On leaving the cinema, I received a text from my horror fanatic younger brother: “Well? Was it good or just scary?” and without knowing it, he’d somehow hit the nail on the head for Adam Wingard’s reboot of the Blair Witch franchise.
Maybe that was Wingard’s goal; the plot of Blair Witch is so similar to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project that his decision to reboot is questionable anyway, and perhaps Blair Witch really serves as a more easily marketable version for the jump-scare junkies of the Paranormal Activity generation.
That’s not to say that Blair Witch doesn’t have its moments; the sound mixing throughout is a total affront to the senses, and allows the forest to take on a terrifying life of its own. Equally horrifying is a scene towards the film’s climax, in which Lisa (Callie Hernandez) finds herself trapped in an underground tunnel. Wingard pays appropriate homage to the ingenious camera work of the 1999 original, and so the audience watch in cringing silence as Hernandez writhes to free herself.
This is where the Blair Witch franchise has always excelled, in taking feasible situations and making them hideous. To show the audience the witch has always been and should always be unnecessary, but Wingard’s answer to the original film is so lacking in new content that a brief CGI appearance seemingly couldn’t be avoided. Fans of The Blair Witch Project will enjoy the plethora of references to the 1999 hit, but ultimately Blair Witch relies far too heavily on them, without giving its audiences anything new to lose sleep over.
Disappointingly, Wingard upholds a couple of horror tropes that should have stayed firmly in the 90’s (note to horror directors: no woman sits alone in her bedroom loading battery packs into her camera equipment wearing only a tiny shirt and knee high socks. No one does that). Similarly, Corbin Reid’s character’s storyline is much like the dreaded forest itself; in that it leads an audience absolutely nowhere. That said, this is a genuinely scary watch, and still a refreshing break from the unimaginative slasher/possessed child trend. I won’t be camping any time soon.
Image: Loren Kerrs; Flickr.com