Readers please be aware that this film review contains extreme spoilers.
Having watched The Blair Witch Project and The Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 in my late teens, I was actually excited to see Blair Witch 2016 –mostly because Book of Shadows was rubbish. It was more like your normal Hollywood film rather than the found footage style that the original was filmed in.
After seeing the trailers and reading up about the new film, it looked like it would be the real sequel that we never got with Book of Shadows. The movie starts off as a normal found footage movie, with basic information letting us know how the footage was put together, and introducing to us two of the characters: Lisa and James. They’re watching what James thinks is footage of his sister still alive (Heather from the original film). The scene is the interrupted by two of their friends, Peter and Ashley, who join them in the search for James’s sister in the woods around Burkittsville.
After about the first six minutes, the film turns from being a found footage style flick to more of a traditional Hollywood movie. Each person has an ear piece camera, there is a drone, and there is a camera that Lisa is carrying as well. So unlike normal found footage which just switches between two or three different angles and cameras, Blair which switches between at least six different cameras, losing the effect that found footage movies normally have.
As they head off to Burkittsville, the team stop off and talk to the people that found the footage of James’s sister and try to pinpoint the location of where they found it so they can start their search. In return for the information, Lane and Talia ask to join the team in search of Heather. The group reluctantly give in and let them join as it is the only way that they will be able to find where the footage had been found.
They all head out into the woods and make their way towards where the footage was found before heading deeper into the woods to start the search for Heather. The now bigger group heads deep into the woods and into parts that Lane and Talia haven’t been before. Once it becomes too dark for them to walk anymore, they set up camp in a clearing and have dinner while joking around and talking until it is time to sleep.
During the night James is woken to strange noises from the woods surrounding their camp. As he opens his tent to look out, he is startled by Lisa who all but jumps into his tent and is quite spooked as well. They then hear their walkie-talkie go off as the others in the campsite hear the noises and want to make sure everyone is okay. While doing that, they find that Lane left to go pee and hasn’t been back in a while. Talia says she is going to look for him and James offers to go as well. After calling out to him for a while they do eventually find him and they all head back to the campsite.
As they wake in the morning, they find the campsite surrounded by the stick figures that had surrounded the campsites in the original movie. They also find that it is 2pm which doesn’t sound right to them.
Most of the group besides Lane and Talia think that it is too weird and they want to leave. As they are starting to pack up, Talia takes one of the figures down and puts it in her bag. As they are leaving the woods and heading back to the cars, Lisa begins to question Lane about his camera as it would have been the same sort of camera that was used to take the footage the he and Talia found. She questions him about it. She notices some twine in his backpack and pulls it out showing the rest of the group that it is the same twine that was used to make the stick figures. Both Talia and Lane are banished from the group once they admit that it was them who made the figures.
After Lane and Talia leave, the group walks in the direction that their GPS is telling them that their car is, only to find that they are back at the original campsite. They try to find out what is wrong with the GPS but to no avail. Lisa then sends the drone up to see if they can spot the cars or anything that can help with them getting out. As she is flying it around, the drone malfunctions and crashes into trees getting stuck in the process. The group are forced to camp for the night, as Ashley’s injury that she got the day before is hurting too much for her to carry on.
Now this is the point in the movie where it goes off the Blair Witch lore rails. As James, Ashley, and Lisa are at the campsite while Peter is off getting firewood, they hear him screaming and go to look for him but do not find him. They hear noises again thinking it is Peter, but they find Lane and Talia again who say that they have been gone for five lightless days. The others only think they saw them that afternoon.
Lane ends up leaving Talia with the group claiming that they will die there but he wont. The others go to sleep as he leaves and set an alarm. Once the alarms goes off, they wake to find that it is still dark. This is something that never happened in the original film or Book of Shadows. They do find piles of stones and more stick figures this time – bigger than the ones Talia and Lane made. Tensions rise as Ashley confronts Talia who found a stick figure with her hair on it. Ashley then breaks in half causing Talia to snap just like the stick.
After this happens and the tents get pulled up into the air as the image above shows, the movie flicks between the camera veiws of Lisa, James, and Ashley. For the most part, it is either blurry footage of the forest, blurry close up faces, or the torch shinning into the camera. Needless to say that those with motion sickness will not enjoy this part at all.
As the group make their way through the woods, they come across what looks like the building from the first movie and from the footage at the start of this movie. James rushes in as he thinks he can hear his sister and he leaves Lisa out in the rain and dark. While she is out there, she hears noises and points her flashlight in the direction she thinks it is coming from. As she does this you can see a figure in the woods that at the time most viewers would think is the Blair Witch. After this point you do see more of the figure, once Lisa goes into the house. This goes greatly against the original Blair Witch lore which never revealed the witch and relied on viewers to use their imagination.
For me, the movie showed far too much. There wasn’t much left to the imagination of the viewer. It was far too scripted and while I’m aware it is a movie and it has to be scripted to a degree, it doesn’t have to be as fleshed out as this film. You could have given the actors what the original cast had which was a rough thirty-five page script to follow and then let them wander through the woods with a rough idea of what to do before being scared out of their minds by the rest of the crew. Even after reading that the director had used air horns to get the scares he wanted from the actors, it still didn’t change my mind on how I felt that it was too scripted. The scares in this film were far too predictable, making them feel cheap.
The movie was kept reasonably well hidden before revealing it to be Blair Witch. It was released under the title The Woods instead and was only revealed to be a sequel two months before release – an interesting idea to make it a surprise for everyone. It would have been nice to see the studio do things similar to the marketing of the original, which was to have missing people posters of the actors in the movie as well as a follow up documentary about the missing students. While I understand this might be a little harder now as everyone knows the story is not real, it still would have been more interesting than keeping it quiet until two months before release.
To me, Book of Shadows was a better film as it at least followed the lore that was set in place by the first film. Even though it is also a terrible film, it was better than this one. All in all, this was a very mediocre horror film. While some people who have not watched the original might like it, I suspect those who liked the original will regret going and seeing this. If you must see it, wait for the home release.
SUMMARY: To me Book of Shadows was a better film as it at least followed the lore that was set in place by the first film, even though it is also a terrible film it was better than this one. All in all this was a very mediocre horror film, while some people who have not watched the original might like it. I suspect those who liked the original will regret going and seeing this, if you must see it, wait for the home release.