Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott
Directed by: Adam Wingard (“You’re Next,” “The Guest”)
Written by: Simon Barrett (“You’re Next,” “The Guest”)
1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” has a unique place in popular culture. While it can be credited as the genesis of the “found footage” aesthetic consuming modern horror movies, the cultural footprint is relatively non-existent, minus the people here and there who still think it was a documentary (it’s not) and that those people really died (they didn’t).
So when the latest movie from Adam Wingard—the smartest working horror director today—was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con to not, in fact, be an original movie called “The Woods” but in fact a sequel simply titled “Blair Witch,” the surprise was muted—it’s not as if this was a secret Marvel movie, or even another “Cloverfield.” The franchise is a footnote at best. After all, what did “The Blair Witch Project” really have going for it once the novelty wore off?
“Blair Witch” has the answer: nothing.
Seventeen years after the first film (and in a world that ignores the second film, “Book of Shadows”), James (James Allen McCune) the younger brother of Heather Donahue, who has been missing since the events of the first film, enlists a group of friends to go search the woods in Burkittsville, Maryland, after signs of his sister pop up in a YouTube video posted from a DV tape allegedly found in the woods. Armed with a DSLR camera, drone camera, and somewhat-implausible earpiece cameras, the group meets up with Lane and Talia (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry), the locals who uploaded the video and insist on tagging along. Said to be assembled from footage recovered from DV tapes and memory cards, the film follows six people into the woods as they try to find the Blair Witch. But the disclaimer that establishes the premise also gives the whole thing away: no one survives.
Where “The Blair Witch Project” blazed trails with its crummy hand-held video visuals to exploit the fact-or-fiction uncertainty in the realm of viral marketing during the infancy of the internet, “Blair Witch” feels like yet another found footage horror movie that spends too much time explaining why all of this stuff is constantly being recorded. Fans of Wingard’s previous work will probably be expecting the story to be turned on its ear at some point, which frustratingly never comes. With ideas brought up and abandoned too quickly and a mythology that never gets expanded upon, “Blair Witch” pales in comparison to the 1999 version, even with a much larger budget and a proven filmmaker behind the shaky camera. Maybe the franchise should have been left in the woods like an old DV tape.