October Review: The Blair Witch (2016)

October falls again! Expect polychromatic corn, terrifying masks, and (this year) a spike in the sale of cornhusk-colored wigs and pumpkin-colored foundation. And expect the Bureau to run reviews of horror movies old and new, counting down to the haunted thirty-first.

We’re beginning with a release from this autumn, a sequel to the film that initiated the found-footage horror genre, and demonstrated the power of the internet to convince people horrific fantasy was real.1 And that sequel begins with evidence that Heather Donahue did not die those twenty years ago…

Our full schedule for October appears below.

Title: The Blair Witch

Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett

James Allen McCune as James Donahue
Callie Hernandez as Lisa Arlington
Corbin Reid as Ashley
Brandon Scott as Peter
Wes Robinson as Lane
Valorie Curry as Talia


After seeing online footage that suggests Heather Donahue remains alive, somewhere in the Black Hills of Maryland, her much younger brother and his friends head out to find her. Along the way, they team up with the couple who posted the footage.

As you might imagine, the plan does not end well.

High Point:

The film features better acting than The Blair Witch Project, and it ups the ante on found footage. It’s 2016; these lost filmmakers have multiple cameras, including a GoPro drone. Hand-held cameras aren’t nearly as shaky these days, and you’re less likely to experience nausea from the movement.

Low Points

Forget suggested horror: this film gives us a Blair Witch capable of manipulating time and space. The characters quickly find themselves wandering an endless night and finally arriving at a house no one has seen in years of searching. When there are no rules and the adversary can do pretty much anything, and you already know everyone or nearly everyone will die, it is hard to feel any real suspense regarding the outcome.

The red herring plot of manipulation by their newfound associates, meanwhile, gets dropped a little too quickly, rather than exploited for its potential.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 Despite the changes to film technology and style, the sequel maintains the beats of the original, amplified by Hollywood and lightly mixed with Marble Hornets.

Effects: 4/6

Acting: 5/6

Production: 5/6

Story: 4/6 The story is fine, but rather over-the-top for the genre, which relies heavily on suggestion. Curiously, while they retell Elly Kedward’s story, they give no explanation for Rustin Parr, whose backstory forms a key part of the plot.

Emotional Response: 4/6 A house-related sequence near the end briefly creates the horror and intensity the film clearly intended to create more often.

Overall: 3/6 The sequel could not hope to match the purity of the original, but it might have tried a little harder. We have modern special effects, jump scares, and a quasi-visible witch: everything the first film was lauded for avoiding.

In total, The Blair Witch receives 26/42


1. A handful of fake found footage films predate the original Blair Witch Project, which certainly mainstreamed the genre. Cannibal Holocaust (1980) may be the first, and it also generated publicity by suggesting it consisted of real found footage. Even earlier, Snuff (1975) traded on rumours of “Snuff Films” by including a section that purported to be actual footage of a killing. By all accounts (I have not seen the movie), the scene is not only faked, but badly faked.

October Countdown

October 1: Blair Witch (2016)

October 8: Ghost Slayer Ayashi (2006)

October 15: Shin Godzilla (2016)

October 22: Dracula vs Frankenstein “marathon” (1971, 1971, and 1969!)

October 29: Requiem for Darkness (2003)

October 31: Trick ‘r Treat (2009)