The original film was made by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick for a scant $60,000 and went to scare up more than $140 million domestically. I really liked the movie and got wrapped up in the story of the three would be documentarians and their search for the truth behind the Blair Witch myth. It was the movie that really kicked off the found footage sub-genre (although not the first to use the style). There was a sequel made already, but it did not equal the success of the original. Now, with remake-happy Hollywood, I guess it was only a matter of time before they went back to the well.
The new film is simply titled Blair Witch, and while it is a true sequel and not a remake, it might just as well have been a remake. It feels very much like the same film with just a few new elements tossed in. This new film was made by the team of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett. They are the team behind a couple of films I really like, The Guest and You’re Next. Their Blair Witch film was made under the title The Woods, going so far as to have a theatrical trailer released using that title.
Anyway, this film tells the story of Heather’s younger brother searching for his long lost sister. Of course, he is the subject of documentary chronicling his efforts as he decides to go into the dreaded woods after finding some new footage online that could show where she disappeared. The small group head out into the woods in search of Heather and before long strange things start happening to them.
If you have seen the original, you have a very good idea of what is going to happen. The group argue amongst themselves, they wake up to find the stick man figures hanging around the camp, they find little piles of rocks, and when they walk they appear to walk in circles. There are a few new elements added in that I liked even if they are not used all that well (I will not spoil here). Needless to say, whatever new things that are added, they do not make up for this essentially being a remake of the first disguised as a sequel.
Blair Witch has the same escalation of events, culminating in running manically around a rundown house and plenty of shaking camera footage. This movie does have the advantage of updated technology, some neat earpiece cameras that make the movie feel more POV than the original, plus there is the introduction of a drone camera which was a welcome addition. There are a few more special effects at play here and the end does feature some nicely tense sequences that will get to you.
The problem with this movie is that the new ideas and tense bits are few and far between. Most of the time I kept thinking of how much it was like the original, but without the interest of the hunt for the witch. This is very much a cookie cutter found footage film that does not offer enough new stuff to make it worthwhile. I was also annoyed by the fact that characters a supposed to be filmmakers (not all of them) but don’t seem to have an interest in shooting it like a movie.
I really wanted to like the film, being a fan of the original and of the folks making this one. I just can’t. Sure, I liked some of the elements, the new tech used, some tension towards the end, and another thing I won’t mention, but it really wasn’t enough. It is an aggravating experience and may signal the final breaking point in my enjoyment of found footage. Watch at your own risk.