Blair Witch

Secrets of the BLAIR WITCH Commentary Track

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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!

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

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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!