Blair Witch Producer Talks Sequels

I really enjoyed the movie. I even did a literal armrest grip for most of the second half. But I watched the original the night before and it’s a very different movie. It’s a slow descent into madness while your movie is a chase movie. It’s a roller coaster. Was that an early decision? To make a movie that was so different from the first one?

Wingard: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It was like, if we’re going to do this… roller coaster is the exact right word. That was our goal all along. Let’s take the Blair Witch world and make it a thrill ride. If we tried to do the same thing the first film did, the authenticity would be lost because of the years of found footage movies that have come out since then. And the first film just did it so well. You go back and look at it and no one has topped it in terms of realism and authenticity. The total commitment to reality in that film is still unparalleled. For us, it was like “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to what I would’ve imagined a sequel to be when I was in high school when the first came out.” I wanted to see an amped-up version of Blair Witch. Maybe that’s because we were coming off the V/H/S films and those are very amped-up found footage horror films. Maybe that’s just our voice within the medium. Absolutely. That was cooked in from the start.

How do you construct a movie that is, by design, one very long chase built out of various set pieces? Do you make a list of scenes that you think will be scary and go from there?

Barrett: Speaking to what Adam said, we knew we wanted to do something very different and very thrilling from the original because the original is perfect in that they authentically created the experiment of the film itself and that’s how they made the movie. It was about trying to find a way to make the movie feel relentless. At a script level, that’s easier to do than at a filmmaking level because I can just write a bunch of horrible stuff! The reality of actually having to build that and figure it out is difficult. It was really about that segue into lulling the audience… into getting the audience used to the style of the movie so that when we fully transition to the truly horrific set pieces, you are hopefully completely with the characters and completely experiencing those moments.

One thing I tried to do in the script is that I tried to never have the same kind of scare twice. We have a lot of jump scares at the beginning of the film, but the one time we do the same scare twice, a character calls attention to it. There are a lot of different ways you can be unnerved by found footage filmmaking and I really hoped that our film could contain all of them, as much as we could possibly get in there. I find that when I watch modern horror movies, if the scares are the same it gets monotonous to me. And predictable. We didn’t want to make something that was predictable. We wanted to make something that had that same unsafe and surprising feeling of the original film while being more of a tightly constructed and very technically challenging and, hopefully, entertaining and rewarding horror experience. Ideally. I love the first film and it’s very frightening, but it’s frightening in a very unique, ideas-based way. The first film did that. It’s us trying to do something different.

Wingard: One of the things that is unique about found footage is the way that your story and your style are integrated within one. Early on, when we were first talking about what this thing would be, our first discussion was about the different perspectives we could show within the film. Simon had already decided, quite wisely, on the Bluetooth camera idea, which allows us to give you the POV experience. One of the things I brought to the table, just as an idea… We had just done The Guest and on that film we had used a drone camera for a few shots and we realized these things were really cool and we hadn’t really seen anybody really utilize them before.

Naturally, you first inclination when you have a budget of any kind, and this was the biggest budget we’ve had to date even though it wasn’t that much bigger than The Guest, the first thought is how do we get a helicopter shot to get scope into it? The drone was a cool way to do that without breaking the rules of the found footage thing. But when you introduce something like that, you have to come up with a set piece around it. The idea of using this camera informed one of Simon’s set pieces. That was one of the trickiest ones to figure out. The tricky thing about a drone is that it’s not attached to any of the characters, so how do you come up with a horror set piece that none of the characters are around? Fortunately, Simon came up with the great tree set piece, which is one of my favorites now.

Barrett: I think you came up with that.

Wingard: I think it was one of those things where we kept fleshing it out. Originally, you just saw something moving in the trees–

Barrett: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Wingard: And then we took that out. That’s how these things progress. That’s the cool thing about found footage. It starts with the perspective and you go from there.

So what’s next? I know Adam is working on Death Note, but is there anything Simon can talk about?

Barrett: I think the only thing I’m talking about right now is the script for the I Saw the Devil remake, which Adam is directing.

I had forgotten you guys were doing that! The original is one of my favorite movies.

Barrett: That’s still somewhat in the… I think we will be making that film pretty soon. And I think it will be hopefully pretty great.

Wingard: Death Note we just wrapped. I literally wrapped the day before we went to [the Toronto International Film Festival] on Sunday and came straight there. I’m in this weird whirlwind of wrapping one movie and releasing another. In a week or so, I go back into the editing room on Death Note and just get started on it. I think it turned out great. I think it’s going to be a really wild movie.

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Blair Witch is now in theaters.

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