Blair Witch

UK Release Date 15th September 2016
Director Adam Wingard
Starring A Big Forest
Runtime 89 Minutes
Certificate 15
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 18th September 2016

It’s not always the best movies that get the best lines. This is something I’ve been reminded of a number of times since seeing The Lost World: Jurassic Park (or Jurassic Park II if you ditch the pointless first part of the sequel’s title). Jeff Goldblum’s ever wonderful Ian Malcolm pretty much skewers the entire film when he mutters ‘Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming….’ It’s something I couldn’t get out of me head for this one….

So, Blair Witch arrives after much clandestine shenanigans - predominantly based around the secrecy of its production (it was originally trailed as The Woods, with no reference to any sort of Witch, Blairy or otherwise) and a director that we’ve recently rated very highly on the back of his wonderful four pint perfect The Guest. Having finally been revealed as a sequel to the original shaky-cam nightmare (the first sequel - which I haven’t seen - seems to have been consigned to the post-hype dustbin), to what can only be described as half interested shrugging (I’m yet to meet anyone who was really still wondering why Josh - I think - was stood in the corner at the end of the first one). Can Adam Wingard bring anything new to a franchise that launched an entire genre? And yes, I know it wasn’t the first faux-documentary but it was certainly the one that made everyone think they could make anything scary by putting the camera in the hands of the protagonists.

The short answer to that, in case you’re busy, is no. No he can’t. What he can do though is put together a pretty efficient retread of the original which shows a little bit more but…..

To rewind slightly, James Allen McCune is James, younger brother of Heather (the snotty one from the original movie). He’s recently been sent a link to some Youtube (still six years away when the original was released) footage that purports to have been found in the big scary woods. James is convinced that a glancing shot in a mirror shows his long lost sister and, along with two mates and a girl doing some sort of journalism project (I admit, I wasn’t really taking thorough notes here), he gathers up a tonne of technology and off they head to meet the posters of the footage.

Of course, the couple who posted the footage turn out to be, er… colourful and so the uneasy journey, complete with GPS, ear mounted cameras and a drone commences with the six soon to be very unhappy campers. Things start to look a bit wonky when Ashley (Corbin Reid) cuts her foot badly in a stream the group have to cross and by the time they set up camp, it’s not long before BANG!

Yeah, and that’s pretty much the level of scare we’re looking at here. No sooner have the team gone to sleep then very loud noises start emanating from the forest and strange wooden totems appear hanging from trees. Sound familiar? Of course it does, barring the quality of the footage, this is pretty much note for note the first movie. It does try to do a few things differently but largely for the sake of it and largely with no effect. The web-cam the team set up in the tree to look over their camp? Battery goes, zero scares. The drone that the team send up to observe the vast expanse of forest remotely? Crashes in a tree, zero scares. The GPS? Just doesn’t work, team goes around in a big circle.

To get slightly spoilery for a second (believe me, it’s really not going to ruin your enjoyment), there is quite an interesting element highlighted from the first movie, in that once the scary shit starts, it rapidly becomes clear that the team are trapped by some malevolent force in some kind of time loop where no matter what they do, it will always be night and they will always end up where they started. There’s a nice twist near the end when the house (presumably from the first movie) heaves into view but to be honest, it’s mostly lost in the white noise and, yes, the copious screaming.

Having said all that, Wingard does manage some nice touches. His propensity for blood is utilised well with Ashley’s increasingly gory and creepy injury and he manages a tunnel sequence that is genuinely difficult to watch but the overall sense that we have seen all of this before is very difficult to shake. More depressingly, it’s simply too easy to see where all this is heading, which makes the ending no more disappointing that the original’s.

In Short:

I guess what we have here is merely The Blair Witch Project 2.0. New toys, more people, slightly more realised monster, slightly more revealed. If you watched the original and it terrified you, this one will probably be a lot of fun as well. If you watched the original and found it interesting but only sporadically jumpy and never once actually scary, then there’s nothing for you here. I jumped more times when the camera cuts from one protagonist to another (there is a nasty digital ‘bump’ when we switch viewpoints) than from anything happening on the screen. A new dawn for horror? Nope. In fact, I can barely shake the feeling that Wingard is having his own little private joke with us. Trapping the audience in the same doomed time loop as his wood-bound characters….      

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