-There’re plenty of scares in this reboot of the classic horror film, but it perhaps stays too close to formula.

It may be regarded much differently now, but at the time of release, The Blair Witch Project was one of the most innovative horror films of its generation. Arguably the first mainstream film (No, Cannibal Holocaust is not mainstream) to use the “found footage” gimmick for low-budget horror, it remains the proudest member of that sub-genre. A failed sequel later, and we haven’t seen a new entry in this series in over fifteen years.

Curtailing the plot structure of Blair Witch to resemble the original is one of Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s best choices in trying to craft a seasonal scarer. The scenery, shot entirely on location, is part of this film’s charm. Like in The Blair Witch Project, our characters trudge through the woods in order to discover the secrets that the forest holds, this time, the younger brother of Heather from the original film decides to go and look for evidence of what happened to his sister so many years ago.

In this way, the film is both a remake and a reboot. The steps that are followed are almost entirely the same, except for small additions with updated scares for a modern audience that give us a little gore, a few ghostly glimpses, and a couple “BOO” moments. Plenty of people complain about jump scares, but they don’t bother me if (and only if) the scene remains tense after they happen, like being in a state of perpetual terror. The last fifteen minutes of Blair Witch, like the original, is that way.

Yet, the similarities are also problematic. When Blair Witch attempts to pick up steam and get interesting, the audience should already know exactly what’s going to happen. The characters are not quite as interesting as in the first film, either, but a few scares involving flesh wounds make up for that to the extent that they are unexpected, even if that’s the silver lining to the film. It should never be a huge positive when we get a rare scene that is unexpected. In horror, the entire film should keep us on edge, and the tone is not quite spooky enough here to keep the senses permanently on “dread.”

Perhaps it’s that fall is my favorite season, or that the original plays to the senses in a way that make it seem so legitimate, but I did enjoy Blair Witch more than I had a right to. It’s completely unnecessary, familiar, and by the numbers, but watching a horror movie come out, just as the mornings get a little colder and September wears on, that uses the scenery so effectively ends up being a huge plus for the aesthetic that is purported from this reboot. Pumpkin Spice Latte anyone?

 

3 stars

Blair Witch (2016)

Genre: Horror

Director: Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest)

Starring: Jason Allen McCune, Brandon Scott, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, and Wes Robinson

RT Score: 38%

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