Vengeful Ghosts and Witches (Movie Reviews)

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The Gist: A grieving couple (Barbara Crampton as Anne Sacchetti; Andrew Sensenig as Paul Sacchetti) move to an isolated home in rural New England following the death of their adult son. Anne is certain she can feel the presence of her son in the house and invites her friends (Lisa Marie as May Lewis; Larry Fessenden as Jacob Lewis) who dabble in the supernatural via seances to join them. But their psychic meddling ramps up the ire of the houses angry spirits. Throw in some crazy, murderous townsfolk and set it in the dead of winter and you have the potential for a bloody ghost story.

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My Take: I seem to recall lots of good buzz about this flick and that it had the same kind of feel as House of The Devil, which it did but….can’t say I really got into this one. The story certainly is interesting as we learn about the house and vengeful spirits demanding a blood sacrifice every 30 years and the townsfolk who will do whatever they have to, to make sure the blood flows, as long as it is not theirs. The charred ghosts are pretty cool looking, although they don’t get a lot of screen time. I think the acting was a bit of downer. These are not bad actors but there was just something about the way they talked that annoyed me. And once the story got going into the history and the haunting, the movie was at an end. I wanted to know more about the house that was a former mortuary and the townsfolk who treat it with cult like reverence.

Final Thoughts: I wanted to like this movie more but there was just something off about the acting or the dialogue or both that didn’t appeal to me and I was simply expecting something more from the scares. I’m all for setting up atmosphere and slow burn horror but this one was just too slow to get to the goods. 2.5 charred ghosts out of 5.

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The Gist: 15 years after the disappearance of Heather Donahue, her younger brother James (James Allen McCune) receives a video showing what appears to be Heather at the Rustin Parr house in the Black Hills. Along with his friends, one of which is filming the events as a project for her film class and 2 Burkittsville locals, they head into the Black Hills in search of answers to the mystery of what happened to Heather and the Blair Witch.

My Take: Minor SPOILERS – Why does James think that after 15 years his sister is still alive and trapped in the Black Hills? I don’t get it. Could it be hope or is this merely a way to get a new group into the trap of the witch and connect it to the original 1999 movie and story. Whatever it is, I’m disappointed. The creepiest moment was the scene in the tent with the injured girl. I won’t get into details but it’s gross and makes you think twice about taking your shoes off to cross a stream. Other than that, there wasn’t much to breed fear. And the friggin’ high pitched screaming again. It’s the same thing that irritated me in the original. It’s just grating. As far as the actual witch goes, I don’t think they should have shown what she/it looks like. Revealing the witch, even minimally, removes some of the eeriness of the story. The way the flick is shot with mini personal cameras that hook onto the ear, is great. Much better than most of the found footage movies that are out there. Yep, can’t think of much else that I enjoyed.

Final Thoughts: While this chapter of the Blair Witch certainly looks great the story behind the flick is odd to me. Ok, so James is hoping to find his sister but it’s a weak story line. There is a good story in the Blair Witch somewhere. The mythology is there but getting that into a found footage flick just doesn’t seem to be a great platform for it. And now I’m going to say it and it’s a very unpopular opinion I’m sure – of the Blair Witch flicks, Book of Shadows is my favourite. Yep, there it is. It takes the mystery of the folklore and puts the witch into the story without screeching or showing too much. So there it is. Blair Witch 2016 get 2 stick men out of 5.

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The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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This was the movie that brought together found footage and horror. I watched it years ago and didn’t care for it and after another viewing, can’t say it has made a better impression. The film isn’t a total bust. What it has going for it: an interesting story and a premise that would make a great haunted tour – out in the woods, isolated with only 3 people being stalked by an unseen, unknown presence. Terrifying. Add to the isolating environment an urban folk legend about a witch and people disappearing in the woods, being found dead and you have a good idea for a story. Even the found footage elements were ok as the shaky cam didn’t hinder it but while the acting was fine, it was the screaming and shrieking of Heather that put a damper on the movie. There was something so annoying about her running around and yelling. It was over the top and detracted from the atmosphere of eeriness and building tension of watching the 3 film makers wander lost, cold and hunger through the forest. Right near the end when the horror is ramping it is the endless shrieks of Heather that ruin the flow.

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Final Impressions: When this movie first gained notoriety it was unclear why. Perhaps because the initial viewing I had was poor quality on a small screen could explain my disappointment. Nope. Watching it again after about 20 years on a big screen and good quality didn’t improve my opinion of it. Good premise, atmospheric setting, potentially fascinating story brought down an annoying lead character. I was hoping with the release of the new Blair Witch that the story might finally get a decent telling. From the reviews that have come out I don’t think that is going to happen. 2 stick men out of 5

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