Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: Blair Witch, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's

of 6 viewers "Liked" "Blair Witch" (2016, USA)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

KillDozer - "From the minds behind found footage anthology V/H/S and cat and mouse home invasion thriller You're Next comes a new installment into the Blair Witch franchise that can sit proudly next to Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows (depending on what kind of nerd you are this could be a good or bad thing). The first issue I have with this film is that it was made. I couldn't help wondering why someone would try to re-capture the "lightning in a bottle" experience of the first film, The Blair Witch Project. I was not excited and ready to hate every second. Only after trying to go into the theatre with a clear mind was I able to actually have a good time seeing this film. I put my hatred for remakes and reboots and cash grab garbage to the side, and treated it like a nostalgic experience. The nostalgia was definitely there and helped me get in the mood to see exactingly what I expected and still have a fun time. Blair Witch manages to tell a fun creepy story with more than enough jump scares to freak out the casual movie goer as well as those having fun being in the Burkittsville woods again. One thing I can say for sure is that sound is crucial to this film and not seeing it in a theatre will take massive amounts of atmosphere and energy away from the experience. I think this Blair Witch experience will be very exciting for those who are seeing anything in the franchise for the first time. For those older genre nerds the nostalgia will keep you interested and who doesn't love a fun witch/ghost in the woods story?" -  3 Stars (collection worthy and worth taking friends to see in the theatre as this is a popcorn flick that will creep you out the next time you go camping)

Dabbles - "Much like what The Force Awakens did for the Star Wars franchise, this movie does for the Blair Witch myth. I remember the original vividly and this movie made everything I was scared of vivid as well. I literally was so scared I kept looking at Lord Battle and Clark like "thanks alot". Even to the point while I was trying to enjoy my fish I was afraid I was going to jump and drop my food. Blair Witch pretty much amplified every sense of fear and brought me on this ride that only kept me wondering and anxious about things that could come next." - 5 Stars

Clark Little - "Sometimes, the son doesn't surpass the fame and success of the father. There's a lot of pressure on the son. All the odds are against him. He wants to follow in his father's footsteps despite knowing the chance of him surpassing or even equaling his father's work is a folly, but yet he wants to put his name among his rank. Blair Witch did the best it could under a giant shadow that is its predecessor. It paid tribute while adding a fresh take. It's not as inventive or monumental as the original, but it doesn't try to be. It wants to scare you. And it does." - 3.5 Stars

Huntress - "I spent the majority of Blair Witch frozen and glued to the screen… this movie is insanely captivating. It got to me in a way I’m not used to, and I don’t just mean because of jump scares. Everything about it - atmosphere, surroundings, people - was unsettling. Nothing was reassuring. The combination of a familiar storyline with new technology and circumstances gave this film the best of both sides. It paid obvious, respectful homage to its predecessor, while also maintaining its own originality. In many ways, this is a perfect sequel." -5 Stars

Lord Battle - "As a proud warrior of the found footage sub genre, I have to say I couldn't be happier with Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's choice to stick with the found footage format. Those two are truly veterans of the shooting style and it shows in Blair Witch as they have created a flawlessly produced found footage film. It's just too bad that the film hasn't made more since this may be the last studio venture into found footage. But it is kinda poetic that the franchise that started the phenomenon may be the one to end it."  - 6 Stars (Default 5)

The Impostor - "Found footage, you either love it or hate it. I personally love found footage films, slow burn, jump scares, twists and all. Back in 1999, The Blair Witch Project put this sub genre in full swing with many more found footage films following the trend. The impact of the original Blair Witch was huge and made me not want to go camping. As a kid I thought it was real. Now in 2016, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett make a direct sequel. I was really excited to see how well this could be made with the updated cameras and technology. Blair Witch is definitely as creepy as the original, the scares and jumps were pretty intense. There were moments I felt just as stuck and claustrophobic as the characters. Cameras were used quite nicely and flowed well between all the characters. I'd definitely recommend seeing this in a theatre setting to get the full effect of the sound, which adds to the scares and film itself. Overall, great theatre experience. It wasn't as scary as the original but Blair Witch is a solid sequel and found footage film all together." -4 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*
(Below is for after you've seen the film)

