Did we need another Blair Witch Project? Not really. The first one was so intrinsically tied to a time and place; inventing the viral marketing campaign, popularising the “found footage” genre, not to mention scaring the bejesus out of those lucky souls at its famous Sundance premiere. The honeymoon didn’t last long, its concept being flogged to death by Hollywood execs – who didn’t understand that the film’s appeal was its realism, not dizzying shaky-camera theatrics. But now we have a sequel (let’s not talk about Book of Shadows), and the most surprising thing about it is that, when taken on its own merits, it’s not half bad.
True, the movie begins with some eye-rolling insistence on its “modern” touches. Footage of Heather Donahue, our original protagonist, is found on YouTube by her brother James (James Allen McCune). His friend Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is making a documentary about… something, so she kits out him and his friends, Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scot), with small earpiece cameras, while she records on a 72mm DSLR. The nice thing about it not being 1999 anymore is that even cheap tech is high quality, so everything looks like a movie, the cast handily re-purposed as walking, talking cameras. There’s also some business about drones and GPS – though all you need to know is that when those kids go into that forest, they are all doomed.
Does the Blair Witch have nothing better to do than play pranks on teenagers? In the 17 years since we last saw her, she’s upped her game and invested in some fancy new toys that make bigger and louder bumps in the night than ever. In fact, this sequel seems intent on one-upping the original at every turn. Twigs snapping? Try trees falling. Creepy things left outside the tent? How about making the damn tent fly?
Blair Witch is directed by the talented Adam Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next), and here his crowd-pleasing instincts are firing on all cylinders. The setup is tense – there are even some good jokes – and once everything starts going wrong, he turns it into an intense and gory carnival ride. Admittedly, it’s not particularly scary – loud bangs affect the nerves, not the mind – and it would be nice to see Wingard tackle something original as opposed to a pointless Blair Witch sequel. But as pointless films go, it’s not half bad.
Blair Witch is released nationwide on Thursday 15th September 2016.
Watch the trailer for Blair Witch here: