As I watched 2016’s Blair Witch, I couldn’t put my finger on why I found the presence of two black characters in the main cast so striking. I mean, there have been other horror movies with multiple black cast members amongst the primary cast — typically, a “black guy/black gal” couple whose main expression of love is dying together at the hands of an undead serial killer or an inbred cannibal clan. But then it hit me: it’s because the black presence in mainstream horror has diminished so much in recent years, thanks to “white fright” paranormal fare that has all but eliminated people of color. In a time when it’s been a stretch to get as many as one major black character in a single movie, the reboot Blair Witch stands out by daring to have TWO (plus a Latina lead) — granted, they’re not the main stars and thus are glaringly killable.
The story picks up 20 years after the events of The Blair Witch Project (ignoring the ill-advised Blair Witch 2), with someone posting a video online purported to have been found in the Burkittsville woods where the film crew from the original film went missing. James (James Allen McCune), whose older sister Heather was one of the missing trio, sees the video and contacts the weirdos who published it, Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), in hopes of venturing into the woods to find the house where Heather was last seen in the footage.
James’ childhood bestie Peter (Brandon Scott) comes along, accompanied by his girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid), as well as friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who’s filming James’ journey for her documentary class project.
Of course, any supporting character in a movie like this — black or otherwise, but ESPECIALLY black — is probably royally screwed (and frankly, with found footage, everyone usually ends up dead or missing), but it becomes so obvious by the 20-minute mark that black couple Peter and Ashely are goners, I was tempted to just fast-forward to their inevitable deaths.
Through basic “horror scenario reasoning,” they’re each pegged as victims — Peter by virtue of being a vocal skeptic of the Blair Witch’s existence (not to mention being a bit of a hothead) and Ashely by getting injured almost immediately upon entering the woods, meaning she’ll be A) so whiny the audience will want her to die and B) too slow to evade the bringer of said death.
Things naturally play out as expected — both for the black couple and for everyone else involved, a disappointingly pedestrian outcome for a reboot of such a landmark film.