Spooky but exasperating ‘Blair Witch’ lacks mystique
The mother of found-footage horror flicks, 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project,” gets an official sequel, which formulaically repeats a number of sequences, but gives some answers this time—somewhat diminishing the mystique created by the original indie film-turned-blockbuster hit.
“Blair Witch” directly addresses events in the first film, about the unsolved case of three student filmmakers who mysteriously disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. Forget the unmemorable “first” sequel released in 2000, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”—this new, in-canon film connects directly to the seminal movie.
This time, six people trek to the woods to learn the truth, once and for all. James Donahue (James Allen McCune) was just a kid when his sister, Heather, vanished in Burkittsville many years ago. Conveniently documenting the ill-advised quest with him are Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who is filming it for a school project; his childhood buddy, Peter (Brandon Scott); Peter’s girlfriend, Ashley (Corbin Reid), and locals Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry).
Directed by Adam Wingard, the movie takes advantage of current technology, providing more angles to capture with various shaky cameras, whether they’re attached to the campers’ heads, a handheld gadget, or an all-seeing drone. While they show many possible perspectives, they mostly focus on the group’s initial enthusiasm and inevitable bumbling.
It’s sometimes hair-raising, although there are déjà vu moments, scenes recreated to remind the initiated of the eerie mythology, but also to possibly suggest some dreaded cycle—perhaps it’s been going on for a long time, prior to the publicized disappearances. In any case, since it’s found footage again, it’s safe to assume from the start that these new would-be investigators are doomed—it’s just a matter of when and how they bite the dust.
These new characters don’t have the “authenticity” of the original cast. Save for James, who grew up baffled and determined to know his sister’s fate, the characters come off as slasher-flick victims off the bat. Every nuance of their conversations and their arguments are well-documented, but most of these oft-terrified and exasperating people feel interchangeable.
It does get scary, sometimes—from the use of inexplicable sounds to fleeting images, the film succeeds in doing more with less.
It doesn’t have any shots that compare with Heather Donahue’s iconic, horrified face in that old video, though, not that the actors didn’t try.
Some lingering questions are answered, finally clarifying what certain nightmarish details from the original recordings are. But, the Blair Witch legend just isn’t the same anymore, losing some of its frightening power by unveiling a long-hidden, unthinkable enigma.