How I Would Reboot SCREAM

When the news dropped that MTV was planning to wipe the slate clean and reboot their TV series version of Scream, my mind started racing. Scream is my favorite horror film of all time, so I got to work immediately.

Here is how I would reboot Scream!

SPOILERS for ALL 4 movies! KIND OF!

I've written a short six-page opening for my reboot as well as a one-page overview explaining my thought process and how the series would progress. I'll explain a bit more below, but first things first, check out my work:

Scream - Opening Scene

Scream - Series overview

I was just ten years old when Scream came out, and it very quickly became my obsession. I had seen plenty of horror movies before, but Scream was something different: it was an education. While the plentiful horror references likely played as fun nods and jokes for older viewers, to me it was a lesson plan. A data dump. At one point I made a list of every movie referenced, and made it my goal to watch all of them.

I know the franchise is polarizing, with some saying it's too goofy, or that the sequels aren't as good, but for me the series was first and foremost a story about a person overcoming adversity. Sidney Prescott was my Ellen Ripley. She was my Sarah Connor. As the series emphasized comedy more and more, I watched to see how Sidney was holding up just as much as I watched for the fun.

I say all of this to establish my love for the franchise, and the reasons why I think it's finally time to let Sidney rest.

download (8).jpg

Obviously the biggest issue with bringing back the original continuity is answering the question "why aren't Sidney, Dewey, and Gail here?" I think the answer is quite natural.

My reboot takes place back in the original continuity, as I feel that the four original films provide a strong sense of history that makes serialized storytelling a joy. After the events of Scream 4, Sidney went back to her quiet life. She's a writer, she's happy. 

Though we never see them, Gail and Dewey have moved back to LA. Since Scream 4, Gail Weathers has experienced a resurgence in popularity. She's written another book about "The Woodsboro Massacre Reboot," and is now an executive producer at the true-crime network The Murder Channel. Seeing the success of Making a Murderer and OJ: Made in America, Gail has given a greenlight to "From a Whisper to a Scream: The True Story Behind STAB," a documentary filming in Woodsboro.

Woodsboro itself has changed. With the success of the Stab series and the true-crime craze, the town is perpetually bombarded by tourists. The feelings in town are mixed. Most hate the reputation the town has, but plenty love the attention. 

download (9).jpg

I've been writing seriously for about half my life, and I'd be lying if I said I never thought about writing for Scream before. From 2000 to 2011 I thought the series was finished. The concept of a reboot wasn't popular at the time, so it never occurred to me that the franchise had a future. After Scream 4's unfortunate reception, it seemed again like it was over. I feel like now is the time.

The true-crime subgenre of horror is a potential game-changer for the Scream franchise.

I know it's nearly impossible, but I feel like I've found the perfect way to bring Scream back. I have something to say, and I hope that you enjoy what I've written. If so, I need your help: please share my script anywhere you can. Tweet at MTV, write a blog post, share it on Facebook: if there's even a shadow of a chance that MTV will look my way and consider me for their reboot of Scream, I have to do everything I can to make it happen.

What do you think of my ideas for Scream? Do I sound nuts? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or talk to me on Twitter: @TheMythTraveler. Hey, even email me: Will@TalkBomb.com!

UPDATE:

For more of my Scream idea, make sure you check out my podcasts below. On Will and Bobby Know Everything we discussed how I came up with the idea. We actually acted out the script on Studio Rejects, as well as debated the logic of my idea. Finally on Book Club Shmook Club, which I host with my sister Kristen, we featured my mom as a special guest: having heard me talk nonstop about ScreamHow I Would Reboot SCREAM, my mom decided to finally see it. We've got her review and a general breakdown of how people have responded to my idea!

My R-Rated, Gritty Pitch For the Upcoming INDIANA JONES 5

The fifth Indiana Jones movie will hit theaters on June 19, 2019. With another decade having passed since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it's unclear how they intend to proceed, but I think they could simply look to the current action films for inspiration.

When Indiana Jones 5 comes out, it will have been 11 years since the fourth installment. Considering that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull chose to reflect the actual passing of time since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it's safe to assume the fifth film will do the same, which means we can expect to see Indiana Jones dealing with life in the late 1960's. 1968 more specifically. Of course, Steven Spielberg could look to what was happening in that era and build his story around that, but it might be a smarter choice to play off of the emerging trend of modern action/adventure films:

Embrace the R Rating. It worked first for DEADPOOL, and now with the tremendous box office of the gritty X-Men spinoff LOGAN, it's clear that audiences want their adventures to be more adult.

