Kudos to all involved in the surprise Comic-Con revelation last week that a BLAIR WITCH sequel was on its way and hidden in plain sight! For the follow-up to a film that was itself partly the product of a new era in innovative online marketing, it was all the more appropriate that the unexpected third installment in the series arrived like a sneaky spirit of the woods, developed and produced largely in shadows, teased under a different title (THE WOODS), and then revealed at a convention screening that set the horror community and Internet ablaze with shock and excitement. While the audience sat in a room watching the surprise unfold before them, workers in the lobby were switching posters, and the truth was known; the Blair Witch was back. More after the original teaser for THE WOODS and two very similar posters…
The Original THE WOODS Teaser
Back in ’99, I attended a press preview of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore (my hometown and still home base) and was struck by two things at the film’s end. One: it was a tight, claustrophobic thriller perfectly suited for a lights-out home-based Halloween night viewing with a cast that was trying a bit too hard to say the f-word every minute but otherwise good at conveying fear. It was not the second coming of horror the hype suggested, but it was good. Two: The other critics in the theater with me had no respect for the mood of the experience, “aww”ing and laughing the second the final shot cut to the credits. Come on, guys, let’s at least dwell in the moment!
On that first point, it’s worth noting that while I still don’t think the original BLAIR WITCH is as towering an achievement as some thought or think, it did indeed set a standard still being copied and riffed upon to this day as “found footage” films have become a go-to genre for horror. It was not the first such film, although some articles insist on repeating that lie (check out CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST for example), but it most certainly established the approach in the mainstream and created a pattern that would be duplicated countless times over the next 17 years.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT Trailer
One of my fondest journalistic memories from that time was taking a couple friends to Seneca Creek State Park in Maryland, home to most of the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT production, and shooting a photo-essay that ran on the EON MAGAZINE website (my editor was none other than SHARKNADO director Anthony C. Ferrante!). The movie was a phenomenon, and being a Marylander meant that we were all in some way a part of that; the folks that lived in Burkittsville sure wished they weren’t.
The first sequel all but killed the franchise dead with its attempt to be a bit too different from its predecessor, and yes we might as well take a look. Feel free to skip down if you just can’t see this again:
BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 Trailer
But those days are behind us. The arrival of the BLAIR WITCH “soft reboot” – a growing pop culture phenomenon in a post-FORCE AWAKENS and JURASSIC WORLD…well, world – and its accompanying stealth marketing offers us a glimpse of future surprises to come. I for one can’t wait to go into those dark and lonely woods once again…but I think I better pack some supplies in the back of the car just in case.
The Trailer for BLAIR WITCH