Punch Drunk DVDs: 'Blair Witch', 'Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life', 'Denial', and More!


The long-awaited sequel to the original game changing horror film, Blair Witch sees genre filmmaking masterminds Barrett and Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) take on the lore of the infamous witch in the woods. A young man and his friends travel to the haunted hills of Maryland to attempt to figure out once and for all what happened to those original missing students from the classic 90’s film. Once deep in the woods, things take a turn for the spooky for these camera wielding investigators as they uncover more of the mystery of the titular witch.

We Said: “There's no doubt of [Director Adam] Wingard's talents behind the camera when left completely to his own devices, but he doesn't show it in Blair Witch. It's too conventional to serve as a satisfying sequel to one of the genre's most enduring and inventive horrors.” Rating: 2 out of 5

The Good: 2016’s Blair Witch is filled with several extremely clever winks and nods to the original 90’s classic. In fact, watching it closer for a second time I really found myself gaining an appreciation for a lot of the plot points that build off of the existing story. But what really matters is the suspense! Is this Blair Witch scary? In many moments, yes. There’s a lot of this movie that you might watch through your fingers, especially during the intense third act. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this new take is worth looking over.

The Bad: Unfortunately, the first Blair Witch is now such a genre staple that there’s a whole formula for horror movies based around its structure. The new film follows this pattern, and therefore feels pretty uninspired in too many moments. You know exactly where the plot will go and when the scares will happen, just because of the nature of the story. It’s extremely disappointing, especially considering the brilliant, genre-defying work that the creative team of Barrett and Wingard have done before. None of the characters are interesting. None of the new technology helps freshen the found footage gimmick. Very little feels new, and that’s a real let down.

Overall: While it doesn’t live up to the greatness of the original film, 2016’s Blair Witch does build off of its plot in some really surprising ways. There’s a couple great scares thrown in, but mostly it’s a pretty straightforward found-footage teen slasher.

Creative free spirit Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) has a real problem with authority, a problem that comes to a head when he transfers to a new middle school lead by a tyrannical principal Dwight (Andy Daly). Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life follows Rafe and his equally imaginative friends as they fight back, running through a playbook of pranks and schemes to challenge the status quo, battle bullies, and impress the girl of Rafe’s dreams (Isabela Moner).

We Said: “[Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is] still a pre-teen movie, but it's one that tries to speak to them on their own level, rather than just sprinkling slightly naughtier humor into a script otherwise suitable for kids who have just begun to pay attention long enough to even watch a movie. […] It never rises to the level of something adults might want to seek out on their own, but parents should consider this one a diamond in the rough.” Rating: 3 out of 5

Based on the shocking true story that changed the face of historical literature, Denial focuses on Professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her quest to solidify the truth. After she names World War II historian David Irving (Timothy Spall)  in a book about Holocaust denial, Irving fights back, taking Lipstadt to court in a legal battle over historical truth. The inspiring courtroom thriller sees Lipstadt attempt to stand tall and defend the truth of history regardless of the cost.

We Said: “A trio of great performances and the strength of [Deborah] Lipstadt's fight for truth are what bolster Denial, a handsomely shot but labored courtroom drama from director Mick Jackson. […] Regardless of its issues, Denial is an important film that shows the fight against bigotry and hate can take many forms, but it must always be fought.” Rating: 3 out of 5