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Film / Blair Witch

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I'll be watching you...
“I think it was the UPM (unit production manager), he was talking to one of the producers. He said, ‘This script is really cool but it seems like a real knock-off of The Blair Witch.’ It was like, ‘Oh, wait, you haven’t actually gotten the real script? We should get that to you.’”

Blair Witch is a 2016 horror film written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard (of You're Next and The Guest fame), and a direct sequel to The Blair Witch Project.

Two decades after the disappearance of student filmmaker Heather Donahue, new footage is found in the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland and posted online. A new group, led by Heather's brother James, head into the infamous woods with two local guides and the benefits of modern technology in the hopes that Heather might still be alive after all this time. Things ultimately take a turn for the worse.

But it didn't start out that way, at least not to the general public. People at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 came in to the first public showing of the mysterious and anticipated movie The Woods...and came out having watched the first new Blair Witch movie in sixteen years.

If the original The Blair Witch Project was best known for its Viral Marketing campaign, what Blair Witch might be best known for is the amount of secrecy it went through before its reveal. During its production as The Woods, only select members of the production staff and the main cast had the real script during the filming, everyone involved had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and even most people at the distributor, Lionsgate, had no clue of the true nature of the film. Promotion for the film was done as The Woods with a "switch" being done during the SDCC screening itself with the social media account names and IMDB details being changed. Even the giant sign in the lobby of the Comic-Con screening was changed from The Woods to Blair Witch branding while the film was still rolling. What resulted was one of the most unexpected horror movie revivals in years.

