Blair Witch (2016)

Blair Witch 2016 poster.png
Bewitching Woods

Director: Adam Wingard
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry

Released with little fanfare 17 years ago, the directorial debut of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo S├ínchez was a surprise hit which left an indelible mark upon audiences. Popularising the found footage genre and viral marketing, it's safe to say The Blair Witch Project left quite an impression upon cinema. Despite a sequel released the year after, this picture can be considered a true sequel to the original.

James Donahue (James Allen McCue) has long wondered what happened to his older sister, Heather, who disappeared in the woods of Burkittsville while researching the Blair Witch. After discovering a video showing what he believes is his sister, James ventures into the woods with a group of his friends and some locals. But the further they travel into the woods, the more strange occurrences happen.

What made the 1999 picture so effective is how close it felt to realism, as though viewers were bearing witness to actual occurrences, and the poor souls who were caught up in it all. This sequel tries to get that across also, with opening text that describes how it's a composite of footage found. However, the footage feels a bit too glossy to pass off as that, cleanly edited in a manner too much like a Hollywood picture (even with a score at some points).

Image result for blair witch 2016A 2014 setting makes for a modern utilisation of gadgets, with earbud cameras solving the common genre query of "Why don't they put the camera down?". It also makes it more abundant that something supernatural is occurring, with glimpses and moments which veer in a direction far from even mild realism. Yes, being a sequel doesn't mean it must adhere to the exact same thing its predecessor did, but these moments feel too much like any generic horror flick, just shot with worse footage. There are also a number of moments which feel too derivative of the original, even showing one character deliver a teary apology to the camera.

The characters are written a bit too thinly, with not much to define them or leave audiences caring about their fate. One character's purpose appears to be having their name repeatedly called out. Our lead, James, is at least a decent character, consumed by the missing nature of his sister. The chemistry can often feel naturalistic between our cast, but moments have it coming off as rather false.

In spite of a humorous piece of dialogue, Wingard seems to fall back on jump scares and loud noises, while delivering little in the way of an unsettling tone. But when the picture reaches its finale, the chill inducing atmosphere proves relentless, never slowing until the credits roll. It's not enough to make the picture reach its predecessors highs, but it's good enough to have regardless.

With Blair Witch, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett deliver a modern take on the the hit horror picture from 1999. Strangely, it manages to imitate it a bit much, while straying away from what makes it a horror classic to this day. An effectively creeping tone makes itself known in the final act, but it arrives a bit late to save the overall picture.