Monday, September 19, 2016

Blair Witch: Review, Synopsis, and Explanation

Monday Movie! Blair Witch

Bechdel Test: pass
Mako Mori Test: pass

On the DZA Review Scale, I give it a more terrifying than the original and just as amazing (but that could be because I'm a millennial.)


I saw The Blair Witch Project in preparation for seeing this one and was duly impressed by the acting, creepiness, suspense, etc.

Blair Witch took the premise, skill, and setting and simply added 21st Century special effects. The acting was amazing and the attacks were terrifying. We even see a few glimpses of the Blair Witch herself (and she is horrifying).

(Quick note: if you haven't seen the original Blair Witch Project yet, I recommend that you do. It's not critical for understanding the story or even this blog post, but there are a lot of cool hints and throwbacks that make Blair Witch a lot of fun. And it is, after all, a sequel. You can watch The Blair Witch Project here.)

The movie starts with James, the brother of Heather from The Blair Witch Project, finding a video online of the creepy-ass house in the creepy-ass forest that he thinks catches a glimpse of his sister and thinks I want to go there. He recruits Lisa, a film studies major (throwback to Heather) and two life-long friends Peter and Ashley, as well as a pair of eccentric locals, Lane and Talia. They equip themselves with high-tech cameras and GPS to ensure they don't get lost and die, and dive in. (Spoiler alert: they get lost and die.)

The one complaint I have about this movie is it doesn't leave a lot of room for character development. After being introduced to the characters and their motivations, it goes right to the scaring. Sure, we feel bad for James as he tries and fails to rescue his long-lost sister, and we're scared for the others as they get stuck in various terrifying situations. But the emotional connection we had with Heather, Josh and Mike in The Blair Witch Project isn't there in Blair Witch.

This could simply be because there's twice as many characters in the sequel as the original, and thus we only have half the time to focus on each one (a similar complaint to Suicide Squad). Once we start killing some of them off we get a little more attached to the others (namely James, Lisa and Ashley).

It helps that there is a limited number of stupid horror movie mistakes. The ones that are made are, if not forgivable, at least understandable and can be blamed on stress, panic, terror, etc.

I saw it twice. The first time was me cowering behind my hand for 60% of it (didn't even see the witch). The other involved me actually watching it (and snickering at my friend as she cowered behind her hand). So yes, I paid to see it twice, and I'm glad I did.

She's just upset because she failed art class.

Synopsis (All the Spoilers!)

James sees a short video on YouTube that he thinks shows his sister Heather, but we only see a glimpse of her in the mirror as the person holding the camera is running through a (familiar-looking, for those who've seen The Blair Witch Project) house, barricading themselves in a room before it fizzes out.

James is absolutely obsessed with finding Heather, who disappeared when he was four. So he gathers up his friends, collects a bunch of tech that's supposed to keep them from vanishing like Heather, and they go on a camping trip. The locals who found the video, in an old-fashioned camera at the base of a dead tree, insist on coming with them. (Ashley and Peter are not happy about this; they are Black, and the locals Lane and Talia have a Confederate flag hanging in their living room.)

As is often the case in modern horror movies, shit hits the fan pretty quick. Ashley gets a nasty cut on her foot while crossing the river, the woods start making these freaky roaring rumble noises, and wooden stick figures appear over their tents.

At that last one, the characters make the wise decision to leave. But as they're heading out, Lisa notices that the rope Lane is using is the exact same as the kind that tied up the stick figures. Turns out Lane and Talia set up the stick figures in an attempt to bring out more weirdness. James and Co. are understandably furious. Lisa even questions the validity of the tape they found, since it's from the same type of camera that Lane uses (because he's weirdly old-school like that). Lane and Talia leave on their own to avoid getting their asses kicked by pissed off DMA students.

The group still decides to leave, even though the weirdness that had freaked them out turns out to have just been Lane being a dick. But instead of getting to the cars, they end up back at their campsite.

Ashley's injury has gotten infected. When Peter unwraps the bandage to take a look, he sees something moving beneath her skin. Brandon Scott does the perfect impression of a very bad liar on the verge of freaking out but still trying to keep his girlfriend calm.

Meanwhile, James and Ashley try to use a camera drone to find their way out. But instead of seeing the road, or a clearing, or even the edge of the woods, all they see are trees, trees, trees, before the drone gets knocked out.

Peter does the classic "I'll be right back" trope to get more firewood that night and doesn't come back. James goes out to try to find him but only finds his flashlight.

To make matters weirder, Lane and Talia run into them again. The pair freak out, because while it's been a few hours for James and Co, it's been five days for them. Five days of darkness, to be precise, since they haven't seen the sun come up. Thinking that James and the others are some sort of trick, Lane leaves. Talia stays.

When the group wakes up the next morning, the sun still hasn't risen (despite it being 7am), and the entire camp is circled by stick figures. Ashley blames Talia, takes one of the stick figures and breaks it. Talia's spine also breaks (she ends up folded up like a briefcase).

The tents are yanked up by invisible forces (the witch is apparently telekinetic, because she wasn't terrifying enough with the time-warping) and the group scatters. Lisa and James find their way back to each other, but Ashley's on her own.

After a bit of body horror involving her wounds (I'm pretty sure the thing she pulled out of her leg was alive), Ashley finds the drone stuck in the trees. She tries to get it out with her phone, but technology sucks, so she climbs the tree to get it (an impressive feat, considering her injured leg). She almost gets it, too. But Blair Witch decides Yeah, no, and pulls her from the tree. The last we see of her is her body being dragged off-screen.

Now that everyone who isn't White is dead, James and Lisa find the house. James thinks he sees Heather and goes in after her. Lisa stays outside, but gets pushed inside by more rumble-roars (and a glimpse of the Blair Witch herself). She runs into Lane again, who's trying to pull off the Mountain Man look and it does not look sexy. (Come on, Blair Witch. You trap a guy in your weird time web for years but don't give him a razor? That's just mean.) Lane pushes Lisa into a cellar that has tiny tunnels leading back into the house. Lisa gets stuck a couple of times, but manages to wiggle her way to freedom.

Well, sorta. She ends up with Lane again. Except this time she stabs him in the throat and takes his old-fashioned camera.

As she's running up the stairs, getting chased by the witch and trying to find James, we're seeing some very familiar shots: a glimpse of a woman in the mirror, running through a house, barricading herself in a room...

Lisa and James end up in the attic, and since nothing good ever happens in the attic ever, they both end up dead.

The end!


Wait, what just happened? 

Here's a breakdown of what happened: during the movie we learn about a serial killer who murdered a bunch of kids in his house in the woods because the Blair Witch told him to, and that his house was burned down soon after his execution (same story we hear in The Blair Witch Project).  But that's the very house in the ending of this movie (the biggest hint to that is the tunnels: James talked about how there were tiny tunnels beneath the house that "didn't really go anywhere," and that's where Lisa was chilling for a while).

We also saw a burned tree that'd been struck by lightning, when Lane and Talia showed the group where they'd found the tape. Later, when Lisa and James find the house, Lisa sees that exact same tree right outside.

And then of course there's the tape itself, and Lane's situation where he's going through days, months, possibly even years when James and Co. experience only a few hours.

Basically, Blair Witch can control time. It's how the house stays hidden when the search parties come, and then appears when she needs to trap someone. And it's how James and his friends were lured into coming into the woods in the first place by a tape they themselves had created.

Doctor Who explains it best:

Thanks for reading! :)

Of course, if you have another theory about the witch, or a different opinion, then please leave a comment!
Which is better? The Blair Witch Project or Blair Witch?

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