N.K.V.D. Haunts the Blair Witch

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Over the weekend, Leif Bearikson and I held each other like frightened children faced terror together and checked out the new Blair Witch film. Perhaps unsurprisingly, at one point in the film, a black metal song, one of only three non-atmospheric tracks used in the sound design for the movie, is used to set a tone of fear and desolation as the intrepid protagonists make their journey into the dark heart of the wilderness. Oddly, though, the song chosen was not one of a distinctly sylvan variety. No, the bleak, gothic decay of eminent French industrial black metal musician Loic F. was chosen as the weirdly disconcerting score for a particularly Hawthornian romp in the woods.

The song in question is the self-titled track from N.K.V.D.’s third release, Hakmarrja. The scene in question is one in which shifty social derelict and amateur paranormal investigator Lane, along with his girlfriend Talia, leads an expedition deep into the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. As Lane and Talia penetrate the black, imposing edifice of the forest primeval that swallows the forgotten town of Blair and acts as the primary setting of the film, the urban, imperious vocals of Loic F. blare through Lane’s speakers, accompanied by grinding diesel guitars and a pneumatic bass kick. It’s typical fare from Loic, mastermind behind Toilet favorites Autokrator, but the industrial churning creates an oddly dissonant effect considered in light of the film’s arboreal location.

Perhaps that’s the point, though. Loic’s music is meant to subvert fascist themes and imagery to reveal the corrupt heart between absolute power. Director Adam Wingard may have chosen the song specifically to create a binary opposition against which to set the opposing forces of the unassailable march of technology and capitalism against the ancient, eldritch forces that owned this world in past eons. Perhaps the song’s contradictory placement is meant to tell a Young Goodman Brown-style cautionary tale of delving too deeply into arcane secrets and layers of shadowy subterfuge.

Maybe Wingard simply likes the song and thought it would create a spooky atmosphere.

As for the movie, your feelings on it will likely depend on how you answer the following two questions:

  1. “Self, do I like found footage horror movies?”
  2. “Self, did I see the original Blair Witch Project?”

If you answered yes to question 1, I genuinely think you will find Blair Witch enjoyable, if not entirely original or frightening. The pacing is sharp, the reasons the characters are filming make sense (they aren’t just carrying a bunch of cameras in the woods), and the urgency of the film remains at a decidedly higher adrenaline level than most movies of this style. Once the spooky stuff starts happening, the film stays at a fever pitch, never delving into terror-killing lulls or languid sequences. Sure, there are some jump scares, but Wingard does a good job at balancing dread with just enough spooky imagery to keep you interested. It’s certainly better than the Paranormal Activity movies.

That lack of originality may ultimately hamper your enjoyment of the film, though, so if you answered yes to question 2, prepare for more of the same. I admit that I haven’t actually seen the original Blair Witch Project; I was a frightful child of a mere ten or eleven years when the film opened in theaters, and despite having ample opportunity to watch it in the meantime, the mystique had been deflated, and there were fresher examples of found footage horror to see. However, my understanding from reading critical reviews of the film is that this new sequel hits almost all of the beats of the original, so much so that it often feels like a retread rather than a new story (not much of a surprise based on the current state of cinema). If you’re seeking a fresh romp with the old devils of New England, this film may not be the one for you.

Ultimately, though, Leif and I enjoyed the film more than we disliked it and recommend it to fans of this particular genre. If you’ve gotten a chance to see it, let me know what you think in the comments. Also, be sure to check out N.K.V.D. on Bandcamp and Facebook if you like industrial black metal or dig Autokrator.

(Photo VIA)(h/t Christian M.)


BONUS Film Review by Leif Bearikson!

I was just old to remember The Blair Witch Project and all of the hysteria surrounding it when it first came out. I was still in elementary school, so all of my friends and I easily fell for the rumors that it was all true, that 3 college students had mysteriously vanished in the woods, perhaps by the supernatural forces of an ancient witch. I didn’t see the movie until a decade later, so my attachment to the franchise was more to the marketing of it and the mystery that had surrounded it. How it could so deeply affect a generation, not only with subtle terror, but by starting the now sigh inducing found footage craze.

I entered Blair Witch with a strange set of expectations. I was more interested in what a talented up and coming horror director (Adam Wingard of You’re Next and The Guest) could do with a franchise like Blair Witch. The original was all subtlety and the power of implication but held within enough of a skeleton for a potential supernatural thriller. This is the route that Wingard has taken with Blair Witch, and it mostly succeeds. 17 years on technology has greatly improved, giving the director all manner of toys to play with such as ear piece cameras, DSLR’s and even a drone, though that proves more short lived gimmick than anything else. All of these things give Wingard any number of angles to play with, so you’re never quite sure from which direction the next spooky occurrence will happen.

Of course, given all of these fancy new tools it would feel odd to recreate the slow burn of the original. Instead Blair Witch is more of a haunted house ride where, starting around the halfway point, things begin escalating rather quickly and intensely. There are a few jump scares, but they feel earned as the director does a good job keeping you guessing and making sure you’re never quite comfortable watching what’s happening. If I feel like for the past 3 minutes something was going to jump out and scare the piss out of me, then when it finally does and I still jump, you get that point.

Overall Blair Witch is a fun watch that has more in common with a spooky rollercoaster than it does with a haunted house. This will be sure to irk some fans of the original, but if your ties to the original aren’t that strong, this sequel could be worth your $5 as one of the more fun horror escapades of recent memory.

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