Angles of Terror
For the many ways that The Blair Witch Project stammered audience expectations, Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch justifies continued participation. Detractors might zero in on the handheld camerawork. It frequently jostles and cuts off abruptly like the editor forgot to trim the rough edges. Let them complain. I say it’s part of the experience.
Following in the footsteps of James Donahue’s (James Allen McCune) missing sister Heather, a documentary crew visit Burkittsville, Maryland. It’s where the Blair Witch was sighted and James wants closure. Along the way, some locals join the cause. Night descends leading to some ultra-creepy events.
Truly, there’s an art to found footage. Observe how director Renny Harlin coordinated his visual approach on The Dyatlov Pass Incident -- the gold standard in my opinion. Such restless camera movements were tempered by static tripod positions. So it goes with Blair Witch.
Of vital importance, cinematographer Robby Baumgartner utilizes the drone camera which gives a bird’s eye view. Because Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez) wants to make “cheap helicopter shots,” we don’t question why the device is present. Incidentally, I would have loved using something like this at university.
Meanwhile, Bluetooth cameras situated next to the ear provide unique first person perspectives. In the cutting room, editor Louis Cioffi shifts between these various angles of terror and suspicion to greatest advantage.
Next up, sound effects editor Dan Kremer and his team hit the mark big time. In particular, hearing trees snap under extreme duress gives the impression that unseen forest giants are running amok.
If little else, Blair Witch confirms that Callie Hernandez takes risks. For evidence, watch the film’s pièce de résistance: a tight underground crawlspace which she must navigate. A warning to those that suffer from claustrophobia, this sequence comes across as very intense…
Quite frankly, I enjoy first person survival horror games, especially Outlast. Elements of this dark experience filter into Blair Witch at key moments. For ratcheting up the terror quotient, this film earns my highest recommendation.
(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" for language, terror and some disturbing images.)