It took very little time for The Blair Witch Project to spawn a franchise, with the first sequel released just a little over a year after the original... but it didn't exactly last a long time. While some horror franchises have stretched to be more than 10 chapters, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was so bad that it basically killed the series back in 2000. Sixteen years later, we now have a new sequel coming in the form of Blair Witch - and while some may say that the studio should have just let sleeping dogs lie, screenwriter Simon Barrett has a very good reason for bringing the franchise back: the narrative as a whole just had to much potential to be left on the shelf.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking on the phone with Simon Barrett about his work on the new Blair Witch movie, and while discussing how he and director Adam Wingard originally came to the project, he mentioned that they had turned down many sequel and remake opportunities in the past, but that this was one they really wanted to do. Following up, I asked what made the horror film different than the others, and the filmmaker explained,
It had such a cool mythology, and no one really knows, because of Book of Shadows, what a Blair Witch sequel could or should be. So it was kind of creatively an open plate.
This freedom in capitalizing on the potential of a Blair Witch franchise was key to Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard making a deal with Lionsgate to make the movie -- and speaks to how they view potential projects in general. Logically, when they are presented with a film idea based on an existing property, they determine whether or not there is anything they can legitimately add to what has already been made. If there isn't an avenue that they think is worth pursuing, then they pass:
When you get offers, a lot of the remakes and sequels that I've personally turned down over the past three years, since I've had some success in my career, have just been things that... maybe it's a remake of an original film that I loved, that I don't creatively know what I would add to it. It doesn't creatively excite me, because the original film was kind of perfect and stands on its own - so I don't particularly know why I would want to remake it.
In contrast, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard saw potential in building on what has already been done with The Blair Witch Project, and when they were approached by Lionsgate about making Blair Witch, it was something that immediately got their creative juices flowing. Said Barrett,
And then there's films like The Blair Witch Project or I Saw the Devil, that I really, really loved, but I also see like, 'Okay, you could take this in a new, cool direction, because the inherent premise is so incredible.' You could do something that doesn't in any way erase or decrease the existence and power of the original; it only enhances it. It's just such a cool mythology and a cool universe, the Blair Witch universe, to work in, that it was just creatively exciting to me, thinking of all the things that I could do, and also kind of set pieces I could create.
You'll be able to see Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's vision of a Blair Witch sequel at the end of this week, as their brand new film will be in theaters this Friday. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned for more from my interview with the screenwriter!