Found-footage are always plagued by the concern that they’re usually hit or miss, and the margin for error is so great that when later generations view these movies, the impact of their scares may be lost, or at least not felt as deeply. There are some found-footage that do their job well, many more that don’t, and very few that walk the line of “meh.” For me, “Blair Witch (2016)” kind of straddles that line.
There are a few things worth lauding in the new “Blair Witch” movie. For one thing, it kept more in line with the original than a sequel that should have never been released, and as such, the technology in the movie increased and, as expected, plays a very significant role in the terror experienced by the main characters. There are also plenty of jump scares, and while it helps, you can get away with watching the movie without having seen the first one.
Other people I’ve talked to said that it hit a nostalgia factor with them, which is good, since I think that’s one of the few marketing ploys they have really going for this film. Furthermore, there is a little bit more diversity in this sequel than the original.
That said, the diversity issue in “Blair Witch” actually winds up as a shot in the foot in my opinion. Listen, it’s 2016. The first person to actually die in your horror movie probably shouldn’t be the one black man. This is complicated further that he’s frequently shown as the one immediately bursting into aggression. There’s a scene where we encounter a Confederate flag; while the film glances back and forth between it and the two black characters, there’s never a statement made, and while we might infer that it could have upset them, there’s never a moment where they say, “We don’t want these people coming with us because their decorating choice of using the Confederate flag make us uncomfortable.” Most choices are made (against the better thinking for group safety) by the two white leads, and they wind up getting both black characters killed. The nostalgia factor pointing back at earlier movies is not endearing here but rather frustrating.
There were parts I enjoyed about the movie, but much of the end felt ripped from “Grave Encounters 2,” and while I had fun with my friends, I probably wouldn’t watch it again.