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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blair Witch Version 2.0, 26 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Paranormal Activity [DVD] (DVD)
The reason I have titled this review "Blair Witch Version 2.0" is because this is actually a very similar film. Just change the setting from the woods to a seemingly ordinary house, switch the three college kids making a video project to a young couple who are trying to capture strange goings-on in their home with a video camera. Move the time setting from the mid 90's to the mid-2000's, with the same idea that the footage was recovered sometime after the event, then subsequently compiled into a film for our pleasure. And there you have it.

The shaky, hand-held camera style of filming from The Blair Witch Project [DVD] [1999] (and also Cloverfield [DVD] [2007]) is present here, as is the eventually constant bickering between the main characters. They are trying to capture the strange phenomena occurring in the house while they sleep, and for much of the film, the eeriness only happens at night, with the daylight spent analysing and arguing over what happened, and what they should do next.

Even before you watch the film, the DVD increases expectations of fear by supplying a kind of post-viewing recovery guide within the case (containing helpful suggestions for how to cope after seeing this supposedly bed-wettingly scary film, such as "Open a window" and "Breath in and out slowly", etc.). The film itself is pretty successful at building up an atmosphere of fear and dread through the use of it's hand-held camera style and through the way that the night time bedroom scenes are filmed. The camera is positioned so that you not only get a clear view of the sleeping victims but also of the darkened, open doorway. The bumps, crashes, moving objects and occasional inhuman voices that perpetuate the couple's nights seem to be preparing you for the real terror. This raises the expectation that something truly terrifying is about to happen... eventually.

But, I cannot give this film more than 3 out of 5 here. For me it just didn't ever pack the punch that it promised to deliver with all of it's creepy, lo-fi build up. Only one part of the film made me jump, which came very late on and didn't really disturb me at all after it had happened. Once you are over the strange noises and movements, and expecting something more frightening, very little materialises. I was watching on a large TV screen in my living room the dark from 10.30 pm onwards, just to ramp up the fear factor, and still I slept very well afterwards. The fact that I slept like a baby straight after watching means it can't have been a particularly successful horror in my opinion, but that's just how I judge it.

On the positive side, unlike quite a lot of reviewers I found the acting of the two leads very believable and quite realistic. I also found them a lot more likeable than the Blair Witch characters. The way that the visuals were carried off on such a low budget was also commendable. But it seems like the Hollywood hype-machine has done the job again, just like it did about 10 years ago on the last generation of teenagers who got hooked on 'Blair'. A missed opportunity, but as missed opportunities go it's not the worst thing you'll ever see. Just don't expect to be traumatised.

If you like horror films which feature similar themes to this one why not try the classic The Exorcist [DVD] [1974] (if you haven't already seen it) or Sam Raimi's brilliant, darkly comic demon-possession film Drag Me to Hell [DVD] [2009].
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Location: England

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