Blair Witch (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Adam Wingard|
|Screenplay by||Simon Barrett|
|Music by||Adam Wingard|
|Edited by||Louis Cioffi|
|Box office||$45.2 million|
Blair Witch is a 2016 American found footage supernatural horror film directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett. It is the third official film in the Blair Witch series and a direct sequel to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, ignoring the events of its 2000 follow-up film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, given the events of that film being a film within a film.[a] Blair Witch stars James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry, Corbin Reid and Wes Robinson. The film, shot in a found footage style, follows a group of college students and their local guides who venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the prior disappearance of Heather Donahue, the sister of one of the characters. Initially, the film's connection to the Blair Witch franchise was kept secret, with the film having been shot under the fake title, The Woods.
The film was screened at San Diego Comic-Con on July 22, 2016 and premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, before being theatrically released in the United States on September 16 by Lionsgate. The film received generally negative reviews and despite grossing $45 million on a budget of $5 million, it was considered a box office disappointment, given that the original film had grossed nearly $250 million in 1999 against a budget of $60,000.
In 2014, James Donahue finds a video on YouTube containing an image of a woman he believes to be his sister Heather, who disappeared in 1994 near Burkittsville, Maryland while investigating the legend of the Blair Witch. Believing she is still alive, he heads into the woods, accompanied by his friend Peter Jones, Peter’s girlfriend Ashley Bennett, and film student Lisa Arlington, who wants to film James' search as a documentary, The Absence of Closure. Locals Talia and Lane, who found and uploaded the video, join them.
While walking through the woods and upon setting up camp for the night, Lane and Talia discuss the disappearance of Heather and her film crew, the 1940-41 murders by Rustin Parr, and other mysterious occurrences, which they ascribe to the Blair Witch. They hear noises during the night, then awaken at 2 p.m. to find strange stick figures hanging from the trees. When Lisa notices twine in Lane's backpack, he and Talia admit to creating the figures in order to convince the group to believe, but also point out that there is no explanation for the strange noises during the night and sleeping through the day. James and his friend banish Lane and Talia from their group and head out of the woods.
After hours of walking, the four surprisingly arrive back at their original campsite. Lisa pilots a drone to obtain their location, but it malfunctions. Ashley becomes sick due to a wound on her foot, forcing the group to camp again. When Peter inspects Ashley's wounded foot, he notices what he thinks may be a parasite inside the wound. Peter leaves the camp for firewood, soon being chased by an unknown entity; a tree falls on him, then he disappears.
Lane and Talia appear in the night, claiming they have been wandering for five days without a sunrise. Lane believes the camp is a hallucination and runs off, leaving the dishevelled and ravenously hungry Talia. The next morning, James and Lisa are stunned to find that it is still dark outside at 7am and discover larger stick figures. Talia sees clumps of her hair tied to one of the figures. Ashley accuses Talia of crafting them and snaps the figure with Talia's hair in half; Talia is then snapped in half. An unseen force lifts their tent and the group is separated. Ashley finds the drone and climbs a tree to recover it, but is knocked out and falls from the tree, the unknown entity dragging her away.
A rainstorm ensues as Lisa and James stumble across Rustin Parr's house, which James had previously stated to have been burned down after his execution. James hears someone he thinks is Heather scream upstairs, enters the house and sees Peter standing in the corner. He chases after the figure he believes to be Heather, confronted by a teleporting dishevelled figure;[b] upon its vanishing he barricades himself.
Lisa spots the unknown entity, a tall, pale, long-limbed creature moving through the trees, and she runs into the house's basement. She finds an aged and hostile Lane who traps her in an underground tunnel as “you have to do what she tells you”. The tunnel connects to a different part of the house, where Lisa stabs and kills Lane when he attacks her. Lisa flees when the long-limbed creature emerges from the tunnel and chases her through the house. Lisa runs up to the attic with Lane's camcorder, creating the paradox video that lured them all to the woods.[c]
She reunites with James in the attic and they try to barricade the door. A bright light shines from outside the building, moving until stopping at the door, indicating the arrival of the witch. James tells Lisa to face the corner of the room and desperately apologizes to her before the witch enters, alongside her creature. James is tricked into turning around, believing that he hears Heather's voice, and vanishes from sight. Lisa uses Lane's camcorder to view what is behind her and begins walking backward. However, hearing James' apology again, she turns, and vanishes, leaving her camera behind before it gives out.
