[Early Review] Blair Witch (2016)

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Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Screenplay: Simon Barrett
89 mins. Rated R for language, terror and some disturbing images.
Blair Witch is a collection of footage found back in 2014 filmed by Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez, Machete Kills) and her friends James (James Allen McCune, Anna Nicole, Snitch), Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott, Wreck-It Ralph, Walk of Shame). James believes that his sister Heather, who went missing more than a decade prior, is still alive and lost in the Black Hills Woods in Maryland. As Lisa chronicles the experience for a student film, the four find themselves lost in the woods as they are pursued by a unnerving presence known as the Blair Witch.
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So I got lucky enough to see this film recently and I have to say, a lot of my colleagues from San Diego Comic Con that got to see a cut of this film right after it was announced to be a sequel to The Blair Witch Project really loved the film, and I enjoyed it, way more than the original, but I found the film to still be lacking.
I was happy that the screenplay really entrentched itself in the mythology of the Blair Witch. It answered a lot of questions without straight feeding answers. It also created a lot of confusion over exactly what the Witch is and what its capable of.
The performances are okay. I wasn’t sold on the main actors portrayals. It felt like the actors were reading off cue cards. The cinematography, a character all its own, far too often finds itself all over the place. While that may provide more realism, it doesn’t really make for an interesting movie.
Thank God that Blair Witch has much more frequent action than the original film, and I was blown away by some of the scares in the film (it still has too many jump scares that don’t work). The constantly creepy tone and editing build pretty nicely toward a shocking conclusion (that also left me frustrated upon exiting the theater).
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Overall, I enjoyed watching Blair Witch, but I want to tell you that it isn’t the “game-changer” that some reviewers have led you to believe it is. It was fun, enjoyable, shocking, and exciting, but while it adds a lot to the franchise, it doesn’t take the series anywhere new.
3/5
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, click here.
For my review of the anthology film The ABCs of Death, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 24 – You’re Next (2011)

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Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg

Screenplay: Simon Barrett

95 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Man, I did not want to see this movie. The trailer just completely turned me off. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, “Yay! Someone made The Strangers again. Blegh!” I didn’t like The Strangers.

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When I finally did get around to watching You’re Next, I was blown away. This movie essentially kicked ass. It comes down to your basic home invasion movie, except that I was actually engaged fairly quickly by it. I found the plot to have twists and turns that, while often unrealistic, still kept me in.

It is all about the Davison family. Patriarch and matriarch Paul and Aubrey are celebrating a major anniversary and the family has gathered at the homestead for a get-together. Little do they know that they are about to become prey to masked assailants guerilla-style invading the home and trying to do away with them one at a time. However, the assailants and the Davisons do not anticipate son Crispian (A.J. Bowen, The Signal, The Sacrament) to have a new girlfriend with a particular skill set in this film from director Adam Wingard (V/H/S, The ABCs of Death).

I liked this movie. I feel like I am surprising even me by saying. I had a good time watching it. In hindsight, that shouldn’t bother me, as I loved Wingard’s work in V/H/S and even his short Q is for Quack in The ABCs of Death.

Sharni Vinson handles her roles nicely as Erin, the girlfriend with the past. Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, V/H/S)  also gives good work as Drake, Crispian’s brother who harbors ill will for past events.

The action here was pretty excellent and I actually felt unsure of how this whole situation would play out. The only major flaw was that we had characters at the beginning that we knew would die based on how little we knew about them. The madness begins fairly early on during the family dinner, and I felt as though that was a real loss as we were just beginning to unravel this family as individual characters as opposed to pieces of meat to be picked off.

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That being said, Wingard handles the script, from writer Simon Barrett (The Guest, A Horrible Way to Die) very well, and the pacing never once falters throughout the entirety of the film. As I finished the film, I wanted more (in a good way)! I feel like the film has been set up for a sequel, which doesn’t make sense considering the events that take place, not to mention the difficulty in treading any new ground, but for now, I’ll be content with this movie. It was a hell of a lot of fun and a solid thriller to boot.

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 21 – The ABCs of Death (2012)

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Director: Kaare Andrews, Angela Bettis, Helene Cattet, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Jason Eisener, Bruno Forzani, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Jorge Michel Grau, Lee Hardcastle, Noboru Iguchi, Thomas Cappelen Malling, Anders Morgenthaler, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, Marcel Sarmiento, Jon Schnepp, Srdjan Spasojevic, Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, Ben Wheatley, Adam Wingard, Yudai Yamaguchi

Cast: Pablo Guisa Koestinger, Steve Berens, Erik Aude, Lisa Lynch, Joshua Diolosa, Dallas Malloy

Screenplay: Ant Timpson, Nacho Vigalondo, Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, Marcel Sarmiento, Simon Rumley, Jon Schnepp, Dimitrije Vojnov, Yudai Yamaguchi, Noboru Iguchi, Simon Barrett, Ti West, Kaare Andrews, Bruno Forzani, Helene Cattet, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Srdjan Spasojevic, Lee Hardcastle

129 mins. Not Rated.

 

Well, now that’s out of the way, and I can begin to talk to you about The ABCs of Death. Wow, what a movie. A hell of a daunting task. Basically, 26 directors were each assigned a letter of the alphabet and told to create a short film about death that connects to a word starting with that letter. The films are then played A to Z with the film first followed by the word and letter. The directors chosen were given full creative control which was used. Oh yeah, it was used. The types of films range from the gory to the cheesy to the downright disturbing and confusing. They aren’t all winners. In fact, most of them fall flat, but the experiment is a notable one. I was absolutely disappointed with the finished product merely because many of the directors didn’t really put forth the effort and understand that they are part of a collective.

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I feel like I am going to have to forgo the traditional review in lieu of timing purposes and just outline the major winners and losers here.

C is for Cycle is a winner purely because of its time-constrained uniquely bizarre tale. D is for Dogfight is absolutely incredible and likely the best short here, even if it feels out of place. L is for Libido is neither good nor bad but certainly memorable and shockingly disturbing. It kind of made me feel sick. O is for Orgasm is interesting in both its visual style and its placement in the film, and it is haunting and a little visceral. Q is for Quack is a very memorable short that really could only belong in this film as it depicts the filmmakers themselves trying to decide on a word and a short linked to the impossible Q. T is for Toilet is directed by Lee Hardcastle and was actually a winner of a contest to decide the letter T. It is an animated short about a child’s fear of the toilet and is pretty comical and creepy. U is for Unearthed is a vampire tale from the point of view of the creature. Y is for Youngbuck bothered me as well. It juxtaposed calm moments with gruesome acts and I couldn’t handle it.

Now, as far as bad goes, I would say the rest of them, but really awful to mind (F is for Fart, G is for Gravity, H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion, K is for Klutz, P is for Pressure, Z is for Zetsumetsu) shorts appear that just disappoint and disturb without actually providing any real thrills. The cream of the crap, though, is the short M is for Miscarriage from Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Sacrament). This is a piece of shit and truly disappointing that someone who is somewhat renowned in the horror community made something as awful and unstoppably offensive as this. It was lazy as well. Not even trying to provide entertainment.

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Okay, so what I am getting at here is that The ABCs of Death is definitely an interesting idea for a film, but I think inside I knew it would fail. There are just too many chances to fail here, and the bad outweigh the good. If you want my opinion, I think the film is worth viewing…once, and I mean only if you have the stomach to sit through some of the disgusting moments of the film. Warning has been given.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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