Blair Witch: New Chapter, Same Old Spiel
As one of the first movies to expose the world to the found-footage concept, The Blair Witch Project’s debut back in 1999 was met with a great amount of intrigue, critical praise and general box-office success. It was quickly followed by a seemingly rushed and tepid sequel in 2000 – unfortunately, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 never really managed to stand up to its predecessor – and now sixteen years later, the story is once again revived in Simon Barrett’s Blair Witch; a direct sequel to the 1999 hit which successfully ups the found-footage approach, though the story feels unchallenged and lacks a new, fresh angle.
Written by Adam Wingard, the story is set twenty years after Heather Donohue went missing in the woods of Burkittsville and begins with an appearance of a new Blair Witch video online, motivating James Donahue (McCune) to return to the woods where his sister disappeared all those years ago. James is joined by his friends, including best-bud, Peter (Scott) and Ashley (Reid) as well as a documentarian, Lisa (Hernandez) who is interested in recording the trip for her graduate thesis.
Travelling to Maryland, the group soon meets up with a paranormal hunter named Lane (Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Curry) who request to tag along with the group. Armed with all sorts of gadgets and GPS tracking, the group enters the woods and as the night falls, they soon learn that no amount of equipment could have prepared them for the terror that the darkness of the woods brings.
Wasting very little time before diving straight into the action, director Adam Wingard, along with his frequent collaborating writer, Simon Barrett, manages to establish the film’s tone from the very beginning, setting up the story in a way so that the audiences are slowly reeled into the horrors that await along with the protagonists themselves. Expanding a little on the myths and the mysteries left unexplored by the original, they also choose to upgrade the surveillance tools used which includes fancy earpiece cameras and flying drones. However, this advancement does very little to the storyline itself which, as soon as the night comes, fails to set itself apart from its predecessor.
What probably doesn’t help is that the entire cast is adamant to overact their way through the story and as they are slowly getting picked off by the Blair Witch – who works her way through the crowd trying to suck out the ‘weak’ – it becomes seemingly difficult to believe and most importantly, care for their wellbeing.
Sporadically eerie but disappointingly safe, Blair Witch seems to be at a loss for a way to bring in a new chapter to this already well-visited story. Fans expecting to learn something new will be intensely dissatisfied with the latest offering, but those who are unfamiliar with the story, might have a fighting chance of a relatively fun night out at the movies.