Seventeen years ago the face of horror changed forever when The Blair Witch Project, filmed for a minuscule $60,000, took the August box office by storm and raked in an incredible $140 million by Halloween. It’s not like it was a fluke; all-around well-received, it was something never seen before and was accompanied by a clever marketing campaign that convinced scores that the events depicted were real. In the years since the film paved the way for every studio’s dream: dirt-cheap horror movies without name actors that can make a killer first weekend box office. Unfortunately, for this third incarnation in the series – like most of humanity, this film doesn’t even acknowledge 2000’s horrendous Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 – it’s not much better than the clones the original spawned.
Blair Witch picks up in the present day as James (McCune), the brother of Heather, who disappeared in the first film, makes what he believes is a groundbreaking discovery in the case. While doing a frame-by-frame of a video posted to YouTube, purportedly found in the woods near the site of the disappearance, he sees what he thinks is his sister in a mirror reflection. Convinced he must check it out, he rounds up his friends Lisa (Hernandez), who’s going to shoot her own documentary about the area, Ashley (Reid), and Peter (Scott). On the way they stop to meet the not-so-trustworthy couple that found the footage, Lane (Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who say they’ll only show them the location if they can go along on the expedition. So it begins…again.
That’s because it rapidly becomes clear that Blair Witch is a chip off the old block with next to nothing new to offer. Padded by too many lame jump scares to count (something the original did not have to resort to), the movie becomes a near-literal remake of its predecessor once the group enters the fateful woods. Things go bump in the night, strange stick and rock formations are found, and eventually the survivors happen upon an endless trap door of a house. Been there, done that. Just as frustrating is the glossed-over treatment of more intriguing material such as missing time and the resulting psychological distress from the disorientation. Director Adam Wingard is far more interested in amping up the original with as much aural bombast as possible, leaving the viewer dazed but nowhere near legitimately scared. It’s attempted scare by submission, a tactic that leaves one longing for the quiet torment and invention of the original.
Length: 89 Minutes
Rating: R for language, terror and some disturbing images.
Theatrical Release: September 16, 2016
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Simon Barrett
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson