Movie Review: The Blair Witch 2016


I’m going to give you a spoiler alert because I try to be a decent human being, not because there are any real surprises in this film. Spoilers begin below the fold:

Spoiler: It’s really dumb. It’s also pretentiously dumb, which is some kind of achievement.

“Found footage” doesn’t mean you come up with fake-looking transitions between “clips” – i.e.: fake JPEG artifacts in motion footage. Because, somewhere the god of irony is clutching its temples with its tentacles and writhing in pain at the idea that a film editor had to go create fake transitions and insert them between the real clips. I know this is nerdy of me, but when you press the record/stop recording button on a camera, the file is not automatically corrupted at the end. Cameras haven’t worked that way, since they were cameras. Anyway: if that was the worst sin of the movie, it might have been pretty good.

Plot synopsis:

A bunch of stupid millenials go into the woods for a camping trip, get lost, scream a lot and jump-scare eachother, then – incredibly – get more stupid and out of control and manage to die. Oh, yeah, and “witch.”

Seriously, it makes no sense at all. They’re going to go into the woods to find the house where whatsisname’s sister got disappeared in the first movie, because he thinks she may be alive because internet troll told him she was. It’s only been 10 years – she’s presumably living with the blair witch going on a decade, eating nothing but ramen noodles, or something.

Where nobody goes, but somebody mows

Where nobody goes, but somebody mows

Then, they meet up with skeevy internet troll (who’s a racist, which plays really well with the black characters in the group, setting up a little frisson of tension that the director miraculously fails to capitalize on) and all go out in the woods together, parking in a spot “where nobody ever goes” that is not covered with weeds, and which has a pretty nice access road leading to it – like, you know, a place where people go. They start hiking out and see a sign (remember: nobody ever goes here) warning them away. And they go anyhow, etc. One of the party (a woman, natch!) hurts her foot – because for no reason that makes any sense at all they are going to ford this wimpy small creek – and she wants to do it barefoot, because whoever wrote the plot thought that would make sense because apparently they have never seen: a) a real river b) pieces a broken bottle sticking out of the bottom of someone’s foot c) hiking boots with cordura sides that let water drain out. I am guessing that the script-writers of this horrible bodge never leave their “writer’s room” and live in a coffee shop in Seattle where the most scary thing they encounter is bourgeois guilt when the dude outside asks for spare change. Seriously.

So the woman cuts her foot open on (unknown) and instead of: a) cleaning the wound  b)  putting bacitracin on it  c) turning around and going to the ER – it looks like it needs about 6 stitches right in the arch of her foot – they put, I kid you not, a little teeny butterfly bandaid on it, wrap it with gauze, and continue hiking. Because, after 10 years, they can’t possibly take another day to retrench and heal while they find someone who will rent them a couple ATVs.

For people who live in writers’ rooms, here’s a public service announcement: anyone who actually has any experience with the shit that winds up in rivers will tell you, there’s a good chance you’ll have a raging infection in 4 to 8 hours. Amazingly in the early hike scene we see one of the campers has a first aid kit – after all, what did the butterfly bandaid come from – but whatever. I imagine that if someone still had suspended disbelief at that point in the movie, it was another person from the same writer’s room.

Then they camp, set up tents, make a fire, and proceed to freak out because: noises!!!!

NOISES!!!!
AAAAAAUUUGUGGUGHGHHGUGHUGUGHGUH!

Looking for a plot device. Did you bring one? NOOO! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO!

Looking for a plot device. Did you bring one? NOOO! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO!

That’s apparently what you do when you’re in the woods at night and there’s a noise: you freak out and go running, by yourself, in a random direction. And a tree falls on you. No, really. That’s what happens to one of them.

I know I’ve done too much risk assessment but when I go someplace with friends and there’s a crowd and we might get separated, we pick a rendezvous spot and have a “if we don’t find eachother by…” time at which we’ll all head for the rendezvous. If I were out in the woods for a 2 day hike to a mysterious destination, I’d be: on a quad ATV and it’d be a 45 minute ride and there’d be 2 quads and yeah we’d have walkie-talkies (like the idiots in the movie) and even if the walkie-talkies broke mysteriously we’d stay put in a group, near the quads, and if something made a scary noise we’d turn an ATV’s engine on and headlight the noise and see what the heck was going on. We’d also use the ATV to charge our batteries. The camping crew in the movie are carrying loads of electronic gimcracks that all stop working because ??magic?? but how do they charge them? Unless they have a scream-powered battery charger, they’d have a problem. Actually, we wouldn’t be there at all because we’d have looked at the google satellite maps and either found the house’s GPS coordinates and beelined to it on the ATVs, or stayed home because: no house. Oh, did I forget to mention that? One day in to the hike, internet troll admits that he doesn’t know where the house is, he was just making it up. And they don’t just turn around and head back?

The rest of the movie is nothing but that kind of weirdness. And jump-scares. About 30 of them. The writer’s room appears to have thought that the way to build tension was the:

NOISE!!! AUGHHHHH!!! (running around) and then WHAM – runs into eachother in the woods, and SCREAMS!

Jump scares don’t build tension past the point where the audience starts laughing at them.

Other annoying things: they have a drone, which they fly up out of the woods, through the trees. And it crashes. Shock and awe. I refuse to believe anyone is actually that stupid and that good a drone pilot at the same time. Later, the drone features when girl with infected foot screams and runs off into the woods, then sees the drone up a tree (amazingly, still running) and decides to climb up to get it (drones, with the props spinning, are a flying table-saw if you’re made of meat) and falls and dies. The trees are the high-scoring killers in the movie.

The movie ends up with them finding a house. And idiot who was looking for his sister immediately starts screaming her name and runs into the house. Leaving the other idiot outside. She later freaks out and stabs another idiot in the neck. Everyone freaks out, screams, runs around, there are lots of jump-scares and then everyone dies. By this point several other couples had left the theater.

blair witch sticks make you scream and lose your mind

blair witch +10 sticks of “scream and lose your mind”

There was one bit near the end where suddenly hugely bright lights were shining through the lath walls of the house, and that triggered more screaming. Instead of, you know, assuming that they’d run into a building that was scheduled for demolition and those were the lights of the bulldozers. I am not familiar with other cases of bright light being used as a witch-weapon but these lights triggered: more screaming and running around in random directions.

One moment in the movie actually did scare me but it was purely by accident. One of the idiots is in the basement of the abandoned house and gets attacked by one of the others (who has clearly been driven bonkers by all the screaming) and is knocked in the head then thrown down the well. So now she’s 1 story below the basement – it’s a dry well – and there’s a hole. So she decides that head trauma and all, this is a perfect time for some spelunking, and goes headfirst into the hole, climbs down, and gets stuck. Now, that scared the shit out of me because when I was a teenager I did some amateur spelunking and almost got stuck doing exactly that stupid thing except I kept cool and backed out slowly. She freaks out, drives forward, and gets through (the hole conveniently widens) and climbs down further then out into the basement. That’s scary: this abandoned house is seriously non-topological, and that’s the creepiest part of the movie. The rest is just screaming and running around.

Summary:

This movie exists only to make other movies look better by comparison.

Comments

  1. rq says

    That’s scary: this abandoned house is seriously non-topological, and that’s the creepiest part of the movie.

    They could have totally worked with that and made a super-creepy movie about a non-topological house.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    I thought the first Blair Witch film was superb*, but maybe it should never have been made, what with all the ‘found-footage’ dreck it spawned.

    *Mileage varies hugely. The only part that scared my sister was when one of the characters said they’d run out of cigarettes.

  3. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#3:
    one of the characters said they’d run out of cigarettes

    Unthinkable! Serious smokers would go out with enough cigarettes for a month. I’ve seen it. They never run out!

    I thought the first Blair Witch film was superb

    I enjoyed it. But mostly because I gave it a huge amount of slack for being indie, cheap, and interesting. It also had its share of really nonsensical moments.

    Maybe the new one was produced just to make the original one look good. That’s a believable theory.

  4. says

    Dunc@#5:
    Shakycam makes me queasy.

    It just annoys me. Like, eyeball popping mad annoyed. Because anyone seriously shooting a documentary would take along a tripod and a steadicam. Nowadays you can get great camera stabilizers starting at $100.

    Of course a steadicam won’t help you if there’s a witch around. Witches, uh, something something don’t show up on maps and interfere with general relativity so that GPS don’t work.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Yr sister, evidently a woman of experience, was absolutely right.

    Nicotine withdrawal symptoms turn tolerable people in-.

  6. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#8:
    Nicotine withdrawal symptoms turn tolerable people in-.

    Now there’s a movie plot: bunch of smokers and drinkers go out in the woods for a hiking trip to find a witch. Cigarettes run out, they start killing eachother for cigarettes.

  7. keithb says

    Being stuck in an Escher house reminds me of _Labyrinth_, and the seen in _Night at the British Museum when they got stuck in an Escher painting.

  8. invivoMark says

    The best shaky cam movie ever was the 2010 low-budget Norwegian film Trollhunter. The camera angles are mostly far enough from the action and few shots are taken while running, so the shakiness is tolerable. The film also puts a unique twist on the shaky cam idea halfway through (which I won’t spoil), and generally uses the idea to good effect.

    I will be giving Blair Witch a miss, but I would highly recommend Trollhunter for anyone looking for some pseudo-horror featuring young film students making a documentary.

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