Blair Witch Blu-ray Review
Revisited, remade, reworked and largely redundant.
Blair Witch returns to retread old ground, 18 years after the initially unique style of horror debuted, in an age when formulaic found footage horror abounds.Ostensibly more a sequel than a remake, Blair Witch follows the brother of one of the girls who went 'missing' during the original Project, but essentially devolves into the same 'if you go out in the woods today...' shock scares as its predecessors. The characters are pretty forgettable and interchangeable - and the actors are far from destined for stardom (pre-existing TV 'stardom' notwithstanding) - and it's actually quite hard to see whether the filmmaker's attempt to rekindle the love from fans of the old film, whilst enticing a whole new generation of viewers, missed the whole point of the first film - the novelty of the design; something which is simply no longer the case the best part of two decades on. That said, atmospheric sound design and a few nice bits of mounting tension and imminent scares still leave this entertaining fare for horror/found footage aficionados.Blair Witch attempts to provide something new and actually sometimes feels more informed by first person videogame horrors like Silent Hill than its predecessors, but it ultimately falls into many of the same pitfalls nevertheless. And despite upping the 'witch factor' to 11, the visible horrors come at the expense of any more psychological terror, leaving the end result boasting mostly more traditional scares with no lasting impact. There are still several effective moments - not least the first-person haunted house horror videogame style of the finale and, in particular, the tunnels - but ultimately Blair Witch struggles not to be familiar and formulaic. And when you consider that the writer/director team behind it previously gave us the superior alternative horrors You're Next and The Guest, it should have been far better than this.
Picture QualityThe found footage style of Blair Witch was never destined to make for a demo presentation, leaving Lionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release, complete with 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video, hard to distinguish in terms of technical vs. material defects.
Blair Witch was never destined to make for a demo presentation
Detail fluctuates wildly between the myriad filming styles on offer, boasting an almost constant, thick swathe of grain which pervades many shots, sometimes - it feels - in an attempt to disguise the underlying softness or, alternatively, give the post-production impression that the film is more rough than it actually was. Numerous other technical problems abound, but again they appear to be part of the design, as there are actually a few very clean, very detailed shots in the mix, with some of the more shoddy shots and sequences easily betraying the zoom function when used in the extreme. Despite the variable nature of footage - which suffers far more during the latter, predominant night sequences - technically the presentation appears to be fairly competent at presenting what is intentionally ugly material.
Sound QualityConsidering that the sound design is actually one of the more impressive - and arguably more important - aspects of the film, it's great that Blair Witch boasts a fully-immersive Dolby Atmos mix, although the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 alternative makes for a superb foundation (and even the Dolby 2.0 mix for 'late night viewing' is useful if you've got kids asleep upstairs).
At least for the first act noises are predominantly atmospheric, picking up crunching footsteps, creaking trees, rustling leaves and so forth - but when day turns to night, the noises are significantly 'enhanced'. Falling trees, desperate shouts, screams and even just ragged breathing dominates the soundstage, and outright supernatural moans growl out in the background with engulfing, claustrophobic presence across the array. Dialogue remains clear enough, but the more expansive atmospherics are the real standout both in terms of the film and the audio track.
The sound design is one of the most important aspects of the film so it's great to get Dolby Atmos
The disc offers an ostensibly limited but actually surprisingly comprehensive selection of extras
Blair Witch may not be brimming with extras, but what we do get is fairly comprehensive, with a headlining Audio Commentary by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett who are fairly honest - and even quite entertainingly witty - about their project, backed up by a feature-length (it runs longer than the main film itself) Making of Blair Witch entitled Neverending Night, which is a multi-part offering that details the film's production, casting, and shooting, with plenty of behind the scenes and on-set footage, as well as cast and crew interview snippets. A further 15 minutes with House of Horrors: Exploring the Set looks behind the haunted house set, rounding out an ostensibly limited but actually surprisingly comprehensive selection of quality extras.
Considering that this writer/director team were behind You're Next and The Guest, Blair Witch should have been better
Despite the inherent restrictions of the found footage / docu-horror filmmaking style, the Blu-ray release appears to be technically proficient, and certainly stands out on the audio front, with the excellent sound design getting a Dolby Atmos track. There's also a nice selection of decent extras, all of which makes this a great release for fans of the film (and perhaps of the franchise).
You can buy Blair Witch on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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