17 years after the original was released and somehow managed to trick people into thinking this found footage film was in fact real, it was time for another group of doomed students to head into the haunted forest that’s home to the Blair Witch. The project was taken on by frequent collaborators from You’re Next, V/H/S and The Guest, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, and was titled The Woods until the first trailer hit and revealed it was to be a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry; after a video was found containing what looked like footage of James’s (McCune) vanished sister Heather, they head into the forest to find out if she’s really still alive.
Nostalgia may be the first experience of watching the film, whether it be those who are fans of the original, some for whom it may have been one of their earliest horror films, or just because you saw the original and it makes you think of that because it’s basically the same story with a small adjustment. It’s difficult to really talk too much about the plot of the film because once the characters enter the forest, any description simply would be packed full of spoilers; also partly because the film tells us little to nothing about the characters and who they are. You could say that it would be unnecessary information but at the same time, a crucial factor of a horror film is some form of sympathy and connection with the characters because if you’re not at all invested in them, are you really going to care if they live or die? Not really.
The first crucial factor however of this particular genre, is the ability to scare its audience and unfortunately Blair Witch will be found lacking in that department. The downfall of making a sequel to a film which had a basic plot, is that you now have another similar basic plot, except you can now predict the majority of it, meaning its effectiveness takes a massive nosedive. That’s not to say the whole film goes without being at least slightly scary but for a film that keeps their characters generally ready to pass out with fear, it doesn’t live up to that. It is interesting to see the found footage format updated, now including a lot more perspectives because of course everyone has a device with a camera, even a drone aerial view but being less restricted in that sense, while making it visually less monotonous, it takes away from the more personal experience, missing the opportunity to more strongly make its audience feel like a part of the film.
As far as making a sequel, it achieves that and throws you back into the world of the Blair Witch and her rather inhospitable disposition, even potentially a little more of an insight to what she actually is but this is a case of been there, done that. There’s no new territory explored here, it’s not necessarily a bad horror film and may even be more enjoyable for those not having seen the original, but realistically it’s the classic bunch of dumb kids do something they know could be dangerous and it goes badly as always. It’s disappointing to see a film so middling, especially after Wingard and Barrett’s success with You’re Next and The Guest but perhaps they’ll have better luck with their next film, a remake of I Saw the Devil, the 2010 South Korean crime film about a rogue secret agent enacting his revenge through a series of captures and releases.