Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Written by: Simon Barrett
Running Time: 89 mins
Release date: 16th September 2016
A word of warning for those thinking about going to Blair Witch, the sequel/reboot of the 1999 shocker The Blair Witch Project. If you suffer from any form of motion sickness, then it would be advisable to stay away. After 15 minutes of this film, I was feeling nauseous and sweaty and spent most of the film either looking at the side of the screen of through one eye, suffering for the cause which affected my balance for the rest of the day. Should have known, really, as the original had the same effect. If you do manage to stick through the shaky cam, then you may question why, as this seems an affectionate reminder of how good the original was without really delivering anything new.
17 years after the film crew disappeared in the black forest of Maryland, the brother of one of the missing has spent his life trying to find out what happened. When a video appears online, supposedly found in the woods and showing a figure that may or may not be his sister, James recruits his documentary filmmaking friend, Lisa and best friend, Peter with his girlfriend, Ashley, to head to the forest to find her. Joined by the people who found the tape, the group soon discover that things are not right in the woods and that apart from being targets to a force unknown, they are caught up in a world where time is unforgiving.
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett understand genre filmmaking. Their two previous collaborations, You’re Next and The Guest, were underrated gems of the horror world, so they seem to be the right people to take on such a behemoth as The Blair Witch Project. They handle it well, showing real affection for the original source material. They also understand that the use of sound can be a powerful thing, so the noises coming from the woods are both extraordinary loud and quite unnerving.
They also add a clever twist to the proceedings by allowing the victims to be trapped in some form of time vortex, where minutes are, in fact, hours, which becomes even more apparent during the final act. These are men who aren’t making movies just to shock, they want to give the audience something else.
Sadly, however, that doesn’t seem enough to match the now legendary original, for many reasons. Firstly, the characters have doubled. Where the first film scored points was by only allowing three people to be on screen throughout, which meant one camera. Here we have six characters, each with their own camera to film events, as well as a drone for those more unusual angles. Yet this is a found footage film, in which someone has found the footage from all the various gadgets and then spent time editing them together. Not so much a found footage film, more just a film.
Secondly, the strength of the original was in the fact that the three leads didn’t know what was happening. The directors, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, would set up things before their actors got there and wouldn’t tell them what was going to occur. So the reactions we get on film are real. Here this seems more, well, acted and scripted. The cast does a fine job but it doesn’t have that realism that The Blair Witch Project had. This was also helped by a clever media build up in which the audience were led to believe that they were genuinely watching a real story unfold.
Lastly, apart from the twists in technology and the neat time device, the film doesn’t offer anything new and so the jumps, which are mainly the “quiet, quiet, LOUD” kind just don’t work. Where the original had an air of unnerving tension, this plays out a little like a conventional modern horror but without the real scares.
This is a valiant attempt to recreate the magic of the original and I applaud Wingard and Barrett for attempting it and showing the respect that Blair Witch Project deserves. I just feel it falters due to the familiarity of the source material, not trying to take it into another direction. Having said that, it’s better than most modern horrors and far more successful than the dire, instantly forgettable Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.