Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Herdandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott

Director: Adam Wingard

89 Minutes

Adam Wingard recently declared that the cast of his new movie were totally unware they were filming a sequel (hold your tongue, more on that later) to the 1999 chilling wobbly-fest Blair Witch Project. Apparently given the impression they were creating a pitifully cheap straight-to-DVD teen horror, they only realised the true nature of the film during a phone call from the director pre-launch. This all seems a little unlikely (ie. utter bollocks) given that not a minute of freshly discovered home footage shakes by without a reference to the original, but as JJ Abrams has reliably displayed recently, misdirection only comes from someone that has lost their way.

Of course, Blair Witch is not a sequel at all. 2000s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was the sequel. The fact that it was a god-awful rushed piece of garbage, dreamt up by a marketing exec rapidly masturbating their cash-in Powerpoint presentation does not simply make it disappear. Ironically, Blair Witch is a far stretch from a sequel anyway. True, the botched storyline is a vague temporal continuation but the events are almost identical to the first film and positions itself much closer as a modernised reboot.

Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s intentions are achingly and exasperatingly obvious here. Surely a faster paced, less allusive derivation on the original movie’s premise would almost certainly appeal to the less attentive, ravenously consuming millennials. Idea one; kit the latest set of Burkittsville Wood campers with shiny new technology; GPS head-mount cameras and drones. Idea 2; none of that humdrum suggestive horror stuff; show those baddies full screen as quickly as possible. Two ideas, that’s all it takes to get a Hollywood exec to part with five million dollars, guys and gals. Anyway, that should keep the intellectually lazy whipper-snappers occupied, right? How superior of them.

The drawback of this focus is that these languid philosophies entirely backfire on them. If a film is wholly reliant on its ability to build tension then shock the living shit out of you, then by definition it cannot be fast paced. To build that tension, it needs time to develop. It needs to be a bit slow. Blair Witch is so preoccupied with its requisite to endlessly shock that it is entirely possible to count down to the next sudden piercing aural blast.

The plot is not worth explaining; it’s the Blair Witch Project. Done badly. The acting is forgettably middling and it’s difficult to care anyway. McCune is vaguely reminiscent of a Parachutes-era Chris Martin, all the more troubling that the possibility of him being torn apart by elusive phantoms doesn’t even stimulate. Brandon Scott’s Peter is maddeningly clunky and it’s never truly apparent what becomes of him. Yet it’s Wes Robinson’s Lane who sums up both the characters and castings misgivings; a shoulder-droopingly imitative crafty outsider, derivative of almost every teen movie in the history of cinema.

It’s fitting that the movie franchise that started the ‘recovered handheld film footage’ genre so dramatically 17 years ago should hammer the final nail in its coffin with a sequel of three parts. There is absolutely nothing here that a teenager with an iPhone couldn’t produce during a drunken night in the woods with his mates. Arguably, there was potential here to delve deeper into the mysteries left by the first movie, even tie things up a little, yet Barrett seems satisfied to do exactly as much as is necessary to get a theatre release; a staggeringly poor effort from him and Wingard.

Ironic then that, contrary to Wingard’s inane marketing spiel, the cast of Blair Witch thought they were starring in a sequel to chilling wobbly-fest Blair Witch Project, when in fact they were making a pitifully cheap straight-to-DVD teen horror.

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