Nearly twenty years ago, James lost his sister. It wasn't in a car crash or through the agony of an unexpected disease. Oddly, his beloved sis disappeared while shooting a documentary video.
It seems there's this legend about something called the Blair Witch. This ancient creature was said to have once been a wicked, tormented woman who was tortured and murdered in the woods not far from Burkittsville, Maryland. And back when James was just a tyke, his pretty, older sister, Heather, went off on a camping trip with a group of pals to make a college-course documentary on that subject.
They got lost in the dark, dank woods.
And they were never seen again.
James, however, has never given up hope. It may seem impossible to some, but he thinks his sister could still be out there. Hey, weirder things have happened, right? Kidnappings. Memory loss. People have come back from some pretty strange mishaps.
And there just might be a tantalizing snippet of evidence that James is right.
While doing research online, James discovers a clip from a videotape that some guy called darknet666 says he found in an abandoned house in the same woods where Heather disappeared. And in one quick shot he spies the reflection of a woman—a haggard, bedraggled individual—who happens to look like Heather … if you squint just right.
Now, ordinarily James wouldn't go running off on a wild goose chase over a tiny online clip. He's not that obsessed. But he has this college friend named Lisa who thinks it might be cool to do a documentary of her own. Only this documentary would be about James trying to find his lost sister.
You see where this is going.
James' friend Peter is up for the road trip, too. Hey, he walked through that very woods with his dad after Heather disappeared. There was a mass community search for her, after all. If nothing else, a weekend trip might finally put his best bud James' mind to rest, and that would be worth it. Besides, Pete can invite his girlfriend, Ashley, along to keep his tent warm for a few days in the woods.
All they have to do is meet up with this darknet666 guy, a local Maryland redneck whose real name is Lane, and he'll take them out to that abandoned house in the woods he says he stumbled upon. If it's nothing, it's nothing. It could still make for a quirky little documentary nonetheless.
Thankfully, James and his pals aren't the types to get freaked out by that Blair Witch legend nonsense. I mean, who would ever swallow that kind of story these days anyway? Lisa thinks it gives her documentary some interesting background that they can play up, but that's about the only thought they give the topic.
And that's a good thing. Because when they spend the first night in that pitch-black woods, well, it feels pretty creepy all on its own.
Strange creaks and unnervingly loud thumps fill the air, along with an occasional screech.
Yep. Pretty creepy.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]
Once these characters encounter freighting and potentially dangerous things in the woods, they put their own safety on the line to try to help one another. James knowingly risks his life at one point when he hears what he believes to be his sister's voice. Peter is a good friend as well, repeatedly striving to protect his best friend's emotional wellbeing.
As the title suggests there is a witch and witchcraft involved throughout this tale. We see quick (almost undefinable) shots of a stick-like figure that darts in and out of the camera's eye from time to time. People are supernaturally snatched away, trees fall and loud screeching is heard. There are also seemingly occult symbols that show up in the form of stick figures hanging from the trees. We also hear a story about someone's torture and death that ultimately results in that victim seeking supernatural revenge from beyond the grave.
Peter and Ashley sleep together, as do Lane and his girlfriend, Talia (though we don't see any of them interact physically). Ashley eats a hotdog in a suggestive manner. Lisa displays cleavage and quite a bit of bare leg while in her sleepwear. A witch character appears to be naked from a distance, but the camera's glimpses of her are so quick that it's hard to tell.
Ashley cuts her bare foot on a sharp rock as she crosses a stream. We see James patch up that wound. Later, her bloody injuries mysteriously expand up her leg and ooze gobs of pus. She eventually pulls some kind of potentially living foreign object from one goopy slash.
During the course of a supernaturally lengthened night, the friends are pummeled and pounded repeatedly. A tree falls on someone and another individual falls from a great height. A girl is bent backwards and her backbone snaps in half. Lisa stabs someone in the neck with a large knife. And we get a number of close ups of her battered and bloody face.
Talia tells stories of a woman's torture.
Crude or Profane Language
More than 25 f-words and nearly 20 s-words. Jesus' and God's names are both abused about half a dozen times, with God's name being combined with "d--n" twice. The word "a--hole" gets spit out a couple of times. We see a crude hand gesture.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A party full of young adults drink beer and other alcoholic beverages. Peter is hungover the next day. James and his friends share a bottle of liquor in their hotel room.
Other Negative Elements
Peter, who's an African American, balks at the sight of a Confederate flag on the wall in Lane's house. Peter urinates on a tree.
In 1999, a small independent pic called The Blair Witch Project successfully established the novel "found footage" horror genre. The film was shot totally with handheld cameras on a miniscule budget and gave viewers the terrifying sense that they were watching a first-person documentary of real-world horror that had been lost, then found. (Hence the name.)
That film made a great deal of money. Nearly $250 million dollars internationally. Not bad for a film that only cost $60,000.
Since then, however, the found-footage film ship has sailed into theaters many, many, many times. There's nothing novel about this storytelling gimmick anymore. So even though Blair Witch returns to its cinematic witchcraft roots, adds a plethora of "you are there" filming techniques, cranks up the caterwauling cacophony, then stabs an adrenaline needle of cash into its heart, this sequel still feels like we've been-there-and-flinched-at-that before.
Granted, the formula of combining occult imagery and supernatural beings with pitch-black woodsy locales and screaming, bloodied young people is still unnerving. So, I guess you could say that this shrill and spiritually twisted pic does the job it was meant to do. But, on the other hand, a student dentist callously probing a raw and throbbing tooth with a stainless steel drill could be seen as doing his job, too.
I wouldn't call either experience a fun night out.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
James Allen McCune as James; Callie Hernandez as Lisa; Corbin Reid as Ashley Arlington; Brandon Scott as Peter; Wes Robinson as Lane; Valorie Curry as Talia
Adam Wingard ( You're Next)
September 16, 2016
January 3, 2017