During Microsoft’s E3 2019 conference, we saw expected things like Gears of War 5 and Halo Infinite, but something really special and strange popped up during prime time: Blair Witch.
The trailer for Blair Witch is basically all we know about it, and it lays everything out in front of you. Back in 1996, a guy wanders into the Black Hills Forest to look for a missing child. From there he falls into some kind of shadow world where he and his trusty companion fight off shadow creatures, navigate hell swamps, and encounter people standing in the corner. There’s also a found footage angle, since the trailer opens with someone else running from a monster and looking into a camera to see that guy. There’s a couple angles, and they all look cool.
This last part is the most terrifying one, and it shows that the upcoming Blair Witch game is obviously in conversation with the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project in more ways than simply sharing a name and a penchant for spooky things that come at you from off-screen. The found-footage film classic centered on a documentary team who set out from Burkittsville, Maryland so that they could track down important sites related to Rustin Parr, a man who had killed a number of years previously under the rumored influence of more nefarious forces.
The film is simply documentary footage of their unraveling before a final showdown at an abandoned home where the camera falls dead to the ground as we see a man standing in the corner like a disciplined child. Earlier in the film we learn that this is how Rustin Parr would murder his victims. It’s one of the first times as a film viewer that I put a couple data points together and felt that realization shudder go down my spine. It’s not just a scare. It’s horror. That strategy of the horror of realization worked in 1999, and it works just as well in 2019. It heartens me to see some of that specific Blair Witch energy in the trailer for a project that could be borrowing a name and nothing more. It gives me hope that we’re in for some of those real horror realizations.
That attention to the specificity of The Blair Witch Project, its lore, and maybe even its sequels is going to be important in a game that looks to be split between first-person horror gameplay and some kind of focus on found-footage aesthetics. Games like the Outlast series and Resident Evil VII have already spent a lot of time on what it means to play a “found footage” game by implementing handheld cameras into their game. The latter even uses cameras to allow you to play events that were in the past so that you can learn from them. I’m curious to see how Blair Witch iterates here.
Overall, it looks like this is going to be playing a bit on nostalgia for my generation, and it’s going to introduce a lot of people to the impeccable terror of the Blair Witch mythos. It’s a little bit of comfort food for the horror set, and it looks neat.