Though it may not feel like a decade and a half has gone by, The Blair Witch Project premiered at a midnight screening Sundance in 1999. Almost immediately, the movie kicked off a word-of-mouth phenomenon that trickled out to every demographic, becoming a mainstream hit in the same year. The movie also pioneered an effective (and now totally recognizable) online marketing plan that had me and everyone else I knew questioning the movie's authenticity. Sure, we knew it was fiction, but that little seed of doubt they managed to plant created most of the horror for me, and it's something I haven't experienced to the same degree since.
I may be a little older and marginally wiser now, but I can't help but crave that same feeling when the lights dim in a theater. The Blair Witch Project managed to capture a specific time so well that it's hard to imagine what a sequel from the director might look like, which is all the more reason I want it to happen.
Well, now a third Blair Witch Project movie may be coming our way, as one of the original directors, Eduardo Sanchez, has made some pretty promising (albeit vague) announcements. In an interview with Dread Central, Sanchez pointed to progress when asked about the future of the franchise:
We have been talking to Lionsgate and there has been a little bit of movement but nothing is concrete. The film seems inevitable to me, but really it’s just a matter of it being the right time. I’m thinking it’s going to happen sooner than later at this point, but I always say that. There’s always rumblings and certain ideas being pushed around and such. While I don’t have anything firm to talk about now, it wouldn’t surprise me if something happened within the next year or two.
Any fans who've been keeping tabs on Sanchez know that this isn't the first time that he's made claims like this, but the word "inevitable" isn't always tossed around.
Some may be surprised that this would be a third movie. In 2000, production company Artisan Entertainment wanted to capitalize on the overwhelming success of The Blair Witch Project, so they got an entirely new director for the speedy sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. The resulting movie felt like a much different experience, and aside from some cult fans, people have generally forgotten about it.
With that said, who knows what could have been done with a sequel if the original team is assembled and given a reasonable amount of time to develop a concept. During the fifteen year gap between the original and today, there have been massive changes in the horror genre that the new movie would have to address.
So, what could it look like? If this does move forward—and that's a big IF—I can see it being a return to form of the first Blair Witch. Back in 2009, Sanchez sat down for an interview and laid down some possible hints for a future film. Here's how he envisioned another installment could look:
A completely different kind of movie
Though The Blair Witch Project has, like it or not, a distinctive style that has become immediately recognizable, Sanchez may just move into entirely new territory for his follow-up. He said, "Ideally, each Blair Witch film would be a completely different kind of movie...like a Stanley Kubrick movie with gritty looking people and lighting." Okay, so Kubrick is a REALLY high bar to set for yourself, but I can appreciate the enthusiasm! I'd be interested to see what this might mean for a Blair Witch sequel, especially if it turns out to be such a departure from the original.
No more hand-held camera work
Sanchez has stated that he wants to get away from a first-person, hand-held format but retain "some kind of video element" to his next Blair Witch story. This would be an interesting yet understandable choice for the director. The Blair Witch Project helped kick off a full-blown craze of found footage movies in the period between that premiere and today. From Cloverfield to REC, some of these movies have really succeeded in this approach, but it has become a hallmark of horror today. It would make complete sense for Sanchez to innovate the genre with a whole new technique this time around.
Period piece or direct sequel?
Considering how trend-based Hollywood tends to be, perhaps what will really get this movie off the ground is another horror about the occult: Sundance success story, The Witch. Sanchez said that he "thought about doing a film that takes place in the late 1700s," a choice that would drastically change the Blair Witch tone that has become synonymous with found footage. Now that The Witch, an atmospheric Salem tale about a family that turns on each other, has been sold for distribution, maybe Sanchez just needs to see that the audience is still there for another period horror.
However, in the same interview, he also said that they're "thinking about going back and seeing what happened directly after the first film finished." In other words, redoing the first sequel. Based on these two options, I've got to admit that I'm more intrigued by traveling back to the early days in the American colonies. That location alone is ripe with scare potential, and it would be an interesting deviation from his contemporary horror roots.
So, we horror fans are left on the hook yet again. Despite this being 15 years in the making, I'm a sucker for a comeback story. I'd love to see another Blair Witch rule the next phase of the genre, but first Sanchez is going to have to give us some more substantial leads.
How do you feel about another Blair Witch sequel? Is that something horror needs right now, or just another return to a highly successful franchise?