Blair Witch, the sequel to the immensely successful 1999 found-footage film, has been out for a week now, and I’m still thinking about that ending.
First up, I really dug Blair Witch. It successfully connects to the original while expanding the mythology and setting up a mystery for future chapters – while also creeping me out on multiple occasions. And while existing within the supernatural horror framework, the movie appears to also exist in an almost science-fiction-esque parallel dimension.
With that in mind, I asked screenwriter Simon Barrett about the ending of the movie, and what he and director Adam Wingard were setting out to do. Barrett shares quite a bit, but not all of it, and emphasizes there is a lot more happening in the movie than he cares to reveal. Still, I was able to pry a bit out of him.
Needless to say, there are huge spoilers ahead. If you haven’t yet seen Blair Witch, bookmark this article, head to the cinema, and head back here afterward. If you have already seen it, read ahead for a glimpse at the methods behind the witchy madness.
[Final warning: Big spoilers abound, but check out my non-spoilery interview with Simon Barrett.]
At the beginning of the movie we see a video uploaded by Burkittsville resident Lane (Wes Robinson), which is what draws Heather’s brother James (James Allen McCune) back into the woods. We also seem to have lots of hints and images that suggest time is in flux in the woods, and everything in this movie – and perhaps the original – is almost existing simultaneously in the witch’s cursed world.
Simply put, what do you think you’ve fleshed out with this mythology, and what does the ending mean?
Well, okay. There is so much to talk about. When I was writing the script, at a certain point, it hit me that a lot of the scenes that I’d originally conceived as being creepy or unnerving might look totally lame if shot in broad daylight in a beautiful forest. That turned out to be the case. In the daylight, our forest looked quite lovely! It’s kind of hard to make that scary. I kept trying to think, I wish the whole script could take place at night. I realized, this is the Blair Witch.
The first film established the idea that once you’re trapped in the curse of the woods, the haunting itself, space and time start to change. They start to experience space and time differently in the first film. It does not really clarify that a whole lot; it certainly feels that way when they stumble across the Rustin Parr house at the end of the first film. It feels like it wasn’t there just a few minutes prior. I wanted to explore that further. It is clear that, for example, the tree Lane says he finds the video at is the same videotape his camera uses. We show that tree later in the film is outside the house, meaning, to me, the tree didn’t move. The woods have changed. So we are showing, spatially, how they’d end up in the same place but they’re now in a different period. I like the idea that the Blair Witch, whatever it is to people, can bend space and time. I wanted to explore that in different ways.
Discuss the role of that time shift, and how the ending is perhaps the beginning.
The one you’re particularly flagging, which is the time loop that takes place over the narrative of the film, I did try to throw in a bunch of hints as to how that would work. But I don’t want to totally explain it. Adam and I have already said we’re not even going to talk about this on the Blu-ray commentary, because, to me, it’s there. If you can accept that space and time are affected by this haunting, this is a kind of interdimensional thing – which makes as much sense as any aspect of the mythology – then you can start to track all the different ways the characters are experiencing that. But, right now, the main one people will flag is that there is an overall time loop.
That goes back to when Lionsgate said they wanted it to be the younger brother of the Heather character. Something I liked about that was the idea was the woods was luring people in, and the witch requires sacrifice. That has always been part of the mythology. That was Rustin Parr, that was Elly Kedward. The witch, whatever it is, requires sacrifice for its powers. And it has been a long time since 1994. I like the idea that’s how they’re lure in. And ultimately we reveal they themselves lured themselves in.
And why is Lane, the local enthusiast, an important conduit to this evil?
Who else would be driven to go out to the woods when the town has tried to bury this? The only person it could really reach out to was someone who was obsessed with this stuff, and some locals obsessed with this stuff. That is the way it augments the haunting itself.
There is a lot going on with all the different things. With the Eileen Treacle stuff. The various kinds of transformations and whatnot.
Again, Adam and I said we’re not even going to clarify this stuff. But we put all the hints in there but don’t want to totally explain our version of it.