'Blair Witch' review: Toothless rehash of original poses as a so-called sequel
"The Blair Witch Project" was an inspired milestone in cinema. It was an effective achievement in guerrilla filmmaking that (for better or worse) jump-started a surge of found footage horror flicks. Meanwhile, this new "Blair Witch" (opening in theaters Sept. 16) isn't so much a sequel as it is an uninspired and watered-down retread of the original riding the tail-end of the found footage trend.
In short: James believes his sister Heather, who disappeared during the events of the original "Blair Witch Projects" twenty years earlier, is still alive in the Black Hills Forest. He recruits his friends and a pair of local guides as he explores the forest to learn more about his sister's disappearance and possibly find Heather. (Watch the trailer)
Hollywood has long had a creativity problem. The most popular films of the past several decades are either adaptations or sequels -- genuinely original stories are few and far between, and fewer still truly content with the mainstream audience. But this recent trend of just rehashing great films must stop immediately. Creatively bankrupt Hollywood has lowered itself to just churning out wholesale retreads of beloved movies and labeling them "sequels" -- but be it "The Force Awakens" or "Ghostbusters" or now "Blair Witch," these in-name only sequels are just regurgitated versions of better films.
"Blair Witch" makes virtually no attempt to advance or build upon the original film. The general plot structure is alarmingly all too similar - to the point of repeating many of the same plot beats of "Project." We learn almost nothing new about the Blair Witch herself - the exposition about her is delivered rather flatly by a pair of locals accompanying the characters into the woods. In fact, the only significant differences between the original and this so-called sequel are: the new film has twice as many new characters and the cast now includes two young locals who grew up hearing about the witch. Oh, and the group has a drone (for no real good reason).
With a scant 89-minute runtime, "Blair Witch" is too short to develop any of its characters or story - and yet paradoxically feels long because not a whole lot happens. Many scenes drag on entirely far too long - these drawn out scenes neither ratchet up the suspense n/or advance the story much.
While many of the above grievances can be written off as the gripes of a cynical movie elitist -- but in the end, "Blair Witch" is barely effective as a horror flick. The original "Project" methodically increased the tension, eeriness and genuine terror of the witch. This sequel is a one-trick pony: jump scares. And the laziest gimmick in the horror genre is the jump scare. While they may cause the audience to startle for a moment, most of the jump scares in this film don't make much sense within the movie's own logic. It's an unearned reaction the filmmaker imposes upon the audience - often covering up for the film's actual inability to create its own organic tension or terror.
Final verdict: Anyone who has seen "The Blair Witch Project" has already seen "Blair Witch." Seeing this weak sequel only encourages Hollywood to make more of these lame pseudo sequels.
"Blair Witch" is rated R for language, terror and some disturbing images. This found-footage horror film opens in theaters nationwide Sept. 16.