- James Allen McCune as James Donahue
- Callie Hernandez as Lisa Arlington
- Brandon Scott as Peter
- Valorie Curry as Talia
- Corbin Reid as Ashley
- Wes Robinson as Lane
Wingard first ran into the original The Blair Witch Project filmmakers, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, while promoting V/H/S/2 at the Sundance Film Festival, and asked them why there were not any more Blair Witch films. Although nothing came of the meeting at the time, looking back on it, writer Simon Barrett had opined that the conversation led to them being asked by Lionsgate to produce the sequel. Barrett recalled that, in the initial pitch meeting, Lionsgate had already crafted a synopsis for the film, and simply asked if he would be interested in making it, and the "only thing I really pitched was the other characters; they’d originally conceived the film as more similar to the first film, following its narrative fairly closely, with only three or four characters, I think, but I wanted more characters to give us more scare sequences. I also wanted a unique dynamic within the group from the start, so I pitched the idea of introducing some Burkittsville locals to the group."
Barrett would later note that the team found that the found footage genre more challenging, as they have only previously worked with it on the V/H/S anthology movies. Barrett noted that with the V/H/S series, there was an inherent entertainment value, where the segments "were never meant to feel entirely real", an element that did not work for the Blair Witch series. Speaking on the issue to Bloody Disgusting, Barrett stated "even if our scares didn’t work in V/H/S, hopefully people would still be entertained, and if they weren’t, well, another short would start in a few minutes"; he added that if a scare did not work in Blair Witch, "we’d have nothing to fall back on, we’d just have failed completely, and publicly." To prevent this from happening, Barrett and Winger extensively went over each "scare" to discover why it was scary and how the audience would react to it. For some sequences, multiple approaches were tried differently, "to give us options in the editing room."
Principal photography took place in the spring of 2015, in a set of woods in British Columbia in Canada. Scenes taking place in the famous Blair Witch House where shot in a sound stage where the House was entirely built.
Prior to the film's premiere at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, the fact that the film was a Blair Witch sequel remained a closely guarded secret, as the film was shot under the title The Woods. According to the film's writer, Barrett, the film's secrecy was done to prevent backlash among Internet commenters, who the filmmakers felt would react negatively to news of a reboot. Prior to the official premiere, Lionsgate went as far as to release a trailer for the film incorporating actual footage, while still keeping the film's lineage a secret. The film was still publicly known as The Woods even at Comic-Con, prior to its first screening, with io9 reporting that the initial theater for the screening was filled with posters for the fake film. After the screening (during which audiences realized that the film was a sequel), all the promotional material in the theater was changed to reflect the film's actual title.
Blair Witch grossed $20.8 million in North America and $24.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $45.2 million, against a production budget of $5 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released on September 16, 2016, and was initially projected to gross at least $20 million with a chance to get as high as $26 million in its opening weekend, from 3,121 theaters. Lionsgate's expectations were more conservative, however, with a projected $15–18 million opening, although rival studios were predicting significantly higher numbers, noting how horror films saw solid performances throughout 2016, including Lights Out, The Conjuring 2, The Purge: Election Year, The Shallows and Don't Breathe. However, after grossing $765,000 from its Thursday previews and $4.1 million on its first day, opening projections were lowered to $10 million. It ended up grossing $9.7 million in its opening weekend, below expectations and the lowest opening weekend of the series. The film was considered a box office disappointment by analysts.
The film received a day-and-date release in many countries in conjunction with its North American debut.
The film cost $5 million to produce, with an additional $20 million spent on promotion, advertising and marketing costs.
Blair Witch received generally negative reviews, with critics noting it as an improvement on Book of Shadows while criticizing the writing and special effects. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 35% based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Blair Witch doles out a handful of effective scares, but aside from a few new twists, it mainly offers a belated rehash of the original – and far more memorable – first film." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 41 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale. According to Entertainment Weekly's Joey Nolfi, while Blair Witch is generally regarded as an improvement over Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, "moviegoers and film journalists essentially told [Blair Witch] to stand in the corner...critical reviews and audience exit polling...are still some of the worst of any 2016 release thus far."
