Blair Witch can be viewed as a relatively spooky night out in the woods if you can overlook and forgive how blatantly derivative the entire new exercise is.
Secretly titled under the alias The Woods, Adam Wingard (director) and Simon Barrett (writer) have opted to continue Hollywood’s threadbare and rather grating trend for side-queling every single franchise they have access to. Blair Witch is both a direct sequel and a complete remake of the original ground breaker, yet lacks the ingenuity and subtly that came before it. It follows the narrative and character beats so closely, that it’s forced to rely on jump scares and overbearingly loud and unnatural sound design to manipulate the terror that simply isn’t there.
It’s an updated noisy facsimile of what we’ve already seen, which forgets that the original’s minimalism ($60,000 budget) was what made it so genuinely terrifying in the first place.
The film begins as every other found footage feature does, by trying to justify its reasoning for being a found footage feature. Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is shooting a documentary that focuses on her friend, James’ (James Allen McCune) search for his sister. James somehow believes, after 16 years, that his sister Heather (the snotty chick from the original) may still be in the Black Hills Forest. They convince some friends to go along for the ride and naturally things go pear shaped quickly.
You’d best believe someone’s going to be standing in a corner by the film’s end.
The Wingard/Barrett horror duo, caught everyone’s attention a few years back with their low-budget slasher You’re Next. A film that possesses some inspired moments, but doesn’t do enough to justify the universal praise that has festooned it. Here, the same argument can be made. The filmmakers do conjure some genuine thrills in their update. The tree climb to retrieve a broken Drone camera and an escape via a narrow gopher hole were both suitably intense. There’s also some interesting delineation of time that traps our remaining survivors in eternal night. But not much else.
The blueprint is so blatantly plagiarised, that even the moments of genuine difference felt like an echo of something we’ve seen previously.
The Blair Witch Project came during a time before the internet spoiled everything. Its unscripted pandemonium didn’t resemble the films that came before, thus providing its ruse with a hint of credibility. People fell for the gag. People wanted to believe this shoddy, recovered tape was real. There was something in the woods.
Since 1999, the horror genre has been flooded with copycats trying to ape the formula but the gig is up. We’re savvy and untrusting now.
Blair Witch has its moments, and uninformed newcomers may fall for it, but at the end of the day it’s nothing more than a HD restoration and remastering of a far superior film.