Film

The New ‘Blair Witch’: At Least the Consumer-Grade Cameras Have Improved

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Have we reached consensus, seventeen years later, on whether The Blair Witch Project‘s grainy footage of three film students wandering into the woods was boring or terrifying? The answer might be both, with one extreme enhancing the other. Adam Wingard’s sequel, which finds the brother of one of those doomed souls on an ill-advised quest to learn what befell his long-gone sister, exists somewhere in the middle — it’s neither as slow nor as elementally terrifying as Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s found-footage marvel.

The early going gets it right: There’s the same fumbling with the camera to make sure it’s recording, the same raw quality that’s uniquely disturbing. (Prosumer equipment being what it is in 2016, their footage is considerably more high-res.) As this new group retraces the original trio’s footsteps — and as Wingard does the same with the filmmakers’ — Blair Witch’s comparatively maximalist approach shows too much and scares too little.

That effective buildup gives way to the same third-act shriekfest you’d find in any other horror film, and for some reason the witch herself sounds like something out of Jurassic Park. Wingard, who’s proven his genre bona fides with You’re Next and The Guest, was a teenager when the first film came out, and is clearly thrilled to be expanding (and, in certain cases, retconning) the mythos. His effort is valiant but mostly serves to remind that the original was lightning in a bottle — the more resources are put into trying to replicate it, the less the results resemble it.

Blair Witch

Directed by Adam Wingard

Lionsgate

Opens September 13

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