Blair Witch review: Horror reboot can’t hold a candle to the original
Film Review: Blair Witch

Matthew Turner casts his critical eye over this belated sequel to the horror classic

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A film student persuades his friends to accompany him on a trip into the woods to find his missing sister, in this belated sequel to the ’90s horror classic.

Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry, James Allen McCune
Genre: Horror
Country: USA
Release date: September 16, 2016
Cert: 15
Running time: 89 mins

Released in 1999 and propelled by a brilliantly conceived promotional campaign, low-budget horror The Blair Witch Project became both a box-office smash and a genuine phenomenon, jump-starting a trend for found-footage horror movies that’s still going strong 17 years later.

The latest film from acclaimed director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) is ostensibly a sequel (ignoring 2000’s hastily produced cash-in sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2), but it frequently feels more like a remake/reboot with an eye on a potential franchise.

To that end, it delivers a decent amount of scares – but it can’t hold a candle to the original film.

Chilling claustrophobia

The film centres on college student James (James Allen McCune), who’s obsessed with an online clip which he believes shows that his disappeared older sister (the original film’s Heather) might still be alive.

Roping together childhood friends Peter and Ashley (Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid) and would-be-girlfriend Lisa (Callie Hernandez), James heads into Maryland’s Black Hill woods, with Lisa documenting their trip as part of a film school project.

When original footage finders Lane and Talia (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry) insist on tagging along, tensions rise within the group, and it isn’t long before they start experiencing some familiarly spooky goings-on.

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One of the pleasures of the original film was that it managed to make simple things like sticks and stones seem so terrifying.

Those same sticks and stones make a repeat appearance here, but, in a manner that’s rather indicative of the film itself, the effect is diminished.

To be fair, Wingard and writer Simon Barrett do attempt to add a handful new elements, some of which are more successful than others. For example, there’s a chilling claustrophobia-inducing sequence that’s straight out of The Descent, while a particularly nasty injury offers a potential new source of horror before being abruptly dropped.

Similarly, the pay-off to the promising introduction of a drone camera is almost laughably disappointing.

Rather forgettable

On the plus side, the film benefits from some superb sound design, learning the lesson from the original film that there’s nothing scarier than loud unexplained noises in the woods at night.

It also picks up considerably with a sustained final act that attempts to deepen the mythology of the first film, with moderate success, as well as rewarding anyone who was paying attention at the beginning.

Sadly, the characters are a rather forgettable bunch, particularly compared to their three predecessors, so the emotional investment is notably absent when they start getting picked off.

Worth seeing?

Wingard’s sequel-slash-remake delivers some decent scares, and adds a couple of interesting wrinkles to the Blair Witch mythology, but it falls short of inducing the abject terror of the original.

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