When The Blair Witch Project burst onto the scene in 1999, it changed the face of the horror genre as we know it. Its legacy can still be felt in the found footage ilk that is more popular (and profitable) than ever. These days, the uber-successful Paranormal Activity is the go-to movie that lazy studios and independent filmmakers alike aim to reproduce. But 15 years ago, everyone aspired to be the next Blair Witch.
Why the history lesson? Well, The Black Water Vampire is a shameless rip-off of The Blair Witch Project, the likes of which haven’t been produced in over a decade. I don’t use the phrase “rip-off” lightly; The Black Water Vampire is perhaps the most glaring Blair Witch imitator in existence. The strange thing is that Black Water is not an old attempt to cash-in on the Blair Witch fallout; it’s a newly-produced independent movie.
According to The Black Water Vampire’s backstory, four young women disappeared near Fawnskin, WA, only to be found dead days later with the blood drained from their bodies and a strange, animalistic bite mark on their neck. The tragedies occurred over the course of 40 years, but each disappearance happened on December 21st. Raymond Banks (Bill Oberst Jr.) was convicted of the crimes, known as The Black Water Killings, but local legends speak of vampires inhabiting the area.
In December of 2012 – a decade after the last murder – Danielle Mason (Danielle Lozeau) sets out to make a documentary investigating the crimes before Banks is put to death. She is joined by cameraman Anthony (Anthony Fanelli), producer Andrea (Andrea Monier) and sound guy Rob (Robin Steffen). The foursome plan a three-day hike to Black Water Creek, where the victims were found.
Evan Tramel directed and wrote the picture, but Blair Witch creators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez deserve story credits. The formula is followed with little deviation, merely swapping out the local legend for one of vampires. All the beats are here: the crew is introduced one by one, and then they interview the locals before going off to investigate the remote woods. While lost in the wilderness, they hear strange noises outside their tent and wake up to find mysterious symbols everywhere. There is turmoil within the group and one member disappears. The climax even occurs in an abandoned house.
Plot aside, the four leads (using their real names, of course) give passable performances. Indie horror regular Oberst Jr. (Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies) is chilling as the convicted killer on death row. Portraying a Charles Manson-esque paranoid madman, his single scene leaves a lasting impression.
Unoriginal as it may be, The Black Water Vampire is not a bad movie. Sure, you’ll spend 82 minutes being reminded of the vastly superior Blair Witch Project, but you won’t be bored. It may be the most blatant offender, but there are many less entertaining rip-offs out there.
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