Assuming they haven't got their script finalized  yet, I'd like to pitch my own vision of the fifth Indiana Jones movie:

JONES.jpg

Secrets of the BLAIR WITCH Commentary Track

download (4).jpg

After months of waiting, Blair Witch is finally out on blu-ray, so it's time to restart the hunt for secrets! Sadly, it looks like the mystery dies along with the franchise...

SPOILERS for Blair Witch and it's commentary track!

"To us, the Blair Witch isn't necessarily something that you ever really could show. You know, it's something much older...We kind of thought that people were going to interpret this film a lot of different ways, and we were trying to leave a lot of mystery to it. But of course, um, what we actually discovered is that if you call your movie 'Blair Witch,' anything you show, everyone is just going to assume you're actually showing the Blair Witch, and uh, and then they're going to be annoyed about that."

The Blair Witch blu-ray comes with a commentary track featuring director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barret, so naturally I listened to it expecting insights into the film akin to the above quote. Sadly, it seems that the commentary was recorded shortly after the film flopped, which not surprisingly, isn't the best timing.

Had they sat down and discussed the movie prior to the opening, perhaps we would have heard a tired, but excited conversation packed with cryptic hints about what's really happening in the woods. If they recorded the commentary a month or two after the disappointing reception, maybe we'd have a subdued, measured talk about what their intentions were. Unfortunately, having just experienced what must have felt like the death of an exciting project, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are not just tired and subdued, they're kind of angry.

That's not to say that they don't offer any intriguing information. Though a substantial amount of the commentary is filled with references to how much people hated the film (read my glowing review HERE), there are some real conversations about the way they approached crafting the story and world.

download (5).jpg

When the characters first enter the woods, there was an element cut that Adam Wingard believes would have given context to what we're seeing. Lead character James and conspiracy-theorist Lane were originally scripted to debate the origins of the Blair Witch legend. The idea was that, like any other urban legend, there are multiple interpretations of the Witch's story, and as a result, no one truly knows which tale is correct, if any. If this sounds familiar, it may be because I pinpointed this as the central idea of the movie months ago. The creature we see in this movie is not necessarily what everyone calls "The Blair Witch."

Sadly, every time Wingard and Barrett come close to revealing information, they pull away.

"By the way, I don't think it ever occurred to even you or I that people would think that we were actually showing the Blair Witch in this movie, and I will say really quickly, you know, again I don't want to explain anything, but we're hinting in a couple ways about how the Blair Witch...gets the sacrifices needed to keep the hunting going. And you have kind of Lane who's maybe having bit of a Rustin Parr experience, and then Ashley's obviously undergoing a very different kind of transformation..And you know we thought we were, uh..."
"...We're never going to make a sequel to explain any of this shit..."

This, in a nutshell is the commentary. For a moment you're given a peek behind the curtain, only for someone to yank the curtain shut on you. Again, this was the worst possible time to record a commentary, and the listener suffers for it.

download (6).jpg

It's worth mentioning that Wingard and Barret obviously have a sense of humor, and by no means am I suggesting they were exclusively bitter. Of course they sound frustrated, but it seems likely that even if they were in the best of moods, they wouldn't put all their cards on the table. Surely the commentary would still feature a lot of vague references to interesting secrets, but the way it comes across feels like they're actively punishing the listener for caring. If I were one of the guys, I'd think this was hilarious. But, well, I'm not.

Towards the end of the commentary, it's mentioned that Blair Witch apparently contains hidden subplots that you need to have some familiarity with the occult to understand. My frustration immediately turned back into the sort of thirsty intrigue that this franchise provokes in me, and with that one cryptic mention of the occult, I feel compelled to re-watch the film on the lookout for any signs of rituals, sacrifices, or who knows what else. (Note to self: learn as much about the occult as possible.)

One of the most surprising revelations on the commentary track was not about the lore of the world, but rather about how one of the set pieces was accomplished.

The tunnel was real.

