It’s been 20 years since The Blair Witch Project came into theaters and made found footage horror main stream while also causing many in the audience to question the reality of the film. Out of this one film, directed and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, an entire mythos around the Bell Witch sprung up, inspiring the horror genre, sequels, and even a fictional documentary shot in Burkittsville, Maryland, which lead many to believe that the account was real.
At the Xbox E3 2019 Briefing, we got our first look at the natural progression of a franchise that has remained relevant and nostalgic in the genre, a video game titled Blair Witch. With a trailer evoking the atmosphere of Alan Wake with its use of a flashlight, it also employed scare tactics well known to fans of the film: camcorder, a man in the corner, and the extremely innocuous yet terrifying Bell Witch symbol.
After the Briefing, the Twitch Live Stream of E3 Day One continued with an in-depth look beyond the Blair Witch trailer. Sitting down with Maciek Glomb and Basia Kcuik of the famous Bloober Team, we got to see some of the early game footage and find out more about the story. If you aren’t aware of the current state of horror games, then you probably haven’t heard of Bloober Team, and if you are then you know exactly why they’re the best developers to handle this IP. Having created Observe, Layers of Fear, and most recently Layers of Fear 2, Bloober Team has proven their ability to build horror through more than just the script.
Set in 1996, before the events of The Blair Witch Project, but in the same universe, we follow a former police officer as he tries to join a search team looking for a missing child in the infamous Burkittsville, Maryland. Late to the search party meeting point, our protagonist is alone with his dog, Bullet, attempting to make his way through the Black Hills Forest to reconnect with the party. In traditional Bloober Team style, the game’s genre will be first-person psychological horror, a perfect fit to a franchise built on carefully crafting the environment to build tension and fear.
One of the things that made the 1999 film so horrific was that it was from the perspective of the camcorder, the audience was blinded and removed from their all-seeing eye usually granted to them in horror and other stories. For Bloober Team, in the Layers of Fear series and Observer, they have proven their ability to use the environment to tell a story.
A crucial element of psychological horror is restricting the knowledge of the player and using, as Kcuik said in the interview, the smallest pieces to build tension and atmosphere. A flickering light, a slightly swinging door, the ability to not rely on words to scare is one of the beauties that they have brought to their games which has me excited as an existing fan of the lore.
Now, this isn’t the first time that The Blair Witch Project franchise has been adapted to a video game. In 2000, following the popular and cult success of the film Gathering of Developers released a trilogy of PC games based on the film, which worked to expand and explain the mythology of the Bell Witch introduced in the film. So it is important to note that this game is not an adaptation of the existing film or games, but Bloober Team’s own take on the story of the Bell Witch and the world that was started in 1999.
From a mechanics standpoint, there are two things that stood out in both the trailer and the interview on Twitch. The first is the use of the camcorder. In the trailer, the camcorder seems to be an eyeglass of sorts, with the unnamed man holding it up and seeing more than what is there. That being said, Glomb and Kcuik were adamant at explaining that the camcorder will have a larger mechanic in order to be more engaging while also bringing in the horror found footage sub-genre into the game. The player will use the camcorder to solve puzzles, using the footage they find throughout the woods to unlock the mystery and interacting with it by rewinding and fast-forwarding.
In addition, your trusted companion Bullet is more than just an accessory. As an AI, Bullet adds to the mechanics in the game by contributing to both the gameplay and the story. As the team said during the interview, he’s the best tool to find your way in the forest. In addition, the bond you have with Bullet also allows you to give him commands. With that said, he will also have a mind of his own and won’t follow your commands all the time, offering another dynamic as you traverse the forest.
With a release date of August 30th, Bloober Team has released enough footage and delivered a great interview to make me by into the continuation of a franchise I have long said should have been contained to just the one 1999 film. But, with Bloober Team’s track record and the fact the trailer leans heavily on the images and icons of that film while offering something new, I’m all in for Blair Witch. Just please, don’t hurt bullet.
Blair Witch will have an initial release for both PC and Xbox One on August 30, 2019.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.