The Blair Witch: 1999 V. 2016

Seth J. Gibson

The cast of Blair Witch (2016)
The cast of Blair Witch (2016), tweeted by Wes Robinson (@itswero)

On September 16, the movie Blair Witch opened and performed exceptionally at the box office, pulling in $14.6 million. This movie stands as a direct sequel to The Blair Witch Project (1999), the horror movie most commonly referred to as the godfather of the found-footage genre. The Blair Witch Project had been a notably impressive movie because of its very successful online marketing campaign and its impressive tension-filled atmosphere, in spite of an extremely small movie budget. Audiences loved the movie, and hoped that the new sequel would do the original some nostalgic justice. Because the new movie was made with a substantially bigger budget than the first, there are significant differences between Blair Witch and The Blair Witch Project.

  The most prominent differences between the two movies come from the characters. Usually, when sequels come out, new characters are introduced that are summarized as rehashes of previous characters, like Princess Amidala to Princess Leia in the Star Wars prequels, or all the Bond Girls in the 007 movies. In Blair Witch, the campers feel original and have great chemistry, creating strong characters and relationships, unlike the first movie, where the characters are strong as individuals but lack in chemistry as a group.

  Another difference resides within the pacing. The new movie seems to send the campers right into the panic by the second night they stayed in the woods, with stickman figures completely surrounding the camp and the tents flying up into the trees. The first movie gradually paced the panic over the course of a week, each night ending with dozens of human-like figures surrounding the camp, or with something more disturbing, like a bundle of sticks holding human teeth in it.

  Lastly, the latest movie introduces new concepts of how the Blair Witch manipulates and terrorizes people, bringing in feats like making time pass differently for some campers, or turning the stickman figures into voodoo dolls.

  Similarities are also prominent throughout the first and second movie. Both start with a group of friends/student filmmakers camping  in the woods. The original movie starts with the characters camping to film a documentary on the Blair Witch. The new movie has the characters documenting their time camping while on their search for an abandoned house in the woods.

  As time goes by, both movies consist of the characters experiencing hardships that make their time in the woods more difficult. For example, the three film students in the first movie lose their map and get lost while trying to find their cars. The four friends in the new movie are outraged when their guides turn out to be phonies who led them astray.

  Finally, both movies establish the presence of something else in the woods in ominous and terrifying ways. Both movies present noises of something stomping around within the treeline, along with showing large amounts of stick-figures appearing while the campers sleep. These elements create immense tension among the audience, planting the idea that there is, in fact, something hidden terrorizing the campers.

  Overall, both movies are intended to create a horror atmosphere in a clever, tension-building way. The first movie succeeds in creating this atmosphere, and the sequel certainly does as well, aside from all the differences. Even though the new movie relies partially on some current horror movie tropes, such as cheap jump scares and gore-porn, the movie is an effective sequel to a cult-classic. Both are definitely effective horror movies.

  Blair Witch is still in theatres, so if you feel like getting spooked this weekend, round up some friends and give it a try. For more info, visit