Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Blair Witch ahead
People just can't stay out of the woods. 22 years after student filmmakers Heather, Mike and Josh vanished while making a documentary film about the Blair Witch (according to the marketing, at least), and 17 years after their story spooked audiences to the tune of $248 million at the box office, a surprise sequel has wound its way into theaters. Directed by Adam Wingard, Blair Witch's primary tether to The Blair Witch Project is Heather's brother James (James Allen McCune), who takes a group of his friends into the woods around Burkittsville to look for his sister (or, at least, some evidence of what happened to her) after the contents of a newly-found DV tape are uploaded to the Internet by a couple of locals.
Blair Witch expands heavily on the mythology of its titular menace (presumed to be Elly Kedward, a woman who left to die in the woods by locals in 1785, though this isn't entirely certain), and also on other connected happenings in the woods - most notably, the antics of serial killer Rustin Parr. One of the many spooky stories told in The Blair Witch Project, Parr killed seven Burkittsville children in the 1940s, and said that he did so because "voices" instructed him to. The creepy detail of how Parr would make one of his victims stand and face the corner while he killed the other set up the final scare of The Blair Witch Project, and is the backbone of Blair Witch's ending as well.
First, a quick breakdown of what happens at the end of Blair Witch. The two remaining survivors, James and Lisa (Callie Hernandez) stumble across the house from the end of The Blair Witch Project. James sees a light in the house and believes that Heather is inside, so he runs in to try and find her. Lisa, terrified, refuses to go in until the cacophony of noise and chaos out in the woods (not to mention a brief glimpse of the Blair Witch) drives her inside as well. James searches frantically for his sister, and in one of the rooms in the house he sees what appears to be his friend Peter (Brandon Scott) standing in the corner - echoing the final moments of The Blair Witch Project.
While they are running around the house, both Lisa and James see the Blair Witch - a tall, humanoid creature with elongated limbs. As noted earlier in the movie, Elly Kedward was hung from a tree with rocks tied to her arms and legs, like a makeshift rack, which may explain the creature's appearance. Also inside the house is Lane (Wes Robinson) who vanished into the woods previously in the film and returned less than a day later, claiming he had been wandering for five days. When Lisa runs into him again, Lane is heavily bearded and amazed that Lisa looks exactly the same as the last time he saw her. Lane hits Lisa and then throws her down a trapdoor into a tunnel, which she is forced to crawl through in order to escape. The tunnel gets increasingly narrow and Lisa keeps getting stuck, but is spurred to continue when she hears something approaching from behind her. Eventually, the tunnel opens out in another part of the basement, where Lisa runs into Lane and stabs him in the throat.
James and Lisa meet up in the attic, where a bright light briefly shines through the windows and cracks in the walls, before fading. The two of them decide to stand and face the corner, since the legends suggest that the witch can only kill them if they look directly at her. However, the witch tricks James into turning around by speaking to him in his sister's voice, and then tricks Lisa into turning around by speaking to her in James' voice. The movie ends on a shot from Lisa's dropped camera, which eventually cuts to black.
So - what does this all mean, and how does it connect to the original movie?
The Time Warp
The witch's ability to compress and warp time is introduced about halfway through the movie, when Lane and Talia emerge from the woods after experiencing five or six days without any sunlight, while less than a day has passed for the rest of the group. This never-ending darkness then takes over for the rest of the movie, either because the night has been extended or (as the brief flash of light through the attic windows may indicate) because the daytime has been extremely accelerated. It's clear that the entity in the woods can not only manipulate time, she can also trap individual people in their own, separate pockets of time.
