WOOD YOU BELIEVE IT?
You’re Next director Adam Wingard casts a spell with Blair Witch…
The witch is back in Adam Wingard’s tree-quel Blair Witch.
“We were never allowed to write the words ‘Blair Witch’ on anything,” says Adam Wingard, talking up his latest – a super-secret sequel to the 1999 found-footage phenomenon The Blair Witch Project. For three years, during prep and production, Wingard (You’re Next, The Guard) was calling Blair Witch by its fake title, “The Woods”. “It actually feels weird to say it out loud now,” he says. “I still constantly check myself and go, ‘Oh my god, did I just give something away?’”
The secrecy is understandable. The $25,000-budgeted original became the most successful indie of all time, grossing $248 million, with the public intrigued by a spook story co-directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick purported to be true. “I was obsessed,” says Wingard, who was a teenager when he first saw it. “It was a great film in the sense you felt there were all these clues and hidden messages. It kept you coming back for more.”
Wingard’s Blair Witch picks up with James (James Allen McCune) setting out into the Maryland woods where his sister Heather disappeared all those years earlier. So is it a sequel or a reboot? “It is both of those things,” Wingard answers. “The reason we’re not calling it ‘Blair Witch 3’ is because we want to come with a fresh new perspective, saying: ‘We’re restarting it. We’re sorry about ‘Number 2’. Let’s pretend like that didn’t happen. We’ll go back to what you liked and let’s get this party started again.’”
You’re going to see things out in the woods…
Ah, yes – “Number 2”. Or Book Of Shadows:
Blair Witch 2 to give it its proper title – Joe Berlinger’s misguided sequel that killed the franchise for a decade-and-a-half. “[Now] people claim not to hate it, but I have a hard time believing that,” says Wingard. “I just don’t like that movie at all. I felt like, ‘How badly can you miss the mark?’ Taking one of the most realistic horror films of all time and then dubbing all this phoney acting and crappy-looking, dated-’90s style camerawork… the whole thing looked like a Pearl Jam video. It had no authenticity to it at all!”
Working with his regular scribe Simon Barrett, the 33-year-old Wingard wanted to revive memories of the original, delving back into the Blair Witch mythology and delivering a pure-blooded found-footage movie. “I wanted to play by the same rules,” he says, calling his movie “a technological update” of the Myrick-Sánchez film. Everything from DSLR cameras to earpiece-cams (worn by the actors, helping to stabilise shaky footage) and even a mini-drone are used, as James and his friends head for one scary showdown.
While all of these tech-elements feel organic to the story, Wingard has also been careful to use the same in-camera approach to the scary bits. “I really come more from an appreciation of old-school effects,” he says. “There’s no CGI in the film. You’re definitely going to see things out in the woods that you’ve never seen before… We created everything you see on set and there are no silly CGI monsters.” Buckle up then… the Blair Witch is back.
Blair Witch opens on 15 September and is reviewed on page 94.
James Allen McCune plays the brother of the original film’s Heather.