It’s been 20 years since James’s sister Heather and her two friends vanished into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland while researching the legend of the Blair Witch, leaving a trail of theories and suspicions in their wake. James (James Allen McCune) and his friends Peter (Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and film student Lisa (Callie Hernandez) venture into the same woods each with a camera to uncover the mysteries surrounding their disappearance. (Courtesy eOne Films Canada)
I have not seen any of the previous Blair Witch films but I know them very well by reputation. The first Blair Witch Project film set the tone for found-footage films when it originally released back in 1999. It also became one of the most successful independent films of all time partly thanks to its revolutionary promotion strategy. The sequel entitled Book of Shadows was not well received by critics and the public as it may or may not have been rushed by film studios attempting to capitalize after the success of the original.
While the film about a man named James (McCune), a relative of one of the original missing students, this was where any connections to the previous to films ends. This was its own film so those who haven’t seen any of the previous two films (like myself), will be fine here. The plot here was pretty simple with James and his friends going back to the forest to try to figure out what happened to James’s sister Heather. Of course things don’t go as they might have intended, obviously being where they were, as strange things began to happen to the friends and also a couple named Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) who they met along the way.
Being a short film, clocking in at 89 minutes, the film doesn’t waste any time. The pacing was surprising here as most short films tend to rush through their plot but this one felt just right as the story did not move too quickly. Seeing that it is now 17 years since the original Blair Witch Project and that we’ve also seen numerous more found-footage films, this one did not come as much of a surprise. The plot moved in a pretty predictable way as the plot was advanced by characters doing seemingly stupid things. In this case, they were for the sake of James’s almost stubbornness in wanting answers about his sister.
In terms of actual horror, just like the format, wasn’t overly surprising but its jump scares were still quite effective while not being overly original. The film squandered some of its scares, however, as its own found-footage format hurt it a few times as the often shaky, fast-moving camera made some of the action hard to follow. This made it so it was easy to sometimes miss certain things on screen (I had to sometimes ask my friend what happened). Despite this, the film still had a great intensity throughout. This along with the excellent use of sound and ambiance, made the film compelling to watch, even when nothing was really happening.
The characters here weren’t likable but they weren’t exactly unlikable either. It was just hard to ever care about them. They weren’t particularly developed either other than James who kind of was the main character but didn’t really stand out as he probably should have. This continues the trend in most horror films as it lessens the impact of what inevitably happens to the characters (spoiler alert but not really). Even the characters that were introduced later in Lane and Talia doesn’t quite work as the film seemed unsure of how to deal with them. Their purpose was never completely clear.
The acting was okay here from everyone which is not saying much since the film did not require that much anyway. Their performances consisted mostly of running, shouting each other’s names, and reacting to things. This was fine but some of them were better at portraying their character’s fear than others. Without giving anything away, the best part of the film has to be the last third where events are focused within a centralized area as the film reached its climax.
Overall, this was a decent, albeit unsurprising horror film with great production value and decent performances which was partially held back by its found-footage format.