Callie Hernandez, who plays Lisa, was made to crawl though an actual tunnel, designed to be just too tight for her. According to the filmmakers, not only were there no escape hatches of any kind, she was sharing the space...her stunt-double climbed in behind her, while in front of her was a replacement camera operator, as the previous camera guy had suffered a panic attack! Hello nightmares!

Impressively, Wingard and Barrett comment on how Blair Witch does not feature any CGI beyond simple touch-ups to backgrounds. The creatures we see? All practical. A great deal of effort was put into making sure that anything shown would stand up under scrutiny of freeze-framing and gif-making, and having just tried to catch clear images of the monster in the house, I have to compliment them on a job well done.

download (2).png
"It could be Elly Kedward. It could be anyone else whose caught up in the haunting."

At a certain point, Barret and Wingard mention that because Blair Witch won't be receiving a green light for a sequel, the character of Peter will remain stuck in Rustin Parr's house forever. According to them, he never died in the film, and now we'll never see what happened to him. This would suggest that a sequel to Blair Witch might feature Peter as the lead, which could have been interesting. Might we have seen Peter end up somewhere in another era, another victim of the time-displacement shenanigans in the woods? Could we have had a non-found-footage film where he meets Elly Kedward and watches as she's kicked out of town and supposedly turned into the witch? Sounds like we'll never know.

download (7).jpg

The film of course ends with James and Lisa in the attic of Rustin Parr's house. For a moment, blinding light fills the room, leading many to theorize online about UFO's, time-warping, and more. What do Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have to say?

"You know what, you're not going to get an explanation for these lights. Because you didn't come see this movie opening weekend, so now you're going to have to fucking wonder what's going on out there."
"No Sequels. No Answers."

Again, I find it unlikely that they would have spilled the beans no matter what their mood was, but it comes across as a punishment. Additionally: I was there opening weekend, guys. Hit me up on Twitter and tell me everything.

"Now you'll never see Blair Witch 4 where we show the toilet in the house, which is the only thing you haven't seen yet. Rustin Parr's toilet."

Seriously guys, I like your movie! I'm not even bitter that I wasn't sent one of those sweet promo boxes! Just explain the lights and DM me a picture of Rustin Parr's toilet and we're cool.

To be honest, after listening to the commentary, my interest in Blair Witch as a film has increased, regardless of how the creators feel. Having also watched the other features on the disc, I know that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett approached reviving the franchise from a place of absolute respect for the original, and excitement at the prospect of contributing new ideas to the old story. Personally I feel like they totally nailed it, as Blair Witch feels like a proper sequel and a springboard for new stories to continue investigating the creature(s) in the woods, all the while deconstructing the way we create myths to explain the unexplainable.

There were never going to be concrete answers on the commentary, but I'm satisfied with the information they did provide, especially as it seems to support my own theories as to the meaning of the film.

To their credit, Wingard and Barrett seem to know I care, as evidenced by their sign off as the credits roll: 

"If you're still listening to us speaking at this point, um, obviously then you're probably a fan of the film, and uh, and so thank you for listening to us, and uh, obviously uh...We're sorry."
"We're sorry that you won't be able to see any more sequels to this film. You may be a fan, but you probably didn't show up on opening weekend, and uh, and we're still bitter about that."
"We're still angry about that. We made everyone's second least-favorite Blair Witch film. Good night."

Well, nevermind.

What do you think? Did you pick up the disc? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter to talk it out! Do you wish that blu-rays still had secrets in the menu like DVD's did? I checked anyway, but I guess that's not the way things are done anymore!

UPDATE: After publishing this post, Simon Barrett had a response. I think it shows that they were completely aware of how people would interpret their commentary track. I've gotten a lot of tweets from people saying that they just sounded bitter and shitty, but I still think they tried to approach this with a sense of humor!

THE BLAIR WITCH video game revealed all the secrets!

download.png

Just a year after The Blair Witch Project hit theaters, a video game based on the series was released.

Most would assume the game was a cheap knockoff, but shockingly, this little-known game confirms some of the biggest questions of the franchise!

SPOILERS!

Having heard about the video game in the Now Playing Podcast review of The Blair Witch Project, I decided to look up the game online, and eventually I got sucked into watching a Let's Play on YouTube. It appears to play like a cross between Resident Evil and Myst, which is right up my alley!

