though Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez have yet to duplicate the box office
magic of their breakout 1999 hit The
Blair Witch Project, they still deserve stars on the Hollywood Walk of
Fame. By launching the cheap-to-produce “found footage” sub-genre, they have
enriched the industry’s coffers enormously. Unfortunately, they were not able
to maintain the franchise as a going concern. As a result, the newest sequel-reboot
has been transferred to the promising hands of screenwriter Simon Barrett and
director Adam Wingard, who duly take us back into Maryland’s Black Hills in Blair Witch (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
everyone else, James Donahue has seen the video of his big sister Heather’s
ill-fated documentary shoot, but the lack of absolute certainty regarding her
fate still torments him. Finding another internet video apparently shot in that
ominous abandoned house (the very same one search parties could never find),
Donahue convinces his best bud Peter Jones and their girlfriends, Lisa
Arlington and Ashley Bennett to accompany him on a fact-finding mission.
Naturally, Arlington is also a film student, who is logically making a
documentary on Donahue and his sister’s disappearance.
can pretty much guess the rest. However, video technology has advanced quite a
bit since 1999, so Arlington comes fully stocked with hand-helds, go-pros and
even a drone-cam. Of course none of that matters when the witch’s curse kicks
in. To Barrett’s credit, Donahue calls a retreat relatively early on, but it is
already too late.
you watched the 1999 Blair Witch and
Barrett and Wingard’s revamp in isolation, you would most likely conclude the
new film is far superior. However, anyone who has seen the original in its day
as well as a fair smattering of horror films in the intervening years will find
the spruced-up sequel to be highly derivative. (Of course, this does not take
into account the disastrous sequel Book
of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Even your white-haired grandma who will never
watch a horror movie knows it sucks.) Still, the greater visual clarity is a
blessing. Also, when all Hell breaks loose in the third act, the film is
considerably more intense than the original (which sort of collapses down the
it or not, James Allen McCune shows presence and personality as Donahue. It is
a decent performance by general standards and pretty darn impressive when
judged against the baseline of found footage horror. Callie Hernandez has a few
moments as Arlington, but the other members of the horrible no-good camping
trip are either blandly forgettable or slightly annoying, at best.
The mechanics of this Blair Witch are generally solid, but like Nathan Ambrosioni’s Therapy it makes no attempt to explain
how the disparate footage (including digital and analog formats) was spliced
together into a sequential narrative. Regular horror patrons have seen worse.
In truth, it works on a basic visceral level, but anyone who knows the genre
will expect more from Wingard and Barrett (the team responsible for You’re Next and segments in the first
two V/H/S films). While we keep
hoping they will take found footage to an insane new level, they never do.
Mainly for hardcore fans of the franchise mythos, Blair Witch opens nationwide tomorrow (9/16), including the AMC
Empire in New York.
Labels: Adam Wingard, Blair Witch, Found footage, Horror Movies, Simon Barrett