While promoting his new horror film, Seance, screenwriter Simon Barrett admitted on Collider’s The Witching Hour podcast that he thinks that producing The Blair Witch, the sequel to The Blair Witch Project, secretly turned out to be a big mistake.
“The definitive revelation of Blair Witch, which I obviously could reveal quite a lot, but the short version is that we made a secret film that ended when we exhibited to about 300 people,” he summarized.
The film, which had a previous performance at a special summer screening at San Diego Comic-Com, ultimately failed after that, grossing only $45.2 million at the box office, not meeting Lionsgate’s expectations, despite costing only $5 million. The writer said that the production of the film faced a number of challenges, which had nothing to do with quality, but with the fact that it was a film about the Blair Witch.
“At the end of the day, a lot of people are tired of the footage found. Many people still don’t like the original Blair Witch and are still furious with him, and don’t want a sequel. And all the people who love Blair Witch also didn’t want a sequel, and they have very complicated feelings about the previous one. So we were in this little niche market of people who wanted a very heartfelt sequel to the 1999 film, Blair Witch,” he explained
He also considers that one fact that greatly hindered the success of the film was that he and Adam Wingard produced the film in secret.
“Because we did it in secret, we never stopped to ask if anyone liked the idea or wanted or thought that what we were doing was a good idea. Many filmmakers talk very negatively about the audience testing process in Hollywood and obviously that’s because it can often be used to force an agenda, right? We think of audience tests as how films are made, simplified and taken from their creators. But the audience test is great because any director who doesn’t want to know how people are going to react to your film, I think is making a big mistake. And I don’t care if you think these people are smart or educated moviegoers or not; they are your audience. Blair Witch is a film that if we had tested it at an early stage, conceptually, I think many warning signs would have arisen and we would have realized, Oh, people don’t understand that we’re not, for example, saying that we’re directly showing the witch. And by the way, our credits are misleading, which we don’t realize either,” he admitted.