There are actually three games in this series, released over the course of a month back in 2000. The first was called Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, and as the name suggests, it focuses on the story of Rustin Parr, the child murderer mentioned in the original movie, and the character I theorized was the murderer of Heather, Josh, and Mike. This game takes place in the 40's, shortly after Parr turned himself in. A character named Elspeth "Doc" Holliday, a scientist who works for Spookhouse, a group specializing in supernatural cases, has gone to Burkittsville to look into Parr's claims that he was urged to kill by the Blair Witch.

Over the course of her investigation, Elspeth encounters possessed townsfolk, gets lost on looping trails in the woods, and, mostly shockingly, travels through time a solid 16 years before this year's Blair Witch film shows the witch's 4th dimensional hijinks!

Our first clue that events are playing out in a non-linear fashion is when Elspeth reviews an audio recording she had taken earlier in the game (that's right: EVP). She hears her own voice on the tape, saying something she's never said before. My ears perked up.

Not long after, Elspeth travels through the woods and finds herself at Rustin Parr's house. Lightning flashes, the screen goes totally white for a moment, and when the scene fades back in, Elspeth is still standing in the same spot she was in a moment ago, but things look different. There are leaves on the ground. After walking through the house for a bit, Elspeth takes a stroll into the basement, and that's when things get really interesting. There's a man standing facing the corner, and suddenly the sound of frantic screaming fills the house, and it sounds nothing like the stilted voice acting of the video game. No. It's the actual audio from The Blair Witch Project, and suddenly Heather runs down the stairs, holding her camera! 

Check it out below! This walk-through was posted by AdammusPrime on YouTube, and the action starts 20 minutes and 48 seconds in:

From here, things get dicey. Heather falls, holding her camera, just like she does in the movie, but suddenly her body fades out of existence and a translucent demon appears in her place! Did the demon attack Heather? Did she just pass out? The game leaves it as ambiguous as the movie does, but later in the game, there's a similar scene where the Burkittsville townies are suddenly replaced by their own translucent demon/ghost, so perhaps it just represents Elspeth time travelling or dimension hopping to a place where there are no humans. It's hard to say.

Regardless, the video game definitively shows that time is in flux in the Blair Witch's woods. How else could Elspeth from the 40's encounter Heather and Mike from the 90's?  Elspeth makes acquaintances with a man in the woods named Asgaya, who, upon hearing of Elspeth's encounters with mysterious time-hopping beings, states things quite clearly:

Mm, a convergence. When the path bends right, you can see this forest as it is in the past or as it will be in the future. There is no "time" when on these paths, only "place." They are present, past, and future all at once.

There you have it. Much like The Shining's Overlook hotel, all things happen at once. Rustin Parr's house is both still standing, and burned to the ground. Elly Kedward is there. Heather, Josh, and Mike are there. Most recently, James, Lisa, Peter, Ashley, Lane, and Talia have joined them.

But that's not all the game confirms.

Blair Witch Volume 1 concludes with a revelation about the evil that is in the woods. It's older than Elly Kedward, who legend would have you believe is the Blair Witch, the start of everything.

No, instead Asgaya again states that there is a creature in the woods, known to him as Hec-Aitomix. This is the creature who influenced Elly Kedward, Rustin Parr, and presumably many others to kill.

Elspeth: Are you saying there's more than one witch? Or that the witch isn't human?
Asgaya: Neither assumption is incorrect.

The evil in the woods is older than anyone knows, and it is so powerful and mysterious that it might just be beyond human comprehension. It might even be unstoppable.

Indeed we will meet another character being influenced by Hec-Aitomix, and Elspeth herself will work to save this person from befalling the same fate as those who came before.

Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr doesn't look like much, but it's shocking how clearly it reveals what is truly happening in the woods. I haven't moved on to Volume's 2 or 3 yet, but after seeing everything thing that Volume 1 confirmed, I'm very excited to keep going.

What do you think? Have you played this game before? Do you consider the story revealed to be "canon?" Sound off in the comments below! 

You should also check out the above video's description, because AdammusPrime wrote his own theory of what really happened at the end of The Blair Witch Project!

I thought I was done sponging The Blair Witch series, but I can't believe just how much there still is to explore!

