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Blair Witch is a 2016 American found footage supernatural horror film directed by Adam Wingard[4] and written by Simon Barrett. It is the third film in the Blair Witch series and a direct sequel to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, ignoring the events of its 2002 follow-up film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Blair Witch stars James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry. 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 disappearance years ago of Heather Donahue, the sister of one of the characters.[5] 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.[6] Despite grossing $45 million on a budget of $5 million, the film was considered a box office disappointment,[7][8][9] and received generally mixed reviews.

Plot

In 2014, James Donahue finds a video containing a supposed image of his sister Heather who disappeared in 1994 near Burkittsville while investigating the legend of the Blair Witch. Believing she is still alive, he heads into the woods, accompanied by friends Peter Jones, Ashley Bennett, and film student Lisa Arlington, who wants to film the search for a documentary.[10][11] Locals Talia and Lane join them.

Upon setting up camp for the night, Lane and Talia discuss the disappearance of Heather's film crew, and other mysterious occurrences, which they ascribe to the Blair Witch. After hearing noises during the night, the group awakens to find strange stick figures hanging from the trees. Unnerved, they elect to leave. Lisa notices twine in Lane's backpack and both he and Talia are banished after admitting to creating the figures. After hours of walking, the four arrive back at their original campsite, having gone in circles. 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. Peter is chased by an unknown entity, gets wounded, and disappears.

During the night, Lane and Talia emerge, claiming they have been wandering around the forest for five days without a sunrise. Believing that he is hallucinating, Lane runs off. The next morning, James and Lisa are stunned to find that it is still dark outside 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 in half; Talia is then snapped in half. An unseen force lifts their tent and the ensuing panic separates the group. Ashley finds the drone and climbs a tree to recover it but falls and is pulled off-screen by an unseen force.

A rainstorm ensues as Lisa and James stumble across Rustin Parr's cabin. James seemingly spots his sister upstairs, enters the house and sees Peter standing in the corner. He soon realizes that something is chasing him and barricades himself. Lisa spots a ghoul and runs into the basement. She finds an aged and hostile Lane who traps her in an underground tunnel. Lisa escapes and is forced to stab and kill Lane when he attacks her. Chased by the entity, Lisa runs up to the attic with Lane's camcorder creating the paradox that lured them all to the woods. She reunites with James and they try to barricade the door. James tells Lisa to face the corner of the room and desperately apologizes to her for their fate before the ghoul enters. James is tricked into turning around, believing that he hears Heather's voice, and is attacked out of sight. Lisa uses Lane's camcorder to view what is behind her and begins walking backwards. However, hearing James' apology again, she turns and is attacked.

Cast

Production

Wingard first ran into the original 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.[12] 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."[12]

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.[13] 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.[13] 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."[13]

Prior to the film's premiere at the 2016 Comic-Con, the fact that that the film was a Blair Witch sequel remained a closely guarded secret,[14] as the film was shot under the title The Woods.[14] 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.[15] 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.[14] 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.[15]

Release

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2016[16] and was theatrically released on September 16, 2016.[17]

Reception

Box office

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.[3]

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.[18][19] 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.[18] 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.[20] The film was considered a box office disappointment by analysts.[8]

The film received a day-and-date release in many countries in conjunction with its North American debut.[21]

The film cost $5 million to produce, with an additional $20 million spent on promotion, advertising and marketing costs.[22]

Critical response

Blair Witch received generally mixed reviews from critics. Critics praised the acting, plot, directing and improvement on Book of Shadows while criticizing dialogue, special effects and breaking with tradition by showing a shot of the witch.[23][24][25] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 36%, based on 177 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."[26] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100, based on 41 critics.[27] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale.[28] 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."[23]

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."[29] 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.[30] Scott Tobias of GQ felt that the makers of Blair Witch made a poor decision by making the film less subtle than the original.[31] 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."[25] 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.[32]

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."[33] Mark Kermode gave the film three out of five stars in a review for The Guardian, calling it "efficient if unadventurous."[34] 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."[35]

Conversely, IGN reviewer Chris Tilly declared that Blair Witch is "so good it'll make you forget that Book of Shadows ever happened."[36] 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."[37] 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,[38] and included it in his list of the "Best Horror Films of 2016".[39]

Soundtrack

The soundtrack was released on September 16, 2016 via Lakeshore Records, concurrent with Lionsgate’s release of the movie. The score is a collaboration of Adam Wingard with electronic music producer Robert Rich.[40]

  1. "Hakmarrja" – N.K.V.D[41][42]
  2. "Pagan Dance Move" – Arnaud Rebotini[41][42]
  3. "Rien à Paris" – Liz & László[41][42]

See also

References

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External links

Template:Blair Witch Template:Adam Wingard

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