Okay, guys. I want you to put yourself back in the late ‘90s. Are you there yet? Good. Remember: This is a time in which viral marketing is a brand-new thing, and it’s taking the world on by storm. It’s also a time before the found-footage genre existed as we know it in 2011. Sure, there had been a few prior examples– namely Cannibal Holocaust– but it is by no means as prevalent a genre as it would eventually become. It’s also not as cliché, so it’s new and exciting. It makes sense, then, that a little horror movie shot on a miniscule budget would skyrocket to fame during this time: It’s the beginning of found-footage filmmaking as we know it, as well as the beginning of super clever viral marketing. That movie, of course, is The Blair Witch Project.
Okay, now come on back to the present. Because guess what? Rumor has it that there’s a new Blair Witch movie in the works. This might be an amazingly awesome idea—but it also might be an amazingly terrible idea. Thoughts on this, Gentle Readers?
Yep: Last week, news broke that a third film could happen. Said director Eduardo Sanchez, “It’s completely up to Lionsgate. Dan [Myrick, Sanchez’s co-writer and co-director] and I are ready to do it. We’ve been toying around with a sequel idea that we really like. It’s just a matter of getting our schedules in line and having Lionsgate sign off on the idea…. We’re as close as we’ve ever been to making it happen, but it’s still not a guaranteed thing.” Lionsgate, by the way, is the distributor that bought out Artisan Entertainment, the now-defunct company that distributed The Blair Witch Project. And as someone who was quite taken with the first movie, part of me is stroking my imaginary beard and going “Hmmmm… iiiiiiiiinteresting…”
Furthermore, according to Sanchez, they’d like to bring back original cast members Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard for this hypothetical new film. The Mary Sue pointed out that they weren’t so sure how this would work, given that SPOILERS (in the event that you’ve been living under a rock for the last twelve years) the film didn’t end so well for its three intrepid would-be documentarians; so yes, figuring out how to bring them back is a tricky thing indeed.
But you know what the most interesting part about this whole thing is? One upon a time, there had been a plan to make the story into a trilogy. The idea was for the second film to be a sequel and the third film to be a prequel. When the sequel didn’t do well enough to justify a third film, though, the idea was scrapped; then, shortly thereafter, Artisan was bought out by Lionsgate, who didn’t seem too keen on continuing the franchise. So I wonder, then: Do you think that for this new movie, Myrick and Sanchez might be able to take a leaf out of the book of a more recent found-foot film: Paranormal Activity 2. Somehow, the second film in the series managed to be both sequel and prequel at the same time. This might be a way for them to bring back Heather, Mike, and Josh without ruining the wonderful ambiguity of the original film’s ending. There’s also still a lot to be plumbed from the extensive mythology surrounding the Blair Witch, which could be used to great effect. There’s a lot of possibility here, and a lot of it is pretty exciting to think about.
So that covers the “good idea” column; what’s it got going for it in the “bad idea” column? Simply put, The Blair Witch Project has a TERRIBLE history when it comes to sequels. Immediately following the success of the original, Artisan launched right into making a sequel, which (predictably) was a VERY BAD IDEA. This sequel was not made by Sanchez and Myrick, and it TANKED. To be fair, it does have its moments– it does a decent job working within the world the original had created (hello, meta!), and it has the distinction of being one of Jeffrey Donovan’s bigger roles during his pre-Burn Notice career– but there’s a reason it tanked: It’s bad. It also didn’t have the advantage of the original Blair Witch Project’s marketing campaign, which, one might argue, is what made it so unique in the first place. I mean, by and large, the world ACTUALLY THOUGHT HEATHER, MIKE, AND JOSH WERE MISSING. That’s dedication, people.
The Mary Sue went on to say that with all of the technology out there that’s been developed since the original film, the time might be ripe for some wacky, creative new marketing campaign, and therefore ripe for a new movie. And I kind of think they’re right: It is exciting to think about. We might end up with an Inside-esque creation, and with the right ideas behind it, as well as the right budget—well, let’s just say that I wonder exactly how far you can take something like that. And what it might do when it gets there.
So I’ll be watching out for this one. What do you think, readers? Good idea/bad idea?