When I posted a press release for RWD last week, I distinctly remember a quote from the material that said “move over Blair Witch.” And, yes, I know we’ve heard just about every found footage on record claim to be the next best thing since The Blair Witch Project. Usually, it’s a ploy to bring more attention and eyes to the project, but in terms of RWD I think the saying rings true. Or, at least half true! RWD is the first feature to really capture the essence of The Blair Witch Project. Does it capture the same level of terror? No. Does it contain the same story-line? No. But, RWD feels akin to The Blair Witch Project in that it reads like a rough draft version of the iconic title or it reads like a cousin film that exists in the same universe. Now, if that’s not the best way to kick off a review, then I don’t know what is!
RWD is brought to you by filmmaker extraordinaire Matt Stuertz, the writer/director/producer/editor known for Bloody Disgusting’s World of Death segment Mindless and the upcoming retro horror Tonight She Comes. Stuertz also stars in RWD alongside Adam Hartley – who co-wrote the film – as two friends and reality stars who independently produce a popular paranormal series “Ghost Goofs.” The goofy bros head into the Brut Woods to film their final episode, searching for a malevolent and murderous spirit with ties to cannibalism, the craft and so much more. The lost soul has haunted the woods for over a century and it’s about time that he’s exposed on camera! As the duo march deeper into the woods, they discover something much worse… themselves! DUN DUN DUN!
Unfortunately, I think RWD‘s biggest hurdle is going to be dodging the Blair Witch Project similarities and standing on its own two feet. A lot of reviews, obviously including my own, are going to talk about the similarities between the motion pictures. RWD follows a small group of people – two, and a dog at one point – as the trudge through the woods with nothing but limited camping supplies and a handheld camera, making a documentary of sorts. They’re hunting an evil entity that has rocked the community for years until the evil entity rocks them. The parallels are uncanny, but the main differences will be found in the locations and the plot progression. Though Blair Witch Project and RWD take place mostly in the woods and inside an abandoned establishment, RWD has a couple scenes that ominously take place outside of a luxurious mansion. It also takes a complete turn away from Blair Witch Project with a major plot twist and becomes its own movie, successfully shredding those pesky comparisons. So, don’t let them fool you – RWD is its own original movie.
The plot twist I mentioned is so uncommon in horror films that I can only recall an episode of “The Twilight Zone” that covers it. I know I was watching this title thinking, “Ok. What did I miss? What the fuck is going on?” And this is a good thing. The plot twist is going to keep viewers on their toes while also relating the element to the film’s opening scene. RWD has a mild level of suspense, but all of the mystery and confusion is going to be its biggest draw. It’s definitely going to have viewers glued to the screen when they realize what’s happening; and they’re going to want to know how and why it’s happening. I thoroughly enjoyed this change of pace because I didn’t see it coming and I always applaud filmmakers who step outside the stereotypical box of plot progression. I know it must be frustrating to wonder what I’m talking about here, but I need to keep this review spoiler free so you can experience this for yourself. You’ll be shocked. You’ll be confused. Maybe you’ll even be a little bit scared. It’s certainly a trippy little flick!
And it has one of the best found footage feels that I’ve seen in a long time. RWD feels like actual lost footage as opposed to a big budget movie that’s trying to appear as lost tapes. It never tried to be ultra scary or high class or the next big thing and it made it feel kind of homey. The atmosphere, style and mood were definitely in sync and executed with a superior level of filmmaking. The whole movie was, actually. A thoughtful script. Two funny, relatable actors. Perfect audio. Fun angles. A surprise body count and good gore. RWD is resourceful. Basically two men went into the woods for however long and came back with a movie that landed them a distribution deal. If that’s not a masterclass in filmmaking, then I don’t know what is. Confusing, homey, surprising and trippy is the best way for me to describe this movie and that’s not a bad thing at all. Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.