Blair Witch

I have a certain love for bad movies. I don’t know if started with watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 late night way back in the day, but there is a certain joy that comes from watching a bad movie. But every once in a while, I come across a movie so bad, I have to question its reason for existing. For a long time, the worst movie I had ever seen was called Time Chasers, a movie from 1994 that looks like it could’ve been made in 1979. Astonishingly terrible. However, some years down the road, that throne was vacated to make way for a horrible little film called Ultraviolet starring Mila Jovovich. Now, I know a lot of people seem to love that movie, but to this day, it’s still the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Manos: The Hands of Fate. If you’ve never heard of Manos: The Hands of Fate, the fact that manos is Spanish for hands should tell you everything you need to know about the movie. I still remember the night I saw Ultraviolet. When it was done, my friend said he was going to chuck that DVD out his Jeep window on his way home. I quickly replied, “Don’t do that. Some little kid might find it.” I just couldn’t bear the thought of some poor kid sitting through that movie. My friend made sure to destroy that disc.

Now, it being October, I love to sit down and watch horror movies. Earlier this month, I sat down and watched both Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky much to my delight. Let me just say that if you want to watch a good horror flick this year, might I recommend Curse of Chucky. They took a step back from the comedy of the previous two and made a great horror movie with a legitimately creepy Chucky. Anyhow, back on topic. Last year, a new Blair Witch movie came out and judging from the trailers, it was going to be good. I saw the original The Blair Witch Project in theaters back when it first came out and found it to be a great movie. I know some people didn’t like it, but considering that it was in a way the first of its kind, I delighted in every bit of it. This movie was made extra creepy by the fact that me and my best friend watched on a dark and stormy night. My friend’s dad taking us back home took a wrong turn and accidentally drove us through a cemetery and into the woods where we were eventually stopped by a road closed barricade. Though we had our suspicions, his dad swears he wasn’t messing with us and he just turned too early because of the fog.

A few years later, Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows came out staring Jeffrey Donovan who would later go on to star in Burn Notice; a show so much better than this movie that you honestly for get he starred in it. While people generally seemed to dislike Blair Witch 2, I rather enjoyed it despite the acting. It had a great premise in which it basically pretended the first film didn’t happen. Yes, that’s right. Instead, the first movie was a movie and the plot of this movie is there are a group of people who are studying the mythology of the movie. Crazy stuff happens and it turns out that the Blair Witch is real. I understand the criticisms of this movie, but I appreciate the path that they took for the sequel. I’m glad they decided to go the traditional horror movie route instead of another found footage movie because how much belief would you be able to suspend with a second found footage movie about the same thing. Yes it was cheesy. Yes the acting was bad. But at least it understood what it was trying to be, which is much more than I can say for the third one.

When I saw the trailers for a new Blair Witch movie last year that got back to the basics, it looked promising. The brother of one of the people from the original film now 24 years old looking for his sister was a very cool hook and a reasonable way to try to pull the found footage thing again. This movie also pretends like the second movie didn’t happen (or at least it doesn’t address it). Very early on in the movie, it seemed so promising. It wastes no time in showing you all the cool modern high-tech gadgetry it would be employing to capture the footage from camera headsets, to drones, to GPS tracking. There was so much potential in this movie and the people making it had no idea what to do with it. Unfortunately, all the cool tech that should’ve made the movie better, made the movie worse. In what should’ve re-enforced the horror, the gadgets only made it difficult to suspend disbelief.

I’m going to get this out of the way right now. The movie automatically assumes everyone watching it doesn’t understand technology. The movie came out in 2016, but claims to take place 20 years after the original, so that would but this setting in 2014. MicroSD cards would’ve commonly been at about 128GB max (there may have been some 256GB out there, but I shudder to think of how expensive they would’ve been), yet everything is clearly in high-definition. They must’ve been changing out memory cards constantly, to say nothing of charging those video headsets.

And then you’ve got the extra camera functions such as the deer cams, the drones, the headset cameras that capture everything. One of the great things about The Blair Witch Project is you never saw anything. You’re left to your own devices to imagine what’s going on. Not so much with this one. You see it all and it’s all bad. Gash on the foot? Gash spasms cartoonishly. Stick figures connected to people some way. Break stick and kill person on camera cartoonishly. Movie about a Blair Witch? Show the cartoonishly large Blair Witch. In fact, just about every single thing that was creepy in the original was cartoonish in this one. It shows too much and it shows it badly.