THE FINAL GIRLS - A Slasher TV Show That Didn't Make The Cut

download (3).jpg

Last night I decided to give FOX's horror-comedy show Scream Queens a second chance, and I regret it. It is not a good show.

All it did was make me wish Jamie Lee Curtis' OTHER slasher show had been made...Don't know what I'm talking about?

Way back in 2013, Deadline Hollywood reported that Jamie Lee Curtis would be re-teaming with Halloween: H20 director Steve Minor for a new slasher show called The Final Girls.

The drama revolves around a group of girls who have, in essence, survived their own personal horror stories and are brought together by a mysterious older woman (Curtis) to channel the stress and scars of their experience for some greater good.

Somewhere along the line, the plan fell apart, and eventually a new show called Scream Queens starring Jamie Lee Curtis surfaced! I couldn't have been more excited, because obviously this was the same show, re-tooled, and finally it was being put on the air!

Nope.

Scream Queens is a loud, unfunny comedy show that loosely toys with elements of horror, but mostly it's packed full of scenes that feel more like music videos than anything else. The season 2 premiere starts with a flashback to a hospital Halloween party where the doctors kill a new patient so they don't have to work but can get back to the party. Yike...

It sounds like The Final Girls may have actually focused on the tropiest of tropes: the final girl who survives the slasher. What happens to her next? It sounds campy, but it was also reported that it would be a sort of drama. What happens when Laurie Strode assembles a group of women who have survived Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhes, Ghostface, Jigsaw, etc? Do they fight new evil like some sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer gang of warriors? Is there a new evil brewing to take out The Final Girls?

We'll never know.

One thing is for certain, it's a concept that had a lot of potential. Even if it wasn't incredible, anything would be better than Scream Queens!

Sound off in the comments below (there's a link there, I promise): do you like Scream Queens? What do you think of the concept of The Final Girls? I wonder what the main plot would have been, so if you have any ideas, feel free to share! GO!

"The Blair Witch" isn't really a witch! SPOILERS!

download (2).jpg

Over the course of 3 Blair Witch films, seldom has the witch made contact. As a result, debates are raging online: What exactly is the Blair Witch?
Here are a few theories...

SPOILERS!

  • She's a witch. A ghost witch.

The easiest and most obvious answer. With good reason. As a witch, who knows the true extent of her powers? She could alter the terrain causing the BWP and BW characters to walk in endless circles. She could manifest the piles of rocks and voodoo stick men. Heck, since she's been dead for so long, she could be invisible among them! Watching at all times, only interfering when necessary. In Blair Witch 2016 we even experience electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) with James, Peter, and their walkie-talkies. She makes contact through modern technology, and modern technology is altered by her mere presence. This option satisfies most of what happens in the first and second movies (though I'm still partial to my theory of the true killer of The Blair Witch Project), but to me it doesn't explain everything. Why does she sometimes have a physical form? We hear her lumbering around, and yet she's also able to sneak up beside your tent? And yes: why is she mimicking the MO of Rustin Parr? Sure, he may have been told by her what to do, but there's nothing to suggest that Elly Kedward forced people to stand in the corner!

  • She is an alien.

Hear me out. In Blair Witch 2016, the slow burn leading up to the attacks include scenes of James, Lisa, Peter, and Ashley experiencing lost time. Anyone whose seen even just the first episode of The X-Files knows that a clear sign you've been abducted by aliens is discovering that hours or days have gone by in the blink of an eye. What happened to you during the missing time? Who knows! Toward the end of the movie, James and Lisa also experience a brilliant white light emanating from outside, calling to mind images of UFO's landing. I've heard some people say it might be daylight occurring rapidly, which would explain why they're lost in a perpetual night, but that light doesn't resemble a sunrise or sunset, it is stark white. Otherworldly. Could it be that James and co. were abducted when they experienced lost time, and now they're on a totally different planet? Maybe even inside some gargantuan ship! Don't laugh, they plant clues!

  • She is a wendigo.

