Blair Witch (2016)

Blair Witch is a serviceable popcorn flick that is oversaturated with jump scares and loud noises that is better than the original, but doesn’t progress the genre. When a sequel has been this long, coming though, that’s not so bad.

I feel it’s important to start off by emphasizing that this was overall a solid popcorn film, and it was good enough that it will likely have a long lasting legacy similar to the original. It’s largely flawed, and doesn’t match up to some of the better offerings we have had even this summer, but it’s definitely worth at least one watch. So lets start with what it does really right before getting into where it falls short.

Where Blair Witch really succeeds is in its improved world building and narrative elements, as well as in presenting us with a set of more likeable protagonists. Unlike the original, I found myself hoping that they might survive, unlike the original where the constant bickering and poor decision making had me hoping for them to die as fast as possible. The film even manages to rise above the jump scares and suspenseful noise that make up the majority of the running time to deliver a few moments of real horror.

The best scares use body horror to great effect, upending the viewer expectations and delivering on some of the scares that are promised for all too long between deliveries. Where Blair Witch is really weak is its overuse of suspense, constantly trying to make the viewer feel stressed and uncomfortable the entire time. Rather than crafting a curve of emotion and suspense, the movie is more interested in making you jump at nothing. It leaves you almost tired of feeling tense the whole time and ready for the movie to end or at least get to the point about 10 minutes early.

This is okay for a popcorn flick, because that feeling of being ready for it to be over for only about 10 minutes on a first viewing isn’t terrible. However, this really does keep the film from greatness, as those minutes will grow longer and longer with each viewing. Some tighter editing, and more careful use of audio and visual cues to create more rewarding suspense could have made this an all time classic, though.

Do we deserve better than this as an audience? Not really. It would have been nice to have a more lasting well crafted movie, but it’s not fair to discount that what we got is better than the original in every conceivable way. Even if Blair Witch doesn’t evolve the found footage genre, it is most definitely a well composed entry that builds a modern film. It would have been nice to see something that progressed the genre and broke some new ground, though, which hasn’t done anything new since 2012’s Chronicle, which successfully used plot devices to deliver a more steady and deliberate camera movement.

If you’re in the movie for a solid horror flick that isn’t too shallow or too deep, delivers a few really great horror moments, and are okay with a few too many cheap jump scares, then Blair Witch will keep you entertained for a good hour and a half. It’s not as good as Don’t Breathe, which was a surprise hit, but it’s not bad, and if you’ve already seen Don’t Breathe and are still in the mood for more scares, then Blair Witch will not disappoint, even if it doesn’t quite satisfy.

Final Verdict:A fun popcorn flick, but the suspense is poorly paced and the end is too predictable to be worth more than one viewing.
Rating:D+