Blair Witch contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: While in the first movie the Blair Witch was a more subtle and mysterious being that was more or less a background threat, in this film the Blair Witch is truly a force to be reckoned with that more aggressively hunts down the cast.note 
  • Accidental Murder: Ashley angrily snaps the stick figure bound with Talia's hair in half... and, to her horror, Talia herself suffers the same fate. Later, after emerging from the tunnel, Lisa defends herself from an attacking figure by stabbing it with her knife - only to discover that she's just stabbed Lane in the neck.
  • Agony of the Feet: Ashley suffers a nasty cut to the sole of her foot while crossing the river. Things go south from there.
  • Alien Geometries: The inside of the Parr house is constantly shifting and changing.
  • Always Night: The group end up trapped inside a seemingly neverending night after the second day.
  • Aside Glance: Peter gives one upon spotting a confederate flag on Talia and Lane's wall.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The Blair Witch once again gets exactly what she wants.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Let's just say that by the end of the movie, you won't even remember what Lisa looked like before entering the forest.
  • Body Horror:
    • The injury to Ashley's foot rapidly escalates into this, beginning with apparent muscle spasms and ending with creepers being found under her flesh.
    • The brief glimpses of the creature stalking James and Lisa show it to be impossibly tall, pale, and grotesquely emaciated - suggesting that this is Elly Kedward post-torture. And it's apparently not the Blair Witch herself, but a victim of hers.
    • Talia ends up being snapped and folded in half after Ashley does the same to the stick figure bound with the former's hair.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Played straight.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Talia after she dies.
  • Brown Note: Legend says that the Blair Witch is so horrifying, looking at her will kill you immediately. In the climax, the characters reason that standing in the corner like how Mike did in the original film actually protects you from the evil entity. Too bad the witch has another way of getting people to look behind them...
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: In a certain way. James seems to become Too Dumb to Live when he ignores his own advice and turns around from the safe spot in the corner, apparently thinking that the witch is Heather while Lisa hears nothing. Then only minutes later, Lisa hears James crying out to her, and she, too, looks behind...
  • Call-Back:
    • In the first film, things really get bad for the trio when they disrupt the stone piles and enigmatic stick figures. (The tie-in materials go into further detail on why doing so is such a taboo and invokes the attention of sinister forces.) In the sequel's trailer, things really seem to go south the moment a stick figure is snapped in half.
    • At one point the camera holds on the top half of Lisa's face just like the iconic shot from the first movie with Heather.
    • The group stays in the same motel room that the characters from the original did. They also film themselves walking away from their car in much the same way that the trio did at the beginning of Project.
    • The climaxes of both films take place in the Parr house.
    • The first film ends when Heather descends into the basement, sees Mike standing in the corner, before screaming and dropping the camera after apparently being dragged away by an unseen force. This film ends with Lisa being dragged off and dropping the camera, after spending some time in a corner herself along with James.
  • The Cameo: It's hard to fully make out due to the poor lighting, but towards the end Heather manifests in front of James for a few seconds, her clothing reduced to tatters.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The movie completely ignores Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and only follows the events of the first movie (assuming the second film was even supposed to be in-continuity with the first).
  • Cat Scare: To the point of Lampshade Hanging.
    Lisa: (after James jumps out from Behind the Black at her seconds after Ashley had done the same) Will people please stop doing that?
  • Continuity Nod: After realizing their dire situation, James ends up apologizing much like his sister did in one of the original film's most iconic scenes.
  • Creator Thumbprint: The KPG Corporation is mentioned or alluded to in many of Wingard and Barrett's films such as The Guest, You're Next, and the V/H/S/2 segment Phase I Clinical Trials. In this one, the KPG logo is shown on the drone app on Ashley's phone screen.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Talia ends up snapped and folded in half.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Duh!!
  • Downer Ending: The group ends up trapped in the woods, Lane and Talia are killed and the rest of the kids end up being the Witch's latest victims. Doubly a downer ending, considering Heather's little brother James meets the same fate she did nearly 20 years earlier.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The eponymous witch appears to be this, given the powers over reality and apparently deadly appearance.
  • Eldritch Location: As in the first film, the laws of physics and reality do not apply to the woods nears Burkittsville. Besides ending up going in a circle despite travelling in the same direction using a GPS, day and night are inconsistent with the actual time, and Lane and Talia apparently endured five days of night being hunted by the witch even though the rest of the group only split with them earlier in the day. Later on in the house, James and Lisa actually witness day abruptly change to night. Also, as with the first film, Rustin Parr's old house reappears in the woods, in spite of it having burned down years prior... right next to the broken tree that Lane found the tape underneath.
  • Found Footage Films: Another example in the vein of the original. Wingard and Barrett's previous experience with the VHS series was part of the reason they got hired.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: As Peter is running through the woods shortly before the tree falls on him, the same creature that stalks James and Lisa can be seen through the trees for a split second.
    • As Ashley reaches for the drone stuck in the tree, a hand can be very briefly seen grabbing at her wrist, which is what ultimately causes her to fall.
    • Towards the end, a shadowy figure manifests in front of James for a few seconds before disappearing. Pausing and looking closely reveals the figure to be Heather.
    • Near the end, before Lisa encounters Lane in the basement, Heather's camera can be seen lying on the floor where it fell at the end of the first film.
    • Again near the end, the camera briefly focuses on the floor of the Parr house where one can see the map from the first film. This one was so hard to spot that the creators offered a 400 dollar reward for anyone who could find it.
    • Throughout the film, images from the first film can be seen flashing on-screen for a single frame, usually when a camera is turned on or off.
  • Going in Circles: As with the first film, the group spend hours trekking back the way they came, only to find themselves right back at their campsite.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In a fit of rage and frustration, Ashley snaps the stick figure with Talia's hair in half, and this instantly breaks Talia's spine, killing her.
  • Hell Is That Noise: We have sticks breaking, bushes rustling, and strange screaming noises, especially when the presence attacks the camp after Talia's accidental death. Then there's also the hideous snapping noises emanating from Ashley's foot wound, Peter's moans of help on the walkie-talkie, and Heather's screaming coming from the house... though it's heavily implied this is actually the witch faking their voices to lure in further victims.
  • Hope Spot: Lisa, reasoning that the witch only kills if you look directly at her, wises up, using her camera to find her way while still having her back turned to the witch. Despite the discovery of this apparent weakness and Lisa's resolve to escape though, the witch still has ways of tricking her victims into looking behind them.
