Though Warner Bros. and Marvel largely hogged the limelight at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend, with countless teasers and trailer drops for their anticipated upcoming features, it was one totally unexpected announcement from Lionsgate that stole the show for me. Yes, you know the one: The Woods is officially a sequel to '99's groundbreaking horror movie The Blair Witch Project, and now carries the new title Blair Witch. There's an official new trailer, full synopsis and poster to boot.
The big reveal was met with a booming TOLD YOU SO from savvy guys over at Bloody Disgusting, who began churning the rumor mill back in April, shortly after The Woods was first announced. The story goes that they'd heard "rumbles" regarding a sequel over at Lionsgate — the studio that conveniently holds the rights to The Blair Witch Project — which, when paired with the movie's super similar narrative — “… a group of college students on a camping trip who discover they are not alone" — pretty much screamed "it's happening." And, low and behold, they were right.
The Signs Were Hiding In The Woods
However, it would seem that you actually didn't need a hook-up at Lionsgate to spot the signs; they were literally hiding in the woods this whole time! A detail-attentive fan named Poul Farnham first clocked it, let's see if you can too.
Here's the original poster for The Woods:
Notice anything? No?
How about now?
Ok, so maybe that was wishful thinking, but then take a look at the first trailer released back in May and see if you can spot the Blair Witch sign here, too:
Blink and you would'll missed it. Actually, even if you stare wide-eyed like I've just done multiple times and you'd still miss it. But it's there, right after the word "Hiding" flashes on the screen.
Sneaky! The signs were literally before our eyes this entire time! Yet the sneakiness was the perfect way to pay homage to the groundbreaking marketing strategy of The Blair Witch Project OG back in the late '90s, which you'll find a basic run-down of below — just incase you've been standing in the corner of a creepy woodland cabin for the past 17 years.
A Marketing Masterpiece — The Blair Witch Project Campaign
Synopsis: The Blair Witch Project followed the story of three student filmmakers, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams who were investigating the supernatural legend of the Blair Witch. They interviewed locals and then ventured into the Black Hills forest with their recording equipment, never to be seen again.
- In June 1998, Haxan Films released a website — www.blairwitch.com, which still exists today and is well worth a look — that documented the history of the Blair Witch from the legend's birth in 1785 until October 1997, when the filmmakers rediscovered footage was released to their families. These families then employed Haxan to help piece the puzzle together for them. The website included detailed biographies of the filmmakers, childhood photographs, images of the aftermath, recorded news footage from the time and journal excerpts. Essentially, it reads like a time capsule and solidifies the belief that the movie is based on true events.
- Then they shot a number of deeply chilling trailers and released them in niche locations: in college campuses and during a special feature on the Sci-Fi Channel, avoiding mainstream cinema ads completely. This stroke of genius meant that not only did the filmmakers save themselves a ton of cash but they instilled a feeling of discovery in their audience — a sense they'd stumbled across something special.
- Additionally, each of the three filmmakers' IMDb profiles were listed as "missing, presumed dead."
- Lastly, on the opening weekend in July '99, a full-page ad was taken out in Variety Magazine that simply noted the website and 21,222,589 — the number of hits the site had by that date. Its message was simple: You cannot afford to miss out.
The Blair Witch Project became the first viral campaign in film history, widely marketed online and was commended for its inventiveness. It's pretty damn awesome, then, that Blair Witch has credited the original with a little of its groundbreaking sneak, though it might have been a little cooler if they'd kept the cat in the bag until the movie hit theaters on September 16. Don't you think?
What do you make of the Blair Witch Comic-Con reveal?