Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott

Classification: MA15+ (Strong Supernatural Themes)

Review by Peter Gray

Originally marketed as ‘The Woods’ before a surprise proclamation at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con revealed it to be an official follow-up to 1999’s ground-breaking found-footage horror experiment ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Blair Witch’ continues 2016’s run of stellar horror offerings.  Though the gimmick of the original film being passed on as actual footage is something that’s unable to be recreated here, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (the two collaborating again after their stand-out home invasion thriller ‘You’re Next’ won them acclaim) still have fun with this subsect of the genre that has very much run its course.

Staying true to the original format whilst simultaneously making it current enough to seem plausible in a technological sense – drones and wireless head-sets have replaced the hand-held handycams of yesteryear – this film has more of a specific purpose for its stock characters to be documenting their travels in the woods as its revealed that the sister to lead James (James Allen McCune) was one of the aspiring filmmakers who vanished in the original film. Whilst it does help to be familiar with this film’s predecessor (and I’m not talking about the pathetic cash-in “sequel” ‘Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2’ released in 2000), ‘Blair Witch’ works just as well on its own.

Though it takes note of the original film’s mentality of conjuring scares without resorting to bloody violence, ‘Blair Witch’ one-ups its precursor by peppering a few visually gruesome moments amongst the more tension-laced thrills; one sequence involving a female group member and a familiarly designed stick figure results in a rather disturbing instant that will surely have several audience members wincing in pain. Additionally, the tension this film builds start much earlier than one may expect, and just as the first film was essentially about being lost in the woods, here it feels more like a chase film.

As is the case with most horror films the less you know upon entering will only serve you better, and given that ‘Blair Witch’ has managed to garner a release that’s been relatively under the radar, you should be successful in taking a trip to the woods without knowing what this witch has in store. Whilst I do think the found-footage ploy implemented into the horror genre is one that should end, it’s certainly leaving on a high with what Wingard and Barrett have so smoothly executed here.

My rating: 3.5/5

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