Personally, I wasn't familiar with the story of the wendigo until I played last year's horror video game Until Dawn, in which we encounter a monster with elongated limbs, gaunt/pale features, who has the ability to mimic voices. Sound familiar? In The Blair Witch Project, everything concludes in that old abandoned house, with the sounds of Josh screaming and Mike attempting to run to his rescue. However, we all know that Josh is dead, because Heather opened the bundle of twigs containing his teeth and other organs. Heather kept this information to herself though, which meant the wendigo was able to trick Mike. In Blair Witch 2016, we catch pretty clear glimpses of "the witch," and we can make out her long limbs and pale skin which the locals explain with the myth that Elly Kedward (said to be the Blair Witch herself) having been hung with rocks tied to her arms and limbs, stretching her on a makeshift rack. Wendigos are also said to be cannibalistic. Could that be why she so violently takes people? We know she doesn't only attack the living, as Peter, Talia, and Ashley were seemingly dead when she came and took them. She has to eat. (BONUS THEORY: With Lane trapped in the woods for perhaps years, wouldn't he have to eat as well? I didn't see any animals in those woods, but being untethered from time, he could theoretically revisit James and Lisa's camp to find "food.") Of course, this doesn't explain the trippy circular paths that bring you back to where you started...

Which brings us to...

  • She is all of the above and more! By which I mean: she doesn't exist.

Here we go:

The above theories each explain SOME of what we've seen in the movies, but not ALL of it. I think it's possible that Elly Kedward was just one in a long line of people enchanted by the woods, and that the woods are something like The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. It's packed with a multitude of monsters, each up to it's own business. Sure, Elly may be in there, but then so is Rustin Parr. So is a wendigo. The characters of The Blair Witch Project, Book of Shadows, and Blair Witch 2016 have encountered several different entities all under the guise of it being the work of one: the witch. I chalk it up to the power of myth. For example: lets say there is a wendigo in the woods. Someone saw it's long limbs and lived to tell the tale. It was eventually woven into the story of the Blair Witch by adding to the story the idea of her limbs being stretched by rocks hung from her arms and legs. The legend evolved. It grew to cover more of what is out there.

The entire Blair Witch franchise starts with the power of folklore: literal interviews with townies each giving their own version of whats in the woods. It's the opportunity to present the legend of the witch on film that gets Heather, Josh, and Mike out there, but what they find defies what they think the witch does. As viewers we're left trying to interpret what we saw. We saw something too complicated for any one story. Or, at least, too complicated for the stories the Burkitsville locals share. Maybe there was a "Blair Witch" at some point in history, but I don't think you can point to her as the cause of everything we see. Essentially "The Blair Witch" is not one person, but several paranormal entities contributing to one legend!

The Blair Witch franchise is only about the witch in the sense that it's about how limited we are to understand the evil. It's a chimera, it's eldritch horror, it's incomprehensible. Sure, maybe it's one ancient creature, maybe it's the woods itself, or maybe it's a hoarde of beasts, and which ever one finds you first gives you another piece of the puzzle. Regardless, I think it's clear that The Blair Witch franchise is content to leave everything up to interpretation, ensuring that people will continue to debate the truth forever.

What do you think? Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments below! I'd love to hear your reasons for why a theory does or doesn't work, and I hope you share a theory I've never even considered!

BLAIR WITCH doesn't hold back (Review)

download (1).jpg

In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary.

17 years later, twice as many people enter those same woods, and the results are remarkably similar. There are just a lot more names to scream.

Well, that's not entirely fair. I want to delve into the nature of the plot and explore what this movie does to up the stakes, but as a lot of that conversation will be spoiler-filled, first I'll get my recommendation and spoiler-free thoughts out of the way.

Blair Witch is a better film than most reviewers have said. It is also an incredibly flawed film. You should see it.

Our lead character is James, the brother of Heather, who went missing in the first film. When James stumbles across a YouTube video that supposedly shows footage found in the very woods Heather disappeared in, which shows one or two frames of a woman wandering through a dilapidated house, James is convinced it's his sister, and they need to go to the woods to find her. Along for the ride are Lisa, who wants to document the events, and James' friends Peter and Ashley, as well as a couple of obsessed Blair Witch theorists, Lane and Talia. We watch their drone and cool earpiece cam footage, found long after they've gone missing.

If you have issues watching found-footage movies, you'll have them watching Blair Witch. Being that I'm not typically a fan of this particular sub-genre, I can't really comment on whether or not Blair Witch features more or less "shaky cam," but I can tell you that a lot of the scenes are punctuated with camera glitches and the intrusive sound of popping electricity in a way that bugged me. Do cameras even do that?

