OK, I have to ask a question here: Would you, dear reader, go off into some VERY forbidding woods to help a college friend attempt to find his sister — who has gone missing?
If we’re being honest, I think a lot of people would say, “No, but good luck to you!”
Of course, that would put an unfortunate kibosh on this very entertaining and well-crafted second sequel to the iconic and groundbreaking “The Blair Witch Project,” which scared the bejesus out of us back in 1999. Speaking of scary, “Blair Witch” — directed by horror genre pro Adam Wingard (“You’re Next,” “The Guest,” “V/H/S”) — delivers solidly as well in that central requirement for any horror thriller.
The new film is set up and cinematically constructed quite like the original movie from 17 years ago. Lead character James (played by James Allen McCune) was the kid sibling of ill-fated documentary filmmaker Heather from the first film. When he comes across a weird YouTube video making him believe she’s still alive, he becomes obsessed with the need to head back into those oh-so-frightening Black Hills of Maryland.
Wingard, writer Simon Barrett and their team wisely ignore the really exploitative (read: money-grubbing) first sequel: “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” released in 2000 as a lousy rush-job attempt to capitalize on the surprise success of the first film.
James heads off with his own team of pals who are intent on making a documentary about his daring attempt to find his sister on this bizarre journey into darkness — in more ways than one! Ah, yes, the world of found footage filmmaking advances into a new realm.
It should be noted that in “Blair Witch” the technology has been nicely updated from the original — as well it should be. The cameras used by the actors are state-of-the-art, we have GPS and even drones — all things that frankly help drive home the fear factor. What that accomplishes is to make us, the audience, feel as lost and disoriented as the characters we’re watching on-screen.
Big kudos go out to screenwriter Barrett for creating a script that throws out so many curve balls. Just when you think the story is going in one direction, you get some nice jolts and surprise twists. The supernatural elements are, for the most part, nicely sketched out as we get more of an insight into Elly Kedward, the Blair Witch herself.
One of the only drawbacks to this film was the surprising lack of interest I had in the young stars of the movie. I just could not get invested in their lives or personalities and frankly couldn’t care if they lived or died.
In addition, I also found the ending a bit of a disappointment, but — not to worry — no spoilers will be shared here!
However, all in all, “Blair Witch” was quite satisfying and made me think: This is what the first sequel to the original film should have accomplished.
Liongate presents a film directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R (for language, terror and some disturbing images). Opens Friday at local theaters.