The Evil Genius of THE WOODS (How To Properly Revive A Franchise)

Okay, show of hands: who was absolutely surprised by the reveal at SDCC 2016 that Lionsgate’s little project The Woods actually turned out to be a little bit more familiar than we were led to believe? Considering that I can’t see any of your hands (unless you were to post a picture of your raised hand in the comment section, I guess, but who all’s going to do that?) I’m going to assume all of you.

Oh wait, except there were the clever ones of you that picked up on all of the little breadcrumbs Lionsgate left for fans to find and that I completely missed because The Woods wasn’t even on my radar–exactly, I would posit, as Lionsgate planned it.

Anyone who knows literally nothing about any of this and wants to find out for themselves, just cover your eyes and shout “la la la la la la” as loud as you can.

Ha ha. You look ridiculous.

Moving on. Now we all know that Adam Wingard’s The Woods is actually titled Blair Witch. I think I can safely say no one saw this coming, so bravo to whomever thought up the most clever reveal of the century. Now, it seems, the confusion is to whether this upcoming entry is going to be a sequel or a reboot.

I’m here to say “yes” to both theories.

Yup, Blair Witch is actually a reboot OF a sequel. You see, Blair Witch (whether the filmmakers realize it or not) is actually a remake of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. That’s right. I went there, and now I’m going to have some ‘splaining to do:

1: IT’S A SEQUEL TO THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
I mean, you couldn’t guess that? Surprise, surprise. Book of Shadows was ALSO a sequel to The Blair Witch Project! (GASP! NO! IT CAN’T BE TRUE!)

At this point, I should probably embed the trailer for your purview (in case you somehow stumbled upon this article WITHOUT having seen it already).

2: IT’S NOT 100% FOUND FOOTAGE
From the looks of things in the trailer, Blair Witch is going to be a hybrid of found footage and more traditional cinematography. Do you know where else that happened? Book of Shadows, not that it was done well, but the connection is there. Let’s face it, though, found footage is a dying trend. It was a great gimmick all of three times, and it serves far better as a piece of a larger puzzle.

3: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT META-NARRATIVE
The whole plot of Blair Witch seems to kick off with the main characters drawn to the location of the original film by video footage from said original film. Guess where that was done first. If you guessed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers… what are you smoking, man? It was Book of Shadows. On the bright side, it looks like Lionsgate is going to be smarter about it, giving the franchise events a much more linear feel by treating the original footage as actual found footage rather than the… confusingness that Book of Shadows went with. (Seriously, trying to sell us that the entire movie was a mass-media documentary? Hard sell, Artisan Entertainment.)

4: BOOK OF SHADOWS WAS A TERRIBLE FILM
You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it. If our friends at Lionsgate are any kind of smart, they’re going to either ignore or straight up erase the events of that pile of moose caca. I’m not saying that Days of Future Past is the one and only formula for success, but it’s certainly a good role model.

Of course, I could be totally wrong, and they may find some contrived way to retain Book of Shadows into the continuity, but nobody wants that.

5: BOOK OF SHADOWS WASN’T A TERRIBLE IDEA
I know, blasphemy, right? Hear me out. Within all the fecal matter of the movie so bad that they tried burning the soundtrack to the back of the disc to sell more copies, there were some hints of a good sequel. A new group of kids returns to the woods? Pretty cliché, but I see no reason to mess with what works. Reliving the events of the past to reveal the state of the present? Yeah, that could work, especially with the broad room for interpretation The Blair Witch Project gave us in the first place. Rather than starting over from scratch, Blair Witch seems to be taking the good ideas from Book of Shadows and giving us a proper sequel in its stead.

So, on the one hand, you can complain that what was looking to be an original IP turned out to be another sequelboot.

Or, on the other hand, you can complain that Hollywood is yet again trying to strike gold with a product that already struck gold in the first place.

Or, on the other hand, you can appreciate that Lionsgate is taking a creative franchise that was all but dead in the water and revitalizing it with something people might actually enjoy.

Wait, now I have three hands.

I have to go think about this.

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