(author note: As of this writing, I have not yet seen BLAIR WITCH. I know, ironic. This isn’t a review of the film or a commentary on the quality of the film, but rather my opinion on why the movie did not perform to expectation on opening weekend. I will be seeing BLAIR WITCH on 9/21).
Where did it go wrong? BLAIR WITCH had strong buzz coming out of ComicCon and festivals, the movie was called the true sequel to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, it is helmed by an up-and-coming director Adam Wingard (YOU’RE NEXT and THE GUEST) and it was generating positive reviews at festival screenings.
Then the opening weekend box office numbers hit.
$9.5 million. A bust, a bomb, DOA according to the internet. Heck, BOOK OF SHADOWS made more on its initial weekend. By comparison, the Fede Alvarez horror/thriller DON’T BREATHE pulled in $5.6 million in its 4th weekend in theaters to bring the movie’s total haul to over $75 million (domestic).
After creating some good word of mouth out of the festival circuit, the movie now sits at 36% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and 42% audience score.
I have a theory: people didn’t really want a sequel to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. When the original was released, the internet was in its infancy regarding the ability to connect people across the world. The movie was an event because of the circumstances built up around the movie, not so much the movie itself. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was a legendary and genius creation of marketing across different medium platforms, while keeping true details of the movie a secret. There were people who didn’t know the movie was a fiction, and it was presented as a kind of snuff film, a document of three college students traveling to their death.
In the years since the original movie’s release, it has been dissected and released on video and the story told of how the movie was made. Essentially, what made THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT so chilling and effective had been robbed from it, squeezed dry by an ever expanding internet and an attempt at a meta-sequel.
Horror fans half my age who are just discovering THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT wonder what the fuss was about. They have been deluged with found footage movies, especially with the monster hit franchise PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT doesn’t hold sway over the next generation of horror fans. At best, it’s an interesting time in movie history. I know there are people who can’t comprehend that there weren’t online sites spoiling the secrets of the movie before it came out, or fans who saw the movie and immediately shared the secrets to their friends online. But that wasn’t the world then, and today’s fans have trouble envisioning that era.
But, I don’t think the BLAIR WITCH property is something that should be abandoned. It did double its reported budget of $5 million on opening weekend and there is an interest in this franchise still, I believe.
The BLAIR WITCH future may be on television, in a series, and losing the found footage/first person POV filming. It may work best as an investigation show, following investigators as they interview townsfolk and investigate the disappearances, allowing the show to delve deep into the folklore and mystery of the Blair Witch.
Will it happen? I have no idea. I hope it does. I’m a longtime fan of the franchise, yes even BOOK OF SHADOWS. But the days of our favorite witch being a viable movie property are over. Someone call Netflix and get a series ordered!