Early this year, there was a shock announcement for horror fans around the world – a low-budget found footage feature called The Woods was in fact revealed to be Blair Witch, a follow-up to the 1999 smash hit. While it was not the first of its kind, the success of The Blair Witch Project really helped lay the groundwork for the flood of found-footage movies that have appeared ever since. With the reputation of its predecessor, direction and a screenplay by two of horror’s next big things and critical hype to the max (head to Bloody Disgusting for the best example of hyperbole I’ve ever seen), and it’s bound to be good, right? Well, no, not really – it’s no better or worse than any other found-footage movie.
Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is making a documentary about her friend James (James Allen McCune) – years ago, his sister Heather entered the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to investigate stories of the Blair Witch, and were never seen again. Some new footage causes James to believe she may still be alive, so he, Lisa and a group of friends head to the forest and hope to find out the truth. They are visited by a menacing presence in the forest, and they quickly realise that the legend is all too real.
In full frankness, although I appreciate the value of The Blair Witch Project, I never found it very good or particularly scary – to me, it’s eighty minutes of wandering around complaining about being lost followed by a big climax of a guy standing in a corner. These sequel has a lot more jump scares and shows a bit more of the Witch – because any less would be a blank screen, pretty much – but is essentially exactly the same movie as the original. If you loved that film, you’ll likely love this one. For everyone else, maybe not.
The film kicks off going over Lisa’s documentary project, and elaborating on all the camera equipment to be used in order that we can buy every shot (it still doesn’t work though – the characters seem to sleep with their head cameras on, for instance), before we head into the woods for a wonderfully sedate two acts. There is little character development – we get to know that James is Heather’s brother, and that Lisa is a film student, and that’s about it. As such, we’re essentially meandering for an hour with some characters it’s hard to care about – occasionally, some stick figures appear or a loud noise blares, with a paper-thin plot to chain it all together.
Blair Witch is more successful in its third act – the scares are more frequent and there is some degree of atmosphere, but the bad will left by the opening hour means it is not as terrifying as it should be. A claustrophobic sequence in an underground tunnel and pretty much the entire part of the film in the creepy house is well executed, and an entire film made at this standard would’ve been a great one.
For all the hype about the movie, Blair Witch doesn’t bring anything new to the genre – it is very much a bog-standard found-footage horror, and there’s not much more to add. The critical hype about it seems to be solely because of the name attached to it, but it is really undue. Perhaps you could lose yourself in the film’s woods and jump once or twice – you would be very disappointed if you expect much more than that.
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: James Allen McCune (James), Callie Hernandez (Lisa Arlington), Corbin Reid (Ashley), Brandon Scott (Peter), Wes Robinson (Lane), Valorie Curry (Talia)
Running Time: 89 Mins