Thursday, June 21, 2018

Film Review: The Blair Witch Legacy (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Written and directed by Jason Hawkins
Starring Samantha Marie Cook, Cody Epling and Jason Reynolds
Release date: March 1, 2018
Available for streaming at Kings Of Horror
All the hype, backlash and differences of opinion surrounding it notwithstanding, 1999’s The Blair Witch Project was the movie that got me into independent films. In the 90s I was looking for something different when it came to moviemaking. Thanks to this small endeavor and the indie productions I saw afterward, my mind was opened to many different somethings.
Yes, I am familiar with Cannibal Holocaust and The Last Broadcast, and see the similarities, but in the case of Blair Witch he mystery surrounding the tale of Elly Kedward drew me in. Today the found footage theme is an overused trend, but in 1998 the marketing plan for Blair Witch was unheard of. And obviously they did something right considering a fan base still exists today.
I came across The Blair Witch Legacy by chance and wasn’t sure what I would think of it. Blair Witch: Book of Shadows had potential but tried to cover too much ground, and 2016's Blair Witch was too similar to the first movie. Initially I thought this movie would be the same. However my research showed me it was made by a hardcore fan, not for profit, with much of the same resources Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez had to work with.
The Blair Witch Legacy explores whether The Blair Witch Project was a hoax. At first it may seem the people involved in it are following the events in Myrick and Sanchez’s movie, but it goes in far different directions. There is a great deal of space for creative freedom since no money is being made and it was produced solely for love of the genre. The introduction makes mention of the marketing campaign, drawing comparisons to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead for its cultural impact. It was said The Blair Witch Project reflected its internet-dependent society; in many ways this one does the same when it comes to the oversaturation of news we see on the internet today.
The Blair Witch Legacy is about three filmmakers drawn to Burkittsville to launch an investigation after finding a journal by a local documenting the legend behind the movie. It’s initially unclear how this journal managed to find its way back to town. The plot points are revealed gradually, creating rising tension that grows more unnerving with each sequence. Without revealing too much about the storyline, The Blair Witch Legacy expands on the mythology of The Blair Witch Project. It centers on the tale of Rustin Parr who was the subject of the Sci Fi Channel's Curse of the Blair Witch. New elements to this part of the mythos explain occurrences that remained a mystery.
Indications that things are not as they seem is evident from the filmmakers' visit to the local cemetery. For some reason lead documentarian Samantha (Samantha Marie Cook) becomes obsessed with her investigation, and starts asking questions about the Rustin Parr kidnappings rather than the movie. The townspeople of Burkittsville are less willing to discuss anything having to do with Parr. Several interviews with locals, including a meeting with three local practitioners of witchcraft can be perceived as warnings to leave well enough alone. There is clearly something happening in this town. Everyone knows about it but no one is talking.
When a local kid goes missing a mass search takes place., it's seen as a chance to salvage what would otherwise be a failed project. This leads to a turn of events or two you may or may not have expected after Samantha's partners Cody and Jason (Cody Epling, Jason Reynolds) soon lose their way. Is Elly Kedward responsible? And where is Samantha? You won't know for certain, but rest assured the final turn of events will come as a surprise.
If you’re a Blair Witch fan this movie is worth checking out, and you can make up your own mind about the legend of the witch. A sequel to this film is planned, and Kings Of Horror where The Blair Witch Legacy is streaming hosts a host of fan made movies for your perusal. -Dave Wolff

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