Halfway through The Blair Witch Project
, the three young campers find themselves back at their campsite after hours of walking through the woods and trying to flee the eerie forest. It’s a bone-chilling moment, one that shatters our hopes that they will be able to escape. The new sequel also moves in circles, but rather than burrowing under our skin, it emerges as a tired retread. And it makes us lose all hope that it will go anywhere new.
takes place 20 years after the events of the first film. It follows the heroine’s brother, James Donahue (James Allen McCune), after he finds footage from the Black Hills Forest that suggests his sister may still be alive. He gathers up some friends to help him search the woods, including his love interest, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), who happens to be making a documentary about the expedition, allowing the film to emulate the found-footage style of the original.
The plot thickens when the YouTube users who posted the footage of James’ sister decide to tag along. Lane (Wes Robinson) is a metalhead hillbilly while his girlfriend, Talia (Valorie Curry), is a bit of a creep, complete with white and purple hair. They present a threat to the rest of the group, and for a while, it seems like they are the true perpetrators of the bumps in the night. But then the familiar signs of the Blair Witch start appearing: the piles of rocks, the howling wind, the mysterious stick men hanging from the trees. The most disturbing trick of all is the loss of time. At one point, Lisa sets an alarm for the morning and finds herself waking up to it in pitch blackness, as if trapped in permanent nightfall.
Sure, this is all creepy and competently executed. Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are no strangers to horror — these are the guys behind the superb slasher flick, You’re Next
. But Blair Witch
doesn’t feel as shocking as it should. It’s more like a trip back through a circus funhouse from your youth; it’s intense and visceral for a while, but you eventually feel like you know exactly what’s coming around every corner.
The beauty of the original film lies in its mystery, in how it makes you feel like you never quite know exactly what’s happening. It also exudes an endearing innocence as it grows older. The fact that a few twenty-somethings set out to spook each other behind a clunky camera in the woods and ended up carving out a place for themselves in film history is magical and inspiring. Blair Witch
feels less pure and inventive, focusing more on feeding our nostalgia than charting new territory. The original film is the very definition of iconic, embedding itself in your memory and flooding your mind with macabre imagery. Unfortunately, this one loses its power as soon as you leave the theater, and it poses no threat of haunting your dreams.