BLAIR WITCH movie review

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At the very least, The Blair Witch Project was a movie released at the right time and place. At most, it was a cultural phenomena.

I can still remember all the word of mouth going around after the 1999 sleeper hit landed — this all coming from school kids, mind you.

Was the footage real? Is this still going on? Are the woods safe?!?!

Blair Witch Project was so exciting because it did something different. With the exceptions of a few films like Cannibal Holocaust, found footage films weren’t around much and added an element of mystery to what would otherwise just be low-budget filmmaking.

That was 1999. Today, studios have mined the idea for all it’s worth, putting out handful of mostly terrible found footage endurance tests on the cheap to pad their income.

Thus, I really wish I could report that Blair Witch — Adam Wingard’s “true” follow-up to the original cult classic — is the movie that brings the genre to the next level.

I really wish I could say that it’s genuinely scary. That it doesn’t fall into the tedium of basically all the other films of its ilk. That it doesn’t feel like a waste.

Again, that’s how I wish it was.

Wingard, director of the probably-not-as-good-as-you-were-thinking You’re Next and the genuinely fun The Guest, seems like a solid choice to try something fun and new for the Blair Witch story.

To a point, the “updatequel” makes a few intriguing choices in how to bring this story into modern times.

One of our main characters here is directly tied to the original story and joins up with a team of friends as part of a film to go discover what happened 17 years ago.

The team utilizes some handy technology in their outing, with earpiece bluetooth cameras explaining why they don’t just drop the camera when things get hairy and an aerial drone giving us the occasional wide shot showing the sinister ocean of trees.

For a while, Blair Witch gives us the impression that could be one of the first effective films shot in the first-person — maybe even film’s answer to PT. The characters are decently established minus some forced comic relief, we have a good reason to revisit the story, and there’s a respectable amount of recap of the chilling folklore surrounding the Blair Witch (as well as some added wrinkles near the end).

That works for about half an hour. Then it all goes to hell.

Contrasting all the new technology incorporated, Blair Witch‘s scares are old and stale. It’s beyond disappointing to see the movie slide so quickly into cheap jump scares and false suspense.

In the realm of “show, don’t tell,” this film doesn’t really do either. Besides the basic mythology, there’s no real explanation as to what’s going on or why when the terror begins. That’s ok because horror so often comes from the unknown.

But at the same time, the film does itself no favors with its typical blurred found footage camerawork. The picture may be much more crisp than your average handheld, but there’s almost no point where the visuals aren’t choppy and muddled so as to absorb what’s happening.

The rare points where we get enough visual information to draw some conclusions aren’t enough to fix the tedious set up we’ve already gone through. The same repetitive shot of the forest just gets old fast.

Maybe if we had stellar characters throughout, this might not have been such a death blow to Blair Witch.

But then this also becomes the kind of movie where a character inures their foot, spends 20 minutes vocalizing the growing pain of the wound, then decides to climb a tree to recover the crashed drone. Yeah, not inspiring.

Shoutsma Says:

Blair Witch had all the potential to be a shock to the system for found footage horror films. The most surprising thing it did was revealing its true title weeks before release. A good setup quickly wanders off the path into the type of terrain that’s all too common — namely, a film that’s tedious, intentionally obscured and tragically bland. The stuff of legend, this is not.

4/10

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JURASSIC WORLD MOVIE REVIEW

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There are several movie franchises where the sequels are as beloved as the original film; the Jurassic Park films aren’t one of those. The second and third films in the series largely failed to capture the wonder, excitement and brilliance of 1993’s Jurassic Park, a classic that easily holds up to this day.

Over 20 years later, the stage has been set to recapture the magic of the original, much less do it right. To pull this off, Jurassic World goes for an old, reliable method:

“If you can’t beat ’em, copy ’em.”

Jurassic World certainly has some different wrinkles appear in its plot but one could argue that it is, on the whole, practically the same movie as Jurassic Park. And while it’s nothing short of familiar, the movie is still successful in being downright entertaining.

Decades after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar is up and running as the fully-functional Jurassic World. In an attempt to boost attendance, the park’s geneticists, headed by operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), create a hybrid dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, made up of several dinosaurs and comparable amphibians.  Paired with animal behaviorist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the two are to observe the man-made monster before debuting it to the public. But, as expected things go very wrong as the Indominus escapes and lays a path of murder and mayhem on its way toward the park, where Claire’s nephews Zach and Gray are visiting.

Dinosaurs running loose on an island and eating people is essentially what a Jurassic Park movie means, and World certainly delivers on that. Director Colin Trevorrow has clearly taken steps to recreate many of the aspects that are attributed to the first movie: gradual set up before chaos breaks out, a knowledgable male lead who foresees the danger on its way, a pair of kids to put in peril, a schemey schemer in the midst of the staff, a cautionary tale about the dangers of science that seems archaic in this day and age. It’s all there.

While it’s certainly easy to point out the parts that have been used before, it rarely ever feels harmful to the movie. Stories like Jurassic World are like grilled cheese (thanks Ben): nothing terribly complicated or nutritious, you’ve had many before and will have many to come, but it’s all still pretty good.

For me, this is the actual first film where Chris Pratt shows he can be a serviceable leading man (or at least that he can not be entirely annoying in a lead role) while Howard shines brighter here than in her previous large-scale roles. Together, they make a pretty convincing old-school Hollywood odd couple. Everyone else in the cast does relatively well for what the script allows them (comparatively little to Pratt and Howard).

What’s unfortunately not always as convincing is the quality of visual effects the movie has to offer. World steps up the scale of the story in comparison to the original, which calls for some elements that practical effects can’t create. As its own movie, the CG in World might have looked decent (given there’s an absolute abundance of it). But held up to the timeless skill and artistry of the first movie’s practical effects, the effects on screen come off like a circle-jerk of studio cost-cutting.

In the realm of special effects, Park is how you do it right, World is how you do it cheap.

On a better note, while John Williams doesn’t return for scoring duties, Michael Giacchino — William’s ultimate sonic doppelganger and successor — crafts an exciting and fitting followup score.

Jurassic World isn’t bound to break any cinematic barriers (box office being the enormous exception) but it fulfills its purpose as a fun, fluffy summer blockbuster. In this case, that’s enough.

 

7/10