‘Blair Witch’ – Film Review

Every bit as terrifying as the 1999 original. Maybe more so

We were a simpler people when The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999. We believed it was just maybe possible that this film, purporting to be made up of ‘found footage’ of young fools who went missing in a spooky forest, could be real. We marvelled at how it was marketed on the internet, which then seemed a world of wonderful possibilities and not the thing that would assuredly destroy us all (if you weren’t there, ask your parents). We’re more cynical now. A sequel/reboot coming 17 years later can only reasonably expect to meet with an eye-roll and a weary sigh. And maybe you’ll manage one, if your eyes aren’t otherwise occupied weeping with fear. Because this is every bit as terrifying as the original, if not even more so.

There’s already been a Blair Witch sequel but this film, like the public did, ignores it. We pick up in the present day with James (James Allen McCune), the brother of Heather, the missing woman from the original, planning to retrace his sister’s steps in the hope of learning what happened to her. A friend, Talia (Valorie Curry), is filming him for a college project. Two more friends come along for the trip because you need extra people to potentially die. They’re all wired up with tiny cameras, so once more the story is put together from ‘found footage’. Yes, it is essentially the same film with whizzier technology. Yet is that such a bad a thing?

What worked with The Blair Witch Project wasn’t the great story but the way it threw you into the middle of the action, unsure of the sound behind you, dizzy at sharing the same trembling view as the characters. It’s been copied countless times since, but many imitators have shown it’s not easy. Director Adam Wingard (The Guest) has the knack. His script is serviceable and his characters so dumb that any deaths are mostly unmourned, but his scares are first rate; tension is maintained throughout, jumps thrust in just as you’re insensible with dread at visual horrors only glanced. He has an instinctive grasp of the rhythms of a horror movie. Which is a long way of saying it’s so scary you may want to buy two seats – one to sit on and one behind you to jump into.