif popularized by the original Blair Witch. This sequel (let’s forget the ill-fated Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 of 2000) enhances the hand-held camera motif with personal camera technology and drones to an extent Cloverfield never dreamed of.
Barely a moment of steady shots exists in this stew of shakiness, as if a 6-year-old boy had his first experience filming. Not just jumpy, mind you, but the ground gets equal time with the tops of trees such that narrative seems hostage to visual anarchy.
Although sound becomes by default the medium of expression, the constant gun-shot like cracking noise and background moaning of maybe a creature or two do not bring us closer to the Witch or the lost sister. Rather, they combine with the visual stew to make little sense. But if this genre’s requisite jump scares please you, Blair Witch will fill you with that love.
The joy in this experience for me as multiple best-camper winner at Camp Pathfinder in Canada was the recollection of how messy camping can be, from trying to set up a tent to dealing with cuts and bruises and, yes, strange sounds. Yet we didn’t fear a Blair Witch; we feared reprisals for trashing a ranger’s cabin. Now that’s shocking, no remote devices needed.
I liked the recent horror flick, Don’t Breathe, because I could see the menace, and the jump scares made sense. In Blair Witch, with its lack of visual confirmation, I could not even be scared, just anxious to meet the Witch or the girl or something to scare me. We do get to enter the fabled house, and some things lurk around corners, but I’d have to go back and stop the shots to confirm anything.
The Blair Witch Project changed the horror genre with the spooky found-footage and hand-held camera motifs. Without those gimmicks, The Exorcist still scares the bejesus out of me. Well, full disclosure, I am a fallen down Catholic who walked the Georgetown steps too many times not to be scared.
Go scary camping because this Blair Witch jiggles with unwarranted goofiness and not enough horror except your unsettled stomach.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com