Archive for February 5, 2017


Adam Wingard is one of those directors that comes along every once in awhile and takes the world of horror by storm, but unlike other “flavors of the month” he seems to have some genuine a) skill; and b) staying power, so when it was (masterfully, I might add) revealed at Comic Con last year that his latest, the 2016-filmed The Woods, was actually a sequel to The Blair Witch Project that was “really” called, simply, Blair Witch, folks got understandably excited — including myself.

Anyone who follows this (hopefully) modest little blog of mine knows that I’m not nearly as “down” on the “found footage” sub-genre as some (okay, most) and still find quite a bit to like in many films that fall into the much-maligned category, but even someone who still holds out some hope for flicks of this sort such as myself will readily admit that good shot in the arm wouldn’t do any harm — and certainly if anyone could deliver it, you’d think the mastermind behind You’re Next and The Guest, together with his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Simon Barrett, would be a natural choice to do so. So, yeah, I confess — I was pumped for this one.

Not pumped enough to get off my ass and catch in when it was playing theaters, though, apparently, since Blair Witch came and went last fall before, to be brutally honest, I really even noticed. But hey, that’s why I still keep a DVD queue going at Netflix, right? And last night I finally got to see the flick (in its extras-free, “bare bones” rental iteration) that everyone was talking about — for all of about five minutes.


The basic premise, then, for those who haven’t checked it out yet : in the now-legendary Black Hills Forest just outside Burkittsville, Maryland, youthful lovers/hikers Lane (played by Wes Robinson) and Talia (portrayed by Valorie Curry) happen across an old -school digital videotape and give the curious item a look when they get home. It’s mostly static and “white noise,” but towards the end there’s some shit we all recognize — a handful of confused young folks scared out of their wits and fighting for survival against an unseen, evil force within the confines of an abandoned house. Like any and all people of their generation, they decide to upload this mysterious footage to the internet, and in fairly short order it’s seen by a guy named James (played by — here we go with the old tropes — James Allen McCune) who believes he may be witnessing the final moments in the life of his long-lost sister, Heather, of original Blair Witch Project fame. Cue our erstwhile protagonist assembling a plucky gang of friends a couple of colorful locals to head into the so-called “Blair Woods” themselves and get some fucking answers — all documented on video, naturally. The problem is, of course, that the same entity that beset Heather and her cohorts hasn’t gone anywhere, and is no more enthusiastic about welcoming visitors to its domain than it was back in 1998. Time to pluck off the interlopers, one by one —


Wingard definitely gets plenty right here, don’t get me wrong : the film’s sound design is something to see — err, sorry, hear — and his production design is skillfully authentic and accentuates the old tingles to the spine. Weirdly effective ambient music does a reasonable job of keeping you feeling somewhat uneasy, too, but in the final analysis the problem here — and you probably knew this was coming — is that the film’s entire middle section feels like the sort of tedious “hand-held-horror” romp that we’ve seen a thousand and one times before because, well, that’s exactly what it is. The cast isn’t too bad, by and large, with special “props” going out to Callie Hernandez and Corbin Reid for their over-and-above-the-call-of-duty performances as Lisa and Ashley, respectively, but some better-than-competent acting and better-than-competent production values aren’t really enough to elevate the proceedings until —-


Yeah, wow. Wingard’s third act, set within the walls of the Rustin Parr house, really shifts things into another gear altogether. It’s as frightening, claustrophobic, hair-raising, tense, and relentless as any 30-or-so minutes you’ve seen in a heck of a long time. You can literally feel people’s sanity slipping away just before their existences do the same. But you could easily be forgiven for having mentally “checked out” of the flick well before all this horrific splendor is unleashed. I loved the final 25% (or thereabouts) of Blair Witch to pieces, but its sheer mastery is something of a two-edged sword — it shows us that Wingard is, indeed, more than capable of making “found footage” horror scary again, arguably maybe even scarier than it’s ever been. But it also leaves you feeling more than a bit disappointed that he waited until so late in the film to really give it his all.





I really don’t know how well Daredevil is selling these days, but it must be doing alright since Marvel is launching no fewer than three spin-off titles under their new “Running With The Devil” umbrella label this month. Kingpin hits next week with Elektra following the week after, but first out of the gate is Bullseye #1, the opening salvo of a five-part miniseries from writer Ed Brisson, artist Guillermo Sanna, and colorist Miroslav Mrva. The premise of sending the world’s deadliest assassin into the middle of the Colombian drug war in order to rescue a dying mob boss’s kid sounded reasonably interesting, and Brisson impressed the heck out of me with his gritty, “street-level” Image series The Violent, so I figured what the heck? Nothing to lose — except five bucks, I suppose — in giving this debut installment a go.

Allow me to bitch for just a second about that five dollar thing for a minute before we go any further, though. Marvel’s been pulling this hustle for the last couple of years, and frankly it’s getting pretty old — they’ll take a standard-length comic, tack on a generally-useless eight-page back-up feature (this one by Marv Wolfman, Alec Morgan, and Frank Martin), and add a buck to the cover price, claiming they’re giving you a “extra-sized first issue.” So I sure hope you like that back-up strip (this one wasn’t bad, but it was hardly anything special), because it’s literally costing you a dollar. Okay, rant over, let’s talk about the main feature.


I’ll get right to it and say this book has no consistent visual style whatsoever — Sanna seems like a decent enough artist for this sort of crime comic, but he bobs and weaves between drawing in a style that’s mostly his own on some pages and doing a kind of poor man’s approximation of Eduardo Risso on others. Mrva’s colors give things a little bit more of an air of consistency than they might otherwise have, but the actual line art? Man, it can’t decide what it even wants to be, let alone do. Hopefully subsequent issues will give us a more confident and less derivative Sanna unafraid to show us what he’s got, but this debut installment looks more than a bit — I dunno, schizophrenic, I guess.


Unfortunately, Brisson’s script isn’t a whole hell of a lot better. Inconsistency is again at the forefront of the problems here, with Bullseye showing a distinct and, to be honest, highly unprofessional flair for the dramatic that isn’t gonna get you too far in the assassin-for-hire racket, where you’d assume that keeping a low profile would be of paramount importance. Bullseye’s showmanship gives rise to a pretty damn cool sequence where he creates absolute havoc on the streets with nothing more than a couple of well-aimed paperclips while he’s meeting with his agent in an office upstairs and well away from the mayhem, but between nearly fucking up the assignment he’s on at the start of the comic by being more than a bit too enthusiastic and announcing his arrival in Colombia in a manner that’s the absolute opposite of the old adage “you won’t see that coming” at the end, this iteration of Bullseye seems uncharacteristically flashy and, well, sloppy. The end result? A character that’s both decidedly less dangerous and, crucially, less interesting.


So, yeah, I’m really not sure where things are headed over the next four issues, but this much I can say with absolute certainty — I won’t be hanging around to find out. If I hear that Brisson, Sanna, and company have turned things around, I suppose that I could be tempted to probably give the trade collection ago once it’s all over, but there’s no reason offered here to keep plunking down $3.99 a month for single issues of this series. Bullseye’s calm, cool, sociopathic sense of confidence and control has always been his defining trait, and to see that tossed out the window right off the bat is a risky gamble to take with the character, and one that just doesn’t pay off. I had reasonably high hopes for this comic based on Brisson’s pedigree alone, but I’m sorry to report this was just a lousy comic.

At the risk of sounding hopelessly cliched, Bullseye #1 misses the mark by a country mile.