It’s been over 17 years since The Blair Witch Project went from a no-budget improvisational indie to a worldwide phenomenon thanks to its unique hook: found footage.
Of course, everyone knows by now that the groundbreaking guerilla marketing collaboration between the filmmakers and Artisan Entertainment propagated the fake idea that the film was a documentary, one that consisted entirely of “found footage” from a field trip during which three people went missing. At the time, the internet was even more susceptible to this trickery, as – for example – no one could point to Joshua Leonard’s Twitter account as proof he was still alive. As far as fans on discussion boards knew, the whole thing really was a documentary. Which only made the movie, which was already terrifying so much more disturbing.
The Blair Witch Project was by no means the first fictional found footage film (sorry for all those “f”-words), especially if you include non-genre entries like Faces of Death, but looking back from 2016, it may have been the peak. Cloverfield did go on to earn $170 million but it was not nearly as well-received and its spinoff/sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane abandoned found footage tropes entirely. Meanwhile, can you name even one genre entry that used the same techniques in the 11 years that separated Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, which came out just before Cloverfield? What, you don’t remember Welcome to the Jungle and something called Alone With Her?
The genre (if it can really be called that since no one actually fanboys-out over it) has clearly gone into cultural hibernation ever since. A quick Google search for “found footage” should pull up a stream of stories that all make the same point: “No, really, these movies don’t suck!” But filmmakers have clearly run out of fresh ideas for these types of horror films. There was the “this was a documentary where everyone was killed” movies, then the “they turned a camera on and filmed everything for reasons that may or may not be plausible” series, now what’s left to help suspend our disbelief?
A quick Google search for “found footage” should pull up a stream of stories that all make the same point: “No, really, these movies don’t suck!”
The answer: a Blair Witch reboot called, of course, Blair Witch. It’s about a bunch of kids that ventured into Maryland’s Black Hills Forest in search of the characters from The Blair Witch Project, which is about kids that ventured into Maryland’s Black Hills… okay, you get the idea. It’s the same movie, just Inception-ed. But while Bloody Disgusting warned that “some will laud it, others will loathe it” and CraveOnline pointed out that it doesn’t “reinvent the Blair Witch,” this new sequel is actually horrifying – yes, in a good way. This may be thanks to the fact that the idea of found footage – victims of unsuspecting murder victims slowly succumbing to their destinies – remains a terrifying concept all these years later, no matter how many times it’s been done.