One of the most talked-about aspects of Blair Witch, though some may have missed it, is that the tape found at the beginning of the film is the same tape that Lisa makes on her final, doomed rush through the house. The tape was somehow sent back in time and left as bait to lure James and his friends to their deaths in the woods. Note, also, that the house was supposed to have burned down decades ago, and could not be found by any of the search parties that went looking for Heather, Mike and Josh (the lightning-struck tree outside the house at the end of the movie is the same tree where the DV tape was found, but when Talia and Lane found the tape the house was not there). This indicates that the house - and, indeed, the rest of the woods - exist in a separate dimension, where time behaves differently relative to the outside world. It also opens up the intriguing possibility that the characters in Blair Witch might actually have crossed paths with the characters of The Blair Witch Project (more on that later).
The Space Warp
In The Blair Witch Project, the three characters walk south all day, only to find themselves back where they started. The explanation for this is left unclear in the original - was the witch messing with their compass to make them walk in circles, manipulating their minds to make them confused about which way they were going, or physically moving the forest around them? By being more overt with its use of impossible space, Blair Witch indicates that the final possibility is the correct one.
The loud crashing, booming and creaking noises heard throughout Blair Witch could very well be the sounds of the forest physically shifting around the characters, in order to ensure that they can't find their way out. The drone camera, on its second flight, shows that the nearby road has disappeared, and there is nothing but trees all around. This manipulation of space is amplified when James and Lisa enter the house, which appears to shift around them (at one point they are surprised to find themselves in the attic).
Facing the Corner
One of the iconic images of The Blair Witch Project is Mike standing in the basement of the house, facing the corner, just before Heather is presumably killed and the camera is dropped. Blair Witch clarifies the importance of standing and staring into the corner by adding a footnote to the folk tale: that the witch's appearance is so terrifying, anyone who looks at her will die immediately (basically, she's Medusa). This is complicated somewhat by the fact that the witch is glimpsed numerous times prior to James and Lisa standing in the corner, so it's a bit late for them to avoid seeing her. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the rule about not looking at the witch is just a odd bit of folklore, and that facing the corner actually does nothing to protect people from her.
As established in The Blair Witch Project, the entity in the woods can mimic people's voices as a trick to lure people into trying to find them. Josh, for example, is heard calling out to Mike and Heather after they have heard him screaming all night, and Heather has found his teeth and blood inside a bundle tied up with tattered strips of his shirt. Rustin Parr also said that he killed his victims because "voices" told him to do it, but did not say that the voices were that of the witch.
At the end of Blair Witch, the witch uses this little trick to get James and Lisa to turn around. First she speaks to James in Heather's voice (which neither Lisa nor the audience can hear). Then, after James has presumably been killed, the witch uses his voice to trick Lisa into turning around (both Lisa and the audience can hear this, perhaps because the footage shown is recorded on Lisa's camera).
Bonus Theory: Who Killed Heather, Mike and Josh?
As mentioned previously, the time travel elements add an interesting dimension to Blair Witch. Some fans have theorized that the new cast of characters might actually have been in the woods at the same time as Heather, Mike and Josh. After all, if the witch can create perpetual night, send tapes back in time, and affect the amount of time experienced by different characters, then bridging a gap of 20 years certainly isn't out of the question.
One potential implication of this is that the stick figures found by the Blair Witch Project trio were actually the ones put there by Lane and Talia (Valorie Curry). The fact that Lane appears after having spent a substantial amount of time at the witch's mercy and doing her bidding also raises the possibility that he might have been forced to terrorize or even kill Heather, Mike and Josh. After all, James hears his sister's voice inside the house and runs in to try and find her, which could be the witch playing a trick... or could actually be Heather inside the house. At the end of The Blair Witch Project, she does indeed run up to the top floor (where James sees the light), and she is calling for Mike and Josh. Perhaps that is what James heard and saw.
Finally, if we accept the possibility that James and Lisa were in the house at the same time as Heather, Mike and Josh, it's also possible that Rustin Parr played a role in the deaths of some or all of them. Though according to Blair Witch lore the serial killer was executed in 1941, he could have done a bit of time travelling during his time spent in the house.
Do you have your own theories about the ending of Blair Witch and how it connects to The Blair Witch Project? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Blair Witch is in theaters now.