Blair Witch: A return to the Black Hills Forest

While not fully living up to the original, Blair Witch still has frights and fights

Hidden under the title of The Woods during production, Blair Witch is the latest sequel to The Blair Witch Project (1999), a film that is considered one of the pioneers of found-footage horror. While this new instalment is a significant upgrade from the catastrophe that was Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), viewers should still not be expecting a classic this time around.

Fans of the original should be advised to leave their expectations for another Blair Witch at home, as this instalment feels like a fan fiction that somehow managed to become a feature film. The filmmakers did make the effort to continue the found-footage tradition and even staged the film in its original location. However, the shaky camera style quickly becomes distracting and the woods somehow feel smaller than in the original film.

The story is painfully straightforward. James, the brother of Heather (who disappeared in the original), finds newly discovered footage on YouTube that he thinks features his sister. This opens up the possibility that she could still be alive. He decides to round up his three closest friends to go investigate, reluctantly bringing along the two people who found the footage for guidance. What follows is the typical, predictable filler of character conflict that leads to the group splitting up for no good reason, a flurry of jump scares and some mediocre deaths, which all lead up to the abandoned, decrepit house from the original.

BLAIR WITCH, (aka THE WOODS), James Allen McCune, 2016. ph: Chris Helcermanas-Benge/© Lionsgate
Blair Witch manages nothing new, despite having an acre of potential. photo: Chris Helcermanas-Benge/© Lionsgate

There are many fatal flaws that plague the film, the biggest being that there is never a sense that these characters have any kind of chance of making it out alive. It resembles a one-sided fight between a wolf and six blind lambs. Moreover, rather building up any kind of substantial suspense, Blair Witch is just a basic monster movie shot exactly like Cloverfield (2008). The monster in this movie being an amalgamation of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Slender Man, and a self-aware forest. Worst of all, there really is not much of a point to the film. It fails to build on the original, all the while being predictable just like every other horror movie made in the last 10 years.

However, for all of Blair Witch’s faults, it must be said that the third act inside the house is well worth the price of admission. This is where the film finally jumps into top gear. It is the kind of scary that will keep most viewers frozen in their seats. There really isn’t a logical reason for the characters to go into the house, but the movie needs to go inside more than its characters do. While the ending is not something that will stick with many people, the sequence is a genuinely fun time. If I were to compare the film to anything, it would be to a rollercoaster ride. There is a lot of time spent waiting for something to happen, then a few bumps to get your attention, and finally a sudden rush that slows down right before you’re let off.

Those who are looking for something new should stay away, but anyone who enjoys a fright should check it out.

Stars: 2.5

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