The Blair Witch Project didn’t invent the found footage genre, but it revitalized the format and changed the landscape of horror films. There’s was nothing like it at the time, and there hasn’t been a film since that has managed to capture the same feeling. That’s mostly due to the fact that the internet was in its early days when it was released, and its brilliant marketing campaign painted a convincingly true story of teenagers getting lost in the woods and falling victim to strange forces. 17 years later and Blair Witch attempts to recapture the terror of the original for a new generation of audiences. While the film gives a valiant attempt, it can’t help but fall short of expectations.
It’s been years since Heather and her friends went missing in the woods outside of Burkittsville, but that hasn’t stopped her brother James (James Allen McCune) from looking for her. After watching a video on the internet that was found in the same forest where Heather disappeared, James gathers a couple of friends and sets out to uncover the truth of what really happened to his sister. Times have changed and they now have an arsenal of bluetooth cameras, gps trackers, and even a drone. But will that be enough to save them from the curse of the Blair Witch?
Technology may have improved but Blair Witch sticks to the same methods that made the original what it is to this day. Even though it’s a direct sequel, it feels more like a remake. A group of friends go into the woods, only to be stalked by something out in the darkness as it takes them one by one that culminates with those remaining visiting an abandoned house that shouldn’t exist. The effects are more impressive this time around, but that actually takes away from the tension created.
Blair Witch simply can’t create that same sense of terror that Project did so well. The scares are good and can be creative at times, but they just don’t land as well. The best scares happen once they arrive at the dilapidated house in the middle of the woods. It’s the culmination of all the tension that the film has been building up, and it delivers. Other than that, the rest of the film is all but familiar. And when it comes to horror, familiar isn’t great.
I can’t help but wonder if the film should have stuck with its original working title, The Woods, and remove any direct references to The Blair Witch Project. By associating itself with the franchise that made the found footage genre what it is today, it immediately created lofty expectations, both good and bad. Blair Witch is a decent horror film that adheres to the standards of found footage, but it’s far from being as memorable as the first. It’s just another horror movie.