One of the things that made the original movie so great was the acting, or lack thereof. Much of the movie was ad-libbed, so things didn’t feel rehearsed. Also, the crew in the original movie legitimately harassed the people in the movie in ways to make them terrified, so the fear you’re seeing in that movie is real. Yet in this new one, you can feel the acting. Everything thing feels so rehearsed that it’s painful. Nothing feel genuine. Now, you can talk all you want about the bad acting in Blair Witch 2, but here’s the thing, it wasn’t a found footage film. Acting in a found footage films should never ever feel like acting. Ever. Bad acting can get a pass in a standard movie, but not in a film in which the entire premise is to purport to be real, stated or not.

When you pull everything together, it’s like it was trying to be a big budget Hollywood blockbuster with an identity crisis, as though it was under the impression it was a found footage film. Now, I realize movies like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project are all huge Hollywood successes using the found footage premise, but my problem with Blair Witch is that it feels like it was actually filmed like a Hollywood blockbuster. Most of it doesn’t feel remotely like found footage at all. Because of this, it rips you out of any immersion that was potentially there. Watching Blair Witch, I was bored the entire way through. While I wouldn’t call this the worst movie I’ve ever seen (no one can dethrone you, Ultraviolet), it is one of the stupidest. After this was over, I watched a sixteen minute foreign film called Banana Motherfucker about demon possessed bananas impaling people and honestly, it was a much better movie.

If Blair Witch 4 happens, I think it best that it make like the previous two sequels and pretend the most recent one didn’t happen.

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Duck & Cover

Most young adults today are much to young to remember to the Cold War, yet since they are perhaps the most vocal crowd in media, it’d be easy to for them forget that it wasn’t that long ago the Cold War came to an end. Less than twenty-five years ago, actually. The Cold War was a magical time of spies, espionage, no actual war, and constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

As a child growing up in the eighties, the Soviets were always our biggest fear. The world maps in our classrooms didn’t help matters any. Every country was color coded so that you could distinctly discern borders. Looking at a map you would see lots of small colors and then there would be this giant red mass labeled U.S.S.R. That thing was terrifying and the only thing keeping us safe from the Ruskies was ocean. And then we learned about the Bering Strait and realized that they could attack us from Canada if they so desired.

terror map

This is what a map made entirely out of terror looks like.

The movie Red Dawn didn’t help things any either. I hadn’t even seen the movie at that point and yet there were many times I worried that I’d look out the window and see Russian paratroopers falling out of the sky. Remember, this was a plausible scenario back then. We already knew that there were Commie spies among us; we just didn’t know when they’d strike. Thankfully, we could take solace knowing that Patrick Swayze and Sylvester Stallone would be there to save us should things ever go down. That is if they didn’t drop the bomb on us first.

This being the Cold War, the possibility of nuclear winter was always a reality. The federal government made sure we were all prepared in case such an event happened. As elementary school students, we learned the importance of Duck and Cover. What’s that, you may ask. Duck and Cover is what you were to do in case of a nuclear attack. While you may all be familiar with fire drills, we had nuclear bomb drills. There was even an alarm for it. When the alarm would go off, we would stop what we were doing and hide underneath our desks. The drills were common enough that I can remember looking nervously out the window of my classroom at the water tower and expecting to see a mushroom cloud in the distance. The real terror came if we had a fire drill and had to run outside to a designated area in an orderly fashion. What if the Ruskies had decided to drop a bomb then? There were no desks to protect us. Why the school never had like five giant sized desks outside I’ll never know. Underfunding I suppose.

duckandcover

No joke, this would save your life from a nuclear explosion. Don’t you dare question it!

Speaking of underfunding, I never realized just how underfunded the school system was until the Cold War ended. At the beginning of every school year up until freshman year of high school I think it was, out teachers would point to the big red spot on the map and say “By the way, that doesn’t exist anymore.” For the record, I started high school in 1996. 1996 and we still had maps that depicted the Soviet Union. When they were finally replaced, it seemed so surreal. No longer was there a big red menace casting it’s shadow on the world. Instead, there was just Russia and the world suddenly seemed a bit more open.

I’ve heard stories that Vladimir Putin is trying to bring the former Soviet countries back into Russia’s fold. Perhaps they have a lot of old maps that they still haven’t replaced yet. If this happens, I hope they at least have the good sense to call it the Soviet Reunion. I’d hate to see them blow an opportunity like that.

putin

“Hey, let’s get the gang back together and start Cold War 2: Cold Harder.”