The original Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 and was a huge success that had people everywhere talking. Book of Shadows was a sequel to the documentary-style horror film. It was rushed, released in 2000, and failed. Now 17 years after the original, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are releasing Blair Witch. With a tagline that reads “There’s something evil hiding in the woods,” they hope it will draw both fans of the original and a new generation who has heard about it. But why do they think this one will succeed when Book of Shadows didn’t? Here’s the official description of Blair Witch, as provided on the movie’s website.
“A group of college students venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of James’ sister who many believe is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when a pair of locals offer to act as guides through the dark and winding woods, but as the endless night wears on, the group is visited by a menacing presence. Slowly, they begin to realize the legend is all too real and more sinister than they could have imagined.”
Given the failure of the first attempt at a sequel to The Blair Witch Project, many view Blair Witch as quite a gamble. Wingard and Barrett, however, believe it will succeed because the whole approach to it was different from the failed sequel of 2000. They believe that Book of Shadows came across as condescending toward the original and an attempt to cash in on its success. Adam Wingard explained as much to The Verge.
“They just tried to bleed that thing immediately. Bad video games, bad adaptations, book adaptations. All this stuff that they just immediately did without trying to actually set up the franchise. Being a fan of the original film, it was very transparent that there was all this cash-in stuff, and that sucked the life out of it right away… ultimately the tone of that film is, ‘We’re better than this silly shot-on-video movie,’ and it has this nose-in-the-air quality to it, weirdly, like the first film’s ridiculous or something because it’s a found footage movie.”
They believe this was the opposite approach that should have been taken. Fans of The Blair Witch Project loved it because it was a found footage movie. With their sequel, they embrace this instead of trying to distance themselves from it.
“… we told a complete film that reminds people what the Blair Witch legend is, and reminds them what they loved about the original film.”
In fact, Wingard and Barrett, as well as Lionsgate, felt it was so important that they play to what so many loved about the original movie that they created a storyline for the sequel that is directly connected to the 1999 film. In Blair Witch, the brother of Heather, one of the girls who disappeared in the first film, goes in search of his sister. One notable difference from the original is that there are some modern methods of photography included in Blair Witch. Characters use drone cameras to film themselves, and some creativity was used in developing ways they could film themselves. The film pushes that element a little beyond what we saw in the 1999 film, while still trying to stay true to its spirit and feeling.
Unlike Book of Shadows, a great deal of time was spent in creating Blair Witch and the world that may emerge from it. It took three-and-a-half years total to go from script to screen, instead of the first attempt at a sequel, which was released only 15 months after The Blair Witch Project.
[Featured Image by Lionsgate]