Michael Roffman of Consequence of Sound wrote that "Nothing [about the film] is scary, nothing is remotely disturbing, and there’s this boring familiarity to the proceedings, namely because it’s more or less a beat-by-beat remake of the original." The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin criticized the film, commenting that it is "a dull retread rather than a full-on reinvention," enlarging the cast numbers this time but sticking to the same basic beats. Scott Tobias of GQ felt that the makers of Blair Witch made a poor decision by making the film less subtle than the original. Thomas Simpson of the Rock River Times said that the film "lacks any real scares" and that, after watching it, "you shouldn’t have any issues turning the light off at night." The New York Post's Kyle Smith condemned the film by saying that "the take-away from Blair Witch is not terror, but sorrow," and gave it 1.5 stars out of 4.
Josh Kurp of Uproxx gave the film a mixed review, saying "Blair Witch is scary, but it lacks surprise, and without surprise, you’re left with a bunch of kind-of annoying people shakily filming themselves wandering the woods and reacting to loud noises." Mark Kermode gave the film three out of five stars in a review for The Guardian, calling it "efficient if unadventurous." Vanity Fair's Jordan Hoffman felt that the film was inferior to You're Next, a previous film by Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, and said Blair Witch's "jump-scares [will] make for a fun night at the movies, but it’s like chomping on White Castle hamburgers—when this creative team has previously served us a prime rib."
Conversely, IGN reviewer Chris Tilly declared that Blair Witch is "so good it'll make you forget that Book of Shadows ever happened." Mark Eccleston of Glamour wrote that the film has "genuine, jarring scares...and an unsettling late surprise that makes it well worth popping to you nearest multiplex to have the holy crap scared out of you." Bloody Disgusting's Brad Miska writes, "Blair Witch is that game-changer horror fans desperately have been waiting for." Miska gave the film a 4.5 out of 5 rating, and included it in his list of the "Best Horror Films of 2016".
|Blair Witch (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Studio album by Adam Wingard|
|Released||September 16, 2016|
|Recorded||January 23, 2016|
|Genre||Stage & Screen|
The soundtrack was released on September 16, 2016 via Lakeshore Records, concurrent with the film's release. The score is a collaboration of director Wingard with electronic music producer Robert Rich.
- "Black Hills Forest"
- "Rustin Parr"
- "Camp Fire"
- "Panic Attack"
- "Blair Witch"
- "Lane and Talia"
- "The Project"
- "Invocation of Evil"
- "No Trespassing"
- "The House in the Woods"
- Additional music
- "Hakmarrja" – N.K.V.D
- "Pagan Dance Move" – Arnaud Rebotini
- "Rien à Paris" – Liz & László
- In the tie-in documentary to Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Shadow of the Blair Witch, the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are presented in-universe as a film adaptation based on the "Black Hills murders" that took place shortly after the events of The Blair Witch Project. This documentary presents the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 as a film within a film. Shadow of the Blair Witch follows "the real Jeff Patterson"’s defense team as the case prepares for trial and as the public reacts to plans to fictionalize the case’s events for the big screen from the defense's point-of-view. Protests of the film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are discussed within the documentary coming from both the families of those involved with the case and from the Wiccan community as a whole. Rachel Moskowitz and Andre Brooks respectively portray the "real" Kim Diamond and Jeffrey Patterson within the documentary.
- Though glimpsed briefly, the figure indeed appears to be Heather Donahue as she appeared in the closing scenes of The Blair Witch Project, complete with her torn cardigan and hat. In an interview with Adam Wingard, the film's director, it was later confirmed that the archival footage of Heather Donahue was intentionally meant to portray the Blair Witch in the form of Heather.
- Early on in the film, as the group makes its way deep into the woods, Lisa asks Lane about his camera, an older model that she notes uses the exact same tape as the one he claims to have found. The footage Lisa records on Lane’s camera while running through the shack is the same footage Lane found in the woods before the group ever actually went there, implying that they have been caught in a time loop
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