In 1999, when the original film, The Blair Witch Project, came out, it was fresh, original and scared the poop out of unsuspecting moviegoers. Coupled with its ingenious marketing scheme, the film made a lot of gullible people believe its recovered footage gimmick was actually found footage from three inexplicably lost filmmakers. Fun times!
Now, seventeen years later, the hit film that spawned the over-used recovered footage genre has finally got its own official canon sequel, simply titled, Blair Witch. (I know… we’re not counting 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 – and you shouldn’t either.)
There’s not a huge difference between this new film and the original version. In fact, if someone just plopped you down in the middle of the action it would probably take you a while to tell which Witch is which.
You might remember Heather Donahue, from the original picture, who was last seen running frantically around the interior of an evil cabin in the woods. Well, Heather has/had a younger brother, James (James Allen McCune), who still believes his sister might be alive somewhere in the Maryland forest.
James’ girlfriend, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), is a young film student who decides to make the young man’s quest to find his sister her documentary film project, and together with their friends, Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid), they head off to that creepy burg called Burkittsville to see what’s what.
The soon-to-be-cursed quartet hook up with a couple of local yokels, Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who claim to know where Heather’s horrific video footage was found, and the doomed half-dozen do what no one in their right-mind would do – head off into the woods to investigate all that weird stuff that was happening in those twenty-year old videos.
Blair Witch begins rather clumsily as a by-the-numbers found footage piece, expounding on how and why these people are strangely recording each other’s every move, and just when I was afraid we were going down the exact same witch trail we’ve traversed before they pull out some new technology – a remote piloted drone – and I thought, okay, now we’re going somewhere.
Unfortunately, the brilliant idea of adding the overhead drone to the mix is never capitalized upon, at least to its full potential. Some ingenious filmmaker somewhere is going to fully utilize that concept one day, but it disappointingly was not Blair Witch director Adam Wingard in this film.
You won’t escape the feeling that you’ve seen all this lost-in-the-woods action before and most of the scares are just ‘boo’ moments that make you jump; that is until a certain sequence occurs that is so damn intense I literally had trouble catching my breath while watching it. If you are claustrophobic in the very least, well, you’ve been warned.
Blair Witch does not really bring anything new to the film genre it made popular, which is a bummer; because the recovered footage thing could really use a shot in the arm – or, like Heather Donahue, needs to just go away completely. Grade: 4/10
Photos © 2016 Lionsgate