Furthermore, if you aren't a fan of jump-scares, get ready, this film is packed with them. It's almost rare for there to be a scene in which a character *doesn't* SUDDENLY BURST ON SCREEN! I understand that jump-scares are part of the deal when you go to see a modern horror movie, and I understand that films like this seek to emulate the vibe of a haunted house (I'll be going to Orlando Horror Nights next month, and I expect Michael Myers to pop out of bushes [just like in Halloween...?]), but I don't have to like it.

Personally, I find it easy to dismiss the shaky cam and the jump-scares, because they've become so common that I barely notice them, but still, you should know they're both strongly featured. The scares that don't fall into those two categories? They're pretty clever. If you're even the least bit claustrophobic, get ready...

Blair Witch is a story where bland characters find an excuse to venture back into the woods. It's a story that takes a lot more chances than you might expect, and while I feel there are a few missed opportunities to make the film a truly great film-going experience, Blair Witch does it's very best to stand on it's own two feet, despite the fact that most will obviously view it as a somewhat of a remake of the original. I particularly appreciate the somewhat controversial decisions they've made. The story goes in a direction I certainly didn't anticipate, and personally I'm glad for it. They already made The Blair Witch Project, lets do something new.

All in all I'd advise any fan of horror to go see Blair Witch, and I'd particularly recommend it to fans of the original, though I might suggest they go in with an open mind.

Time for spoilers.

When I say that I'm impressed by the controversial decisions they've made, I'm specifically talking about three things: the story's loopy timeline, ghosts who pop-in, and the depiction of "the witch."

Allow me to cut to the chase: the very footage that brought them to the woods (a woman's face seen briefly in the mirror of an old deserted house), is footage shot by Lisa at the end of this movie. More than that: the woman in the footage *is* Lisa. Not only does it provide an interesting twist that James has actually been chasing Lisa this whole time, it struck me as interesting that Lisa and Heather could easily be confused. Both women were first and foremost interested in documenting events in the woods. James has been so obsessed with finding Heather his whole life, is it really any wonder he gravitated toward Lisa? Regardless, we're given our first hint that something is wrong with time when obsessive conspiracy theorists Lane and Talia run away and resurface a day later, claiming 5 days have gone by (see also: Cube 2: Hypercube). Do we believe them? Earlier in the film, Lane and Talia admitted they had hung some of the iconic stick-men in the trees. Couldn't they be lying now? Of course not: by the end of the movie, we meet Lane after yet another impossible length of time, and now he has a full beard. Has it been weeks? Months? Years?

I thought for sure this amorphous timeline would culminate in James coming face to face with Heather. Or: more accurately, coming across a woman in a basement, grabbing her by the shoulder, causing her to drop her camera (roll credits on Blair Witch 1). How could they not do this? Did they think of it? Did Heather Donahue refuse to come back? I was crushed when at best we caught glimpses of a ghost who might be Heather. James locks himself in a bedroom and in a flash of lightning a woman is suddenly in the room, only to disappear a moment later. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? Do I have to go see the movie a second time to confirm? I'll do it. Maybe it was Ashley...

Let me just add that, had they brought Heather into the plot, they could have used Mike, still standing in the corner, to display why you shouldn't ever look at the witch. Distracted by the sudden appearance of James, Mike could have turned, only to be taken and brutalized. Lesson learned for the finale.

This brings us to the witch. I've seen a lot of backlash against the filmmakers for showing her. We already have a movie where they kept her a mystery. They're making a sequel to a polarizing film, with no guarantee of future installments (the box office might have made this more certain). Why not go all the way? What a bold move to not only show the witch, but multiple times? For decades we've lived with the rules that it's scarier to keep the monster unknown or unseen. Jaws practically made it a law. People are quick to recite the rule that movies can never show you something scarier than what you imagine.

Well, Blair Witch pulled it off. Early into the film we're given a new legend about the witch. She was hung from a tree with rocks tied to her arms and legs, like a makeshift rack. The beast we see at the end of the film is large, with overlong limbs, running after us. I loved it.

I'm also not convinced this is actually the Blair Witch. I know, I know, I've already gone too long. I'll state my case another time. Suffice it to say they've created a monster that would kill me of a heart attack before she could even reach me.

