The Original 'Blair Witch' Team Pitched A Prequel Set In 18th Century New England

The first sequel to The Blair Witch Project arrived only 15 months after the release of the original movie. The second sequel took another 16 years to manifest, arriving in theaters just three days ago. While the franchise lay dormant for over a decade, it turns out that there were attempts to revive it in the years between Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and Blair Witch, one of which was a prequel pitched by the same team that made the original movie.

In an excellent piece published over at IndieWire, producer Gregg Hale and directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez talk at length about their careers after the release of The Blair Witch Project, which established them in a huge way while also placing them in a box. Although they never set out to be "horror filmmakers," they suddenly found themselves trapped in the genre, unable to find funding for a romantic comedy they wanted to get made.

A few years after Book of Shadows arrived with a box office whimper, Hale, Myrick, and Sanchez went to Lionsgate with a pitch for a Blair Witch prequel. Set in 18th century New England, the film would have delved into the origins of the evil forces glimpsed in the 1999 original. However, Hale explained that the studio simply wasn't interested in that take:

We were definitively shut down. They instinctively wanted something more distinctly connected to the original film. As the guys who had made the first film, it was weird for us to go back to the found footage well.

Sanchez himself elaborated – despite being the guys behind one of the most profitable movies of all time and despite having an elaborate mythology mapped out for the entire franchise, they had no say in what happened next:

We would've loved to make a Blair Witch movie. They just decided to go in a different direction. We had no power. It's not ours — it belongs to Lionsgate.

Despite all of this, Hale, Myrick and Sanchez have been supportive of the new movie. In fact, in my interview with Blair Witch director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, the duo cites their friendship with the original filmmaking team as being a key reason for their involvement. Hale has only positive things to say about what Barrett and Wingard did with the world they created:

Simon is a very meticulous writer who really did his research. We just made sure that if he deviated from the mythology, the deviation made sense [...] I was honored, honestly, that the original material still held an important place in these guys' hearts.

Blair Witch is in theaters now, earning divisive reactions from all who see it. If that prequel pitch intrigues you, I recommend you seek out Robert Eggers' The Witch, which remains one of the best movies of 2016 so far.