Hard though it may be to believe, it’s been a full 15 years since ‘The Blair Witch Project’ ushered Found-Footage horror and internet marketing into mainstream filmmaking. It seemed like the series might have died after the box office failure of its underrated sequel, but the bankability of franchise building finally brought the Blair Witch out of retirement this year. Surprisingly, the results are damn impressive.
By hiring a team of talented genre filmmakers to return to these particular haunted woods, the studio has delivered an absolutely terrifying new horror flick that should please longtime fans and have new casual genre nuts rolling in the aisles.
The ‘Blair Witch’ revival kicks off when James (James Allen McCune), the brother of the budding filmmaker lost in the woods many moons ago, discovers a YouTube video that he’s convinced proves his sister is still alive. He gets a group of his best friends to join him on a trip to the woods, and one of them decides to film it for posterity. (She even brings few new Millennial tools like a drone camera and headset cameras for everyone.) They meet up with the creepy young locals who posted the mysterious footage, who guide them into the woods in search of the mysterious Blair Witch. Think they’ll find her? (Hint: Yes).
The setup is deceptively simple, but it’s exactly what the brilliant duo of writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard (‘You’re Next’, ‘The Guest’) needed to dive back into ‘Blair Witch’ mythology and deliver a shattered-nerve scarefest that more than lives up to its iconic title. Wingard and Barrett have been toying with horror in playful genre mash-ups for a while, but this is the first time they’ve really gone for their audience’s jugular, and boy do they ever deliver. They cleverly use a variety of hidden and worn cameras so that they can shoot coverage and employ suspense editing without disrupting the Found-Footage aesthetic. They know exactly how to show more than anyone would expect in a series known for unseen terrors, yet hold back because the unseen is always scarier than the seen. They carefully structure their scare ride with rising intensity until the last act of the movie essentially delivers a non-stop onslaught that is sure to make packed theaters scream and jump. Most importantly, they know that so much of this series’ appeal is in a situation gradually growing out of control and into the supernatural. By the time that happens, the audience is in a constant state of unease and anticipation.
Revealing how and why Wingard and Barrett do all these things would be unfair. Their ‘Blair Witch’ is a horror rollercoaster best experienced as a ride with only the bare minimum of expectations. Rest assured that the pair deliver virtually all types of cinematic, bodily and psychological horror by the time the credits mercifully roll. The film is executed by a team of genre nuts who know exactly how and why to use all the tricks in their arsenal. This isn’t just a satisfying sequel; it might even be an equal to the original. This sequel proves that reviving old franchises needn’t always be a cause for dread. The nightmare romp is the perfect horror flick to hit screens in time for Halloween season. It not only revives the Blair Witch from the pop culture dead, but just might keep her around for a few more years.