The film ends with a tense re-enactment of the original film's iconic selfie shot. Kudos to them for managing to take the camera angle and do something novel with it. In this film they establish that if you look at the witch, she takes you, hence all the standing-in-the-corner in these films (a troublesome retcon of the Rustin Parr tale). When James is tricked by the witch into thinking that Heather is behind him, he turns and is violently pulled out of the film. Lisa is left to turn the camera around and point it backwards over her shoulder, desperately watching the screen to see what's lurking behind her. It's a brilliant move. Of course, though, she's also tricked by the witch, and despite seeing James get wrenched away, she turns, and her camera falls.

Call me crazy, but I think one day the tide will turn for this movie. It's currently taking a beating at the box office and by the critics, but it's a fun film that obviously wants to pay respect to the original while blasting the story and the stakes into outer space. Perhaps literally. I think someday this film will get the respect it deserves, but for now, I'm satisfied. Blair Witch is a tense, clever, nostalgic horror film that didn't leave me wanting anything more. Hell, they even managed to jam in what the stick men are actually for (hint: don't snap them in half). Come to think of it, I almost want one for my collection, is that crazy? I'll just make it myself and keep it somewhere safe.

What did you think of the movie? What did you think of my review? Leave a comment below, and lets get into it. I'm not done with The Blair Witch series just yet. Or maybe the Blair Witch isn't done with me.

The Hidden Killer in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

**UPDATE: for additional theories about the real threat(s) of the Blair Witch franchise, check out our article The Truth of What The Blair Witch Is!

SPOILERS!

The YouTube channel The Film Theorists recently released a video suggesting that there is nothing supernatural, no witch, in The Blair Witch Project, and that the events of the movie are actually a plot of the characters Josh and Mike to murder Heather.

They're half right.

I don't agree that the movie could secretly be about a plot to murder Heather. For one thing, I don't think it's to Mike or Josh's benefit to keep the cameras rolling, let alone leave all that footage behind. That's also ignoring the fact that they spent 7 days walking in circles. Could Mike and Josh have kept Heather confused for that long? If they wanted her dead, couldn't they have done it on, say, day 1 or 2, rather than spend a full week wandering around in the forest? It's not as though they knew people would find the footage and chalk it all up to "a witch did it," right?

No, there's no denying that something supernatural was to blame for the three filmmakers being lost and ultimately killed, but what evidence do we have that the Blair Witch is the killer?

Early into the film, we're introduced to the story of the Blair Witch, through interviews with the residents of the town where the witch once lived. We're also introduced to the stories of a couple other legends: Coffin Rock, and Rustin Parr.

Rustin Parr was a serial killer responsible for murdering 7 children in the 1940's. As the story goes, he claimed he heard voices that compelled him to kill. It's said he would bring the children into his basement two at a time, and have one stand in the corner facing the wall while he killed the other.

As Heather, Mike, and Josh walk through the woods, the encounter 7 piles of rocks. After several nights, they hear the sounds of children outside their tent. At the end of the movie, they find a house in the woods, and of course everything closes with Heather and Mike in the basement. Mike stands in the corner while someone attacks Heather from behind, causing her to drop her camera, as the credits roll.

For a movie called The Blair Witch Project, it sure seems to make the case that Rustin Parr is the killer.

The stories of the Blair Witch are what got Heather, Mike, and Josh out into the woods, and it's their hunt and their documentary that gives The Blair Witch Project it's name, but ultimately, it's the other story that explains the rocks, the children, and what happened in that house.

The true killer is Rustin Parr.

Am I wrong? Is there something else in the woods? Tell me what you think in the comments below.

The Haunted Sponge - An Introduction

download.jpg

The Haunted Sponge is a new blog from the people that bring you TalkBomb. It's a place for sharing news, reviews, and theories about the wide world of horror (and every other genre)!

What does it mean to be a sponge? It means you soak up everything you can, and that's exactly what we do here. Just because a movie's credits are rolling doesn't mean the story is done, we're here to dig into commentary, deleted scenes, fan edits, and more!

If you have any topics you'd like to see covered here, email HauntedSponge@TalkBomb.com, or tweet at us: @HauntedSponge!

Let the sponging begin!