“The Blair Witch Project” was a high-quality film, but it also benefited from timing.
The 1999 movie was released at the end of an era, in a pre-smartphone, pre-social media, pre-viral and less cynical world — when a clever marketer could convince someone for weeks that a fake thing might be real. The low-budget “found footage” horror film played to an audiencepopulation that still wondered if that kid in the Life cereal ad died by eating Pop Rocks and Coke.
The sequel-of-sorts “Blair Witch” has no element of surprise, and it’s diminished because of it. The new film does have an excellent young director, who adds some of his own ideas. But “The Blair Witch Project” filmmakers made it feel as if the terror in the woods was happening to you. In “Blair Witch,” it always seems like someone else.
Relatability is difficult with the new characters, starting with James Donahue (James Allen McCune), brother of Heather Donahue, the most sympathetic victim from the first movie. James rounds up a few of his dopey friends, and they head to the same woods from the first film. After a half-hour of watching them bicker and make fun of the locals and ignore some obvious warning signs, it’s hard not to root for the witch.
Director Adam Wingard has trouble building a foundation but fares better once the weirdness starts happening. Simon Barrett’s script loosely mirrors the first film, with some nods to technology (there’s some drone-related horror) and new directions.
One of the most horrifying parts of the 1999 movie was watching the group walking in circles. Wingard and Barrett find new ways to play with time and space — escalating the creepiness factor with each new revelation.
But each smart technical filmmaking move is accompanied by a dumb move by a central character on screen, and with each scene, the rooting interest wanes a little. Even if there were no witches in the world, these idiots would probably get taken out crossing a busy street.
Rating: R. :89. Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.