Blair Witch

If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise, if you go wild camping in the woods tonight, then it’s your own damn fault what happens to you.image

First off I want to address my points made in the current episode of the podcast. I am testament to the fact that anyone can be an online movie reviewer these days, but that doesn’t mean that all our opinions should be listened too. Some reviews of “Blair Witch” aren’t favourable, others cite the “poor box office opening weekend” and one tag line accused the audience, “you did this!”. Pressure should not be placed on directors, actors or the movie itself based on opening weekend takings.
I, myself, found life got in the way of getting into the theatre, which must have been the same thing that affected the rest of the sold out screen I sat alongside on “Blair Witch’s” second weekend. If a movie makes back what it spent, then it’s a success, end of. Now, let’s get to the scares.image

“Blair Witch” follows James and some friends as he heads into the woods near Burkitsville Maryland to find his lost sister Heather, while his friend Lisa documents the process for her film class. If you are familiar with the original movie, you will know what happened to Heather and since she clearly ain’t Bear Grills, though if you look her up online these days her fingers are pretty green, there’s no way she would be alive.image

The exposition to explain the legend, the different ghost stories, the fancy cameras and the gps system is a little thick in places. Some of the conversations do not feel genuine, real friends do not need to explain to each other information they should already know. Once that is out of the way and we are tented up and ready for a good nights kip, the woods start playing funny buggers. The cinema surround sound tries the best it can with cracking twigs and falling trees to heighten the fear, but in my view it only goes to remind that you are in a movie theatre in the middle of Glasgow and not alongside these characters in peril. I’m out of the movie, and I’m consciously worried that I won’t get sucked back in.

There is a disjointed storyline playing throughout. One of a somewhat time loop. It’s never fully explained, but mentioned enough to make you aware that there are no answers. The search for these answers plagued our drive home, evening and following morning, though proved as fruitless as searching for hikers lost in the woods 17 years ago. Take this time paradox theme away and “Blair Witch” is ten times better.

Let give credit where credit is due. The visuals are stunning, the iconic stick man creates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere from early on and a clever use of a drone camera allows us to see above the trees making the feelings of claustrophobia overwhelming, even with the setting being outside. This theme gets tighter as we head toward the gripping conclusion.

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Parallels can be drawn with the original Blair Witch Project. Obviously people making a documentary in the woods is the stark similarity, but some scenes are almost replicated. The extended look towards the cars as they walk into the woods, a last glimpse at a familiar world they are leaving behind. The extreme close camera angles reminiscent of the original nostrils scene, and then there’s the house. We get to go back and visit the house in more detail. This is extremely familiar to me and I haven’t been back to Burkitsville in over 10 years. Seeing more of a world we are familiar with is very pleasing to a viewing audience and Adam Wingard is very aware of that fact. You know where you are in the movie when you reach that house, even if we are lost in the woods.

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I sound like I have a lot of criticism about what I seen tonight, but the truth is, I enjoyed myself. The scares are good, however the movie never created a building tension. My heart rate never increased in anticipation of a scare. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief and truly step into the movie, but honestly, I did have fun.

Horror is a niche market and I think that explains the mass of negative reviews and bad box office takings. I fit the niche and this movie landed with me. I have my hang ups and there are scenes I could have done without, namely a tree that’s branches are essentially a very convenient ladder, but over all, I came out smiling. Let me tell you, the monster reveal outside the house, without giving too much away, is outstanding. Not too much, not too little.

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Go see “Blair Witch” while it’s still in cinemas, it’s great. Is it better than the project? No. Is it better than “Book of Shadows”? Of course it is.

Don’t Blink

What do you need to make a movie? Big bucks? Lots of CGI? boobs? I argue that all you need is a good story (assuming you will always have good actors).

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‘Don’t Blink’ is a 2014 horror sci-fi movie written and directed by Travis Oates (the voice of Piglet in the 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie) and starring Brian Austin Green (Kickboxer 2) and Mena Suvari (American Pie) and centres around ten friends holidaying in a mountain cabin when one by one they disappear.

Films like ‘Don’t Blink’ always stir my inner filmmaker. Character driven, single location, clever camera shots and good sound to avoid spending money on CGI and you can make a brilliant movie! As long as your story is good. What we have here is almost there.

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We begin ‘Don’t Blink’ by meeting all of our characters, learning some back story for the important relationships. However, and this criticism is only relevant for the opening sequences, the exposition we are given in the dialogue feels somewhat forced. While it is information that tell us who the characters are, they are asking each other questions that in real life, the answers would already be known amongst friends.

The actors in this movie are all around mid 20s to early 30s it seems, and perhaps why I find their life issues and stages relatable. The over used high school / college age group is not clichéd here and I find that refreshing.

When we reach the cabin, something is wrong straight away, the whole environment is deserted, a breakfast spread left half eaten, kitchen taps running and a recent fire in the mantle. It is in this strange and stressing situation we see the divide in leadership from our “alphas” in the group, one urging to leave, the other seeing the benefit in staying. A lack of gas being the main reason leaving would prove just as dangerous as staying.

Pretty quickly our group start disappearing, literally into thin air. I believe the high number of characters in this story is to allow normal deduction to reach the conclusion that people are simply disappearing as this reason would be no ones first thought.

Characters ark throughout the disequilibrium with Jack (Brian Austin Green) relenting on his original leading alpha bravado in realising he is out of his depth and Alex (Zack Ward – A Christmas Story) snapping under the pressure of having the right idea in the beginning but out votes from carrying it out.

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It is in Zack Ward’s performance that we have something special. All the actors are accomplished and believable, but Zack creates a multi levelled human in times of extreme stress, and the script does well to ask some pretty deep moral questions. If you could do anything and there would be no trace whatsoever after you were gone, what would you do?

If this moral question was the overall theme of the movie, we would have a winner, but there’s no payoff. I can’t say it doesn’t hit the mark, because it feels like the mark wasn’t even aimed for. The reasoning for the events of the movie aren’t badly explained, they aren’t explained at all.

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Perhaps I missed something along the way, perhaps it does ask questions and leaves the end ambiguous, perhaps the the whole movie is the impact of action vs consequence, but for me, a clever “wow” moment would have vastly improved my enjoyment for this great story. Hell, even a weak explanation would have been better than nothing at all.

Maybe I blinked and missed the point?