So it turned out the secretive latest collaboration between director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett originally known as THE WOODS was in actuality a new BLAIR WITCH movie! And despite it doubling its production budget last weekend upon its release, the sequel/reboot didn’t nearly do as well as everyone would have hoped. For myself personally, I dug the movie. And the original film’s star Heather Donahue agrees! I was hoping for it to be a huge hit for one simple reason. Well, OK. 3 simple reasons. Public thirst for more BLAIR WITCH would encourage Lionsgate to dip into their vaults and perhaps release some other BLAIR WITCH related goodies!
You have to remember how big this thing got back in 1999. I recently broke out my “Special Limited Edition Collector’s Set,” THE BLAIR WITCH EXPERIENCE, in prep for the new flick. It came with DVD versions of both films in the franchise, as well as 3 freakin’ Blair Witch PC games! I kid you not! Volume I: Rustin Parr, Volume II: The Legend Of Coffin Rock and Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale. (I am so going to play these soon and will report back to you guys.)
Anyways, whether the following will ever happen is yet to be determined, but here are 3 long-lost BLAIR WITCH projects that I hope one day will see the light of day!
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: EXTENDED CUT
As most die-hard fans know, there was approximately 19 hours’ worth of footage shot and edited together into the final 81 minute theatrical version of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I imagine that director’s Edwardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick selected what they felt at the time was the best possible footage to tell a tight, succinct story. But now, all these years later, Sanchez has expressed interest in going back to the original footage and putting together an “extended cut.” Once he mentioned it publicly, a fan petition immediately popped up in support of the proposed “extended cut.” It’d be interesting to see THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT from a slightly different angle and see if any of the footage left on the cutting room floor could enhance the scares. Just don’t mess with that ending! Love it or hate it, I still find the closing 5 minutes of BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to be terrifying, and if you own the DVD or Blu-Ray, you’ve probably seen the alternate versions of the ending. Which by the way, I recall getting an advance retailer copy of the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT VHS tape. When it came to the conclusion, a title card came up that actually said, “to see the shocking finale, buy THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT on so-and-so date!” I’m still angry about that one. Anyways, they definitely made the right call with the ending hey chose! And the rest, as they say, is horror history!
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT/CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH Hybrid Cut
When THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came to home video, it was accompanied by a 45 minute documentary by Sanchez, Myrick and Ben Rock titled CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH, which outlined a lot of the local myths and urban legends in a mockumentary format. That includes the Elly Kedward story, and Rustin Parr’s confession to murdering the town’s children. Oh, and it’s got this dude in it who claims to be a witch.
I’ve always found the CURSE doc to be just as compelling as the film. I’m not sure if someone out there has already tried this, but I’d love to see a hybrid cut of the actual film with the CURSE documentary. Basically, if you condensed the most terrifying aspects of the movie, including the grand finale and tacked it on to the end of CURSE in the “the following footage you are about to see is all real” way, could that be a cool, alternate version of the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? If someone out there has already done this, let me know!
Joe Berlinger’s “Director’s Cut” of BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2
Last but not least, I want to see Joe Berlinger’s original “director’s cut” of BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2. And here’s the thing, I can confirm with you that it does still exist and a copy of it resides somewhere within the walls of the Lionsgate building. How do I know, you ask? Well, let’s go back a minute. The BLAIR WITCH sequel was rushed into production to capitalize on the success of the original and in theaters within a year of the first film. Berlinger, most well-known for his award winning PARADISE LOST documentaries, approached his narrative debut feature as something of a satire on the original movie. And then asked “what if you did something terrible and had no recollection of it?” To this day, I still love it for trying something so bold and outside the box. But alas, even the version that played theatrical was compromised. The studio re-cut the film and inserted additional “gore” and “violence” shots to make it more of a horror movie. I’m not sure if the Marilyn Manson and Godsmack soundtrack were originally there to begin with, but it definitely all feels like a soundtrack thrown together to capitalize on the success of this title.
Back when I was working at FEARnet, one of our programming people went to Lionsgate (our parent home) and dug out a DVD of Berlinger’s original “director’s cut.” He reported back that it was excellent and we were hoping to premiere this never-before-seen alternate version on FEARnet, pending Berlinger’s approval. And then… FEARnet was folded into Chiller and dissolved and everyone forgot about it. But I know it exists and it’s out there!
It’s yet to be determined if we’ll ever see more of the BLAIR WITCH considering the underwhelming performance of the most recent film, but like any horror villain, you can’t keep a good franchise down.