    • The plot is kicked off by a Hope Spot when James watches the newly-discovered footage and believes that Heather may still somehow be alive after all this time. As it turns out - and thanks to a Stable Time Loop - the footage was actually filmed by Lisa... and Heather is still missing and almost certainly dead.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The creature chasing James and Lisa looks like such a creature. According to an interview with Simon Barrett, the creature is not the Blair Witch, but one of her victims.
  • The Load: Ashley, since she mostly either bedridden, does really nothing to be resourceful for the other characters (not counting helping to set up camp) or starting to freak out over the group's dilemma up to accidentally killing Talia upon blaming her and splitting up with the group that leads to her demise.
  • Loophole Abuse: Nobody has ever looked directly at the witch and lived to tell the tale. Video cameras don't count, though. Lisa exploits this at the end, though the witch turns out to be aware of this.
  • The Millstone: Ashley, as she only cause more problems for others and herself. See The Load above for more information.
  • Magic Versus Technology: Type A, Everything the group brought to help them; Webcams, a drone, walkie-talkies, all prove useless against the witch.
  • Mind Screw: Many things are still never explained and arguably all the more freakier for it, like how time passes differently in the woods or how it is subtly revealed to the audience that the entire plot is kicked off by a Stable Time Loop.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: Advertising featured a cover of The Police's already-creepy Obsession Song "Every Breath You Take."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ashley whimpers in horror and regret that she did not mean it after snapping a stick figure in half that results in Talia's death.
  • Mythology Gag: Back when the film was known as The Woods, the trailer had a creepy cover of The Police's "Every Breath You Take", ending just before the last line. At the end of the first Blair Witch trailer, that one missing line is heard at the end.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Averted, then Subverted. The Blair Witch is seen, albeit only in quick glimpses, multiple times, and the folklore implies looking at her will kill you of fright, though the events of the film somewhat disprove this. It is then subverted as Simon Barrett claims the times the witch is seen, it is not actually the witch but rather a horribly mutilated victim of hers that she has under her control.
  • Only Sane Man: Both Lane and Talia are the only ones who are fully aware of the danger of the woods, hence their attempts to try scaring the students away during the first night. They also managed to survive five days of being hunted by the witch, but sadly in the end they are killed not by the witch, but by Ashley and Lisa.
  • Older and Wiser: Absolutely averted. Lane suddenly appears as an old man near the end, even though he was still his regular self only minutes ago; the years(?) spent trapped in the woods, or possibly even just the house, have not done wonders for his sanity.
  • Practically Different Generations: Heather and James. With Heather being 22 years old when she did the Blair Witch Project and James being 24 in the sequel, he would have been 4-5 years old when she died.
  • Post-Modern Magik: This time, the group investigating the Black Hills Woods bring modern technology with them. Among the supplies are webcams, drones, walkie talkies and a GPS. Every single one of these items prove useless against the Blair Witch.
  • Reforged into a Minion: Whatever Lane goes through in the distorted time he spends with the Witch is an example of this. He proclaims that he has to do what the Witch tells him and in this instance, that appears to be tormenting Lisa.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Despite being Heather’s brother, James wasn’t mentioned in any of the past media of the Blair Witch series. Possibly justified as there are multiple continuities established in different media of the Blair Witch series.
  • Revival: Blair Witch isn't a reboot; it's a direct sequel to the first movie unlike the alternate continuity of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.
  • Sanity Slippage: Happens to Lane and Talia after having endured the woods for five days even though it only seems to have been one to the main characters.
    • Also happens to Ashley. Between the Body Horror she goes through and her Accidental Murder of Talia which is followed from her being separated from her friends, is it any wonder that she suffers a complete nervous breakdown?
  • Scenery Porn: The drone shot on the first evening shows a gorgeous overhead shot of the woods while the sun sets.
  • Ship Tease: There's. . . something going on between Lisa and James as the movie progresses. Whether one has feelings for the other and won't say it, whether they both have feelings but Cannot Spit It Out, or are just growing closer because of the insane shit going down, who knows?
  • Shout-Out: Near the beginning, James and Peter are seen playing Borderlands 2.
  • Show Within a Show: The Absence of Closure, the documentary made by Lisa exploring the concept of "Ambiguous Loss" with James (Heather's brother) as a participant, and an impetus for them going into the woods. There's even a Kickstarter page for it (Possible spoilers ahead.)
  • Stable Time Loop: As part of the time-bending nature of the woods. The movie is kicked off when Lane and Talia find a video tape showing a blurry figure who James assumes to be Heather running through the witch's house. During the movie's climax, the exact same footage plays out in real time, revealing that the figure was actually Lisa the whole time, meaning the video tape was all a ploy from the witch to lure in more victims, specifically James.
  • Stealth Sequel: Averted. While it was marketed as a completely unrelated movie up until the reveal, its true form doesn't make any attempt to hide that it's a sequel to The Blair Witch Project.
  • Sudden Name Change: Previous material like the Blair Witch Dossier referred to Heather's brother as Randy. Here he's renamed James.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Talia and Lane. They faked some new footage and claimed it came from the original project to get a group of people to go into the woods with them, claimed that they go camping there all the time when in fact they'd never been there, and deliberately frightened the group into packing up and leaving. Granted, this last one was done with good intentions (see Only Sane Man above), but it very well may have angered the witch. In any case, they managed to piss everybody off enough to expel them from the group and arguably are indirectly responsible for the entire movie's events... But then of course the witch was controlling many events via stable time-loop, so how much of this was Talia and Lane's fault may never be known.
    • Ashley, when she attempts to climb a tall tree to retrieve the stuck drone with an injured foot and being ill, only to fall to her death and being taken away by the Blair Witch afterwards.
  • The Unreveal: At first seems to be subverted, as a creature that seems to be the Blair Witch is shown in quick glimpses multiple times. According to Word of God, however, it's one of the Witch's victims, not the Witch herself.
  • Voice Changeling: It is revealed in the climax that the witch can imitate the voices of its previous victims, thereby throwing the cries of help by Peter, Josh and Heather into question. This ultimately proves to be the demise of the protagonists.
  • Voodoo Doll: Guess what happens if you mess around with those creepy stick figures? Talia is killed when Ashley angrily snaps a figure that has Talia's hair woven into it in half.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: A twisted example of this trope. While the students have only parted ways with Lane and Talia for a day, the two were apparently lost in the woods for five days, and are clearly on the verge of insanity when they re-encounter the students. And when Lane next appears, he's now a crazy old man who's apparently been forced into servitude by the witch.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: A new twist is added to the legend of the witch, in which it's claimed looking at her will make you die of fright. Ultimately not averted; the witch is thought to be seen multiple times by characters (and the audience) without dying immediately but the creature seen is not the witch but in fact a former victim of hers. The characters reason that looking at the witch doesn't kill you out of fright, but rather the witch only kills you if you look directly at her.