Since The Blair Witch Project changed the course of horror in 1999, we've received a plethora of hand held horror films made by a gaggle of indie film makers. Now I've been know to compare this found footage movement to Dogme 95', a manifesto created by Lars Von Trier's in an attempt to take the film making power back from the Hollywood Studio's. This comparison never fails to receive the most aggressive of eye rolls but when you take a look at the actual rules that make up the "Vow of Chastity", they don't differ very much from the unspoken rules that found footage movies abide by:

Image result for the vow of chastity dogme 95

Found footage horror may not have a manifesto but if you talk to serious found footage nerds, you'll know there are rules you must not break. The best example can be found on, which is a site for found footage nerds, run by found footage nerds. They have a page explaining their review criteria, which gets very deep into these unspoken rules, which I'll share below:

#1 Reason for Filming:
Does the found footage film provide a plausible and believable reason as to why the person wielding the camera is recording a film’s length worth of footage? For example, a found footage Film employing the mocumentary approach where a journalist is filming everything to capture proof of Bigfoot has a good degree of plausibility. Conversely, a person being chased through a forest a night who is filming everything while running for his/her life is a difficult to accept as real. The “Reason for Filming” must be taken in context of the situation and stresses the filmographer are under at the time of filming.

#2 Believable Cinematography:
Does the found footage film look spontaneously filmed and flawed as would be expected from actual Found Footage? Conversely, are the actors and action always in-frame, front-and-center, and in focus? Does the found footage film look polished or does the footage look raw and flawed? A found footage film that is too polished and refined often comes across as contrived, losing plausibility in the eyes of the viewer.

#3 Found Footage Purity:
Does the found footage film break the rules when it comes to filming? Are there narrative shots in the film from some off screen camera? Are camera menu icons and visuals such as battery life and the video camera border captured on the footage — these elements do not record, and should only be visible by the person holding the camera during filming. Scenes such as these can destroy a found footage film.

#4 Believable Acting:
Does the acting come across as spontaneous and unstaged? Similar to the cinematography, in a genre that strives for realism and authenticity, acting that is too polished and infallible often comes across as contrived.

#5 Immersion/Realism:
Measure of how good of a job the found footage film draws the viewer into the footage and keeps the viewer engaged for the duration of the film.How well does the film draw the viewer into the story? By definition, Found Footage films are designed to be “real.” Immersion/Realism is a composite or summary score of the first four criteria, taking into account the reason for filming, cinematography, acting, and Found Footage purity.

#6 Plot:
Last but certainly not least is plot. Is the plot interesting, unique, and engaging? While the first five criteria are more or less objective in nature, measuring the effectiveness of plot is more on the subjective side, falling within the sensibilities of the critic.

If The Blair Witch Project defined these unspoken rules, Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett are the ones who perfected them. Now there have been a few standout found footage directors since 1999, like The Vicious Brothers (Colin Minihan, and Stuart Ortiz (Grave Encounters, Grave Encounters 2)) but none are as successful or experienced with the sub-genre. Just look at the very successful found footage anthology films V/H/S and V/H/S 2. These films took the horror community by storm, yet the final film in the series V/H/S 3 is universally considered a failure, which is largely tied to the absence of the writer/director team.
The reason it's important to acknowledging this is because with the positive yet underwhelming return from ticket sales combined with negative responses from the horror community. Blair Witch may be the last serious studio attempt at making a found footage film. But that's okay, since the film couldn't have been in better hands.

 This wrap-up/rant came up because I feel the horror community likes to look backwards in time when appreciating anything and it's unfortunate because a large portion of fans may have missed something very special, not just in horror history but in film history. Thankfully found footage won't perish from a lack of studio interest, in fact much of the negative examples of the sub-genre came from studio rewrites and cash grabs. So, much like the Dogme 95' movement, found footage will return to the hands of the indie film makers, where it rightfully belongs.

- Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized on 9/14/2016 at the Alamo Draft House in theatre 1, with an Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett Q&A via Skype.
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not effect the rating.

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