1999 was a pivotal year for me. I graduated high school, had a great summer job and was on a path of self-discovery. My identity was already ruled by ‘90s punk, loud sarcasm and second-hand T-shirts from Savers. However, it was also the year where I started to take movies seriously. I was finally able to come to terms to maybe Austin Powers wasn’t the greatest movie ever made. It was time for me to discover Fight Club, The Matrix, Sixth Sense and The Iron Giant.
Right in the middle of this cinematic renaissance, a strange festival movie was released with the strangest marketing campaign. The Blair Witch Project actually poised itself as the compiled video tapes of three presumably dead campers. This kind of marketing could, sadly, never exist now when the internet is full of information about every kind of spoiler.
I remember going on a double date to see The Blair Witch Project. (Because that’s a good date movie?) Even now, my nostalgic glasses can’t cover up the fact that I got a little motion sick. However, I knew I was witnessing something original. As my group drove home, we started telling scary stories and experiences with Ouija boards. Those stories, combined with the movie’s grim ending, compounded my fear of the movie. I still remember the hesitancy I felt as I got home to an empty house, walked down to the basement (where my room was located) and refused to look in the corner for fear of seeing someone standing there, facing the wall.
I guess you could say the movie made an impact.
And now, we have…
It’s the surprise sequel that no one saw coming. After the rushed sequel, Book of Shadows, no one expected or wanted a follow-up. Yet, a few months ago, it was announced that Adam Wingard’s new horror flick “The Woods” was really a direct sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Anticipation has been high ever since the reveal and title change.
It has been a long time since Heather disappeared in the woods of Burkitsville, Maryland. Yet, Heather’s much younger brother, James, has discovered a video that he believes may give evidence to Heather’s possible survival. He, along with several friends, take their fancy video equipment and attempt to retrace her steps in order to find clues of her survival in the forest.
The team no longer relies on one gigantic camcorder to catch the action. They are fully equipped with personal earpiece cameras, in addition to GoPros and even a drone. The question is, does better camera equipment protect you from a forest trying to kill you? No. In fact, even HD cameras don’t prevent the motion-sickness the audience feels as the characters run for their lives.
Your interest in Blair Witch will largely depend on your patience level with the found footage format. It’s not quite the novel approach it felt like in 1999, but Blair Witch is intended to build on that story, while also acting as a reboot. The characters argue, wander aimlessly and make stupid life/death choices. Thankfully, we don’t have to hear them argue about who lost the map for 10 minutes.
I give a pass to found footage movies for their weaker characterizations. In fact, the only 1st person movie that surpassed these limits was Chronicle. I know, typically, that these characters struggle with catty in-fighting and lend much of the time towards the struggle to survive. The characters aren’t annoying enough that I want them to be picked off, but I’m also never shocked or sad when any of them do. In Project and this movie, it’s the mythology of the forest I enjoy more than the actual characters, and that tides me over.
Blair Witch is a short 89 minutes and keeps the tension at a moderate level with trees falling and jump scares. Everything ramps up to an intense ending that is thankfully an extended trip into the cabin that was barely glimpsed in the original Project. This finale is what makes the experience worth it. The cabin becomes a 1st person perspective nightmare. More of what haunts these characters is shown than necessary, but the imagery is still incredibly memorable.
By the end, I was so enrapt by the thrilling end that I temporarily forgot that one girl climbed a tree for some reason and the characters kept going off on their own to get firewood. Sure, none of these characters have seen a horror flick, but they’ve at least seen the footage from the first movie.
Blair Witch won’t have the same lasting effect that the first movie had, but I got a kick out of revisiting these woods. Mostly, I’m just happy that it’s been a good year for horror and even when there’s an average horror flick, it still adds to the fun. B-
Bridget Jones Baby
It’s apparently the week of sequels to dead franchises.
Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) has entered a stage in life where she has a successful career, but is constantly reminded that her biological clock is ticking. Yet, in one wild weekend, she ends up having short flings with her ex-boyfriend, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Jack (Patrick Dempsey) a charismatic American. Life gets complicated when she finds out she’s pregnant, but has no idea who the father is. In true rom-com fashion she lies and tells both men that they are the father.
The concept plays out just as zany as you’d imagine. It feels as realistic as something out of Three’s Company. The constant switch-ups and accidental encounters between the two potential dads comes off as forced, rather than endearing happenstance.
What salvages Bridget Jones Baby is the ease that Zellwegger and Firth bring to the roles. Even after all these years, they prove their great chemistry. However, having not seen Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (most likely a prequel to Edge of Tomorrow) I can’t understand why she and Darcy aren’t married. The movie does little to dispel their former relationship woes. Patrick Dempsey’s Jack is a welcome addition and fits well enough that the audience may actually have a tough time deciding who they want the father to be.
Despite the tired love triangle plot and rom-com tropes, there are genuine laughs to be had. In fact, because it feels a little out of its time and has all the familiarity of ’90s rom-coms, it is a return to a form. Even if that form has been buried for about 15 years.
Bridget Jones Baby isn’t a movie I’d revisit. I laughed about as much as I groaned. However, this R-rated romantic comedy is a safe bet for a enjoyable girl’s night out. C+