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15 years after Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 bombed hard at the box office, the folks at Lionsgate decided to trust horror masters Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett with the keys to their long dormant horror franchise. With The Blair Witch Project existing only as a memory that 90's kids would remember, the world needed a new reason to fear the iconic woods of Burkittsville, Maryland. If you paid attention to the grosses that came in for the film this weekend, you'd think they failed. However, for some of those who saw the film this weekend, they know that that mission was accomplished with flying colors.
Blair Witch deserves more than the paltry sum it racked up this weekend, mainly because the film dusted off an old indie hit and made it brand new again. For a good piece of Blair Witch, the film retreads the same ground that The Blair Witch Project walked during its 1999 release. Kids with cameras get curious, they walk into the woods cocky and sure of themselves, and eventually they all succumb to madness. That's not a spoiler, as it's clear as day in the trailers for the film. However, once that foundation is built, the film takes a wicked left turn that teases so much more about what the Blair Witch franchise could do with itself.
Without spoiling too much, everything from time dilation to ontological paradoxes are introduced once the film starts to go into its dark, thrilling heart. Blair Witch even throws in some question about whether UFOs might be involved, as some of the weird noises that plague the dark forest sound a lot like what you'd think a flying saucer's engines would. All the while, the mistrust within the group festers and manifests itself in crazier, more violent forms than it ever did in The Blair Witch Project, making for some shocking action beats. To be fair, I'm surprised I'm even offering up this much praise for Blair Witch, as I was originally one of those kids who wasn't exactly thrilled to see this movie coming down the pike.
Before seeing Blair Witch, I was a known hater of the first film. I wasn't impressed one bit as a teenager in 1999, and the thought of a sequel still kind of chilled me, even with my fandom of Wingard and Barrett firmly in place after their previous two films: You're Next and The Guest. I was a skeptic up until the film started, and eventually I was won over by the fact that Blair Witch took the original story, and gave it more of a budget to play around with. That extra money made all the difference, as elements of both the horror and sci-fi realms are introduced to the film in the middle of the second act, creating a mash-up that still has my mind pouring over what it all meant.
With all of the impressive work that went into this long awaited sequel, it really is a bummer to see it not reach the heights it deserves to be at. At the very least, Blair Witch has exceeded its production budget, so Lionsgate shouldn't have to take too much of a bath on the film's expenses. If we're lucky, we might get some more sequels, especially if word of mouth starts to keep this film alive in the weeks to come. So if you're even the least bit curious about what the film does with the mythology of Burkittsville's dark past, then you owe it to yourself to check out Blair Witch. I have a feeling you won't be disappointed if you do.