You’re Next direc­tor Adam Win­gard casts a spell with Blair Witch…

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The witch is back in Adam Win­gard’s tree-quel Blair Witch.

“We were never al­lowed to write the words ‘Blair Witch’ on any­thing,” says Adam Win­gard, talk­ing up his lat­est – a su­per-se­cret se­quel to the 1999 found-footage phe­nom­e­non The Blair Witch Project. For three years, dur­ing prep and pro­duc­tion, Win­gard (You’re Next, The Guard) was call­ing Blair Witch by its fake ti­tle, “The Woods”. “It ac­tu­ally feels weird to say it out loud now,” he says. “I still con­stantly check my­self and go, ‘Oh my god, did I just give some­thing away?’”

The se­crecy is un­der­stand­able. The $25,000-bud­geted orig­i­nal be­came the most suc­cess­ful in­die of all time, gross­ing $248 mil­lion, with the pub­lic in­trigued by a spook story co-direc­tors Ed­uardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick pur­ported to be true. “I was ob­sessed,” says Win­gard, who was a teenager when he first saw it. “It was a great film in the sense you felt there were all these clues and hid­den mes­sages. It kept you com­ing back for more.”

Win­gard’s Blair Witch picks up with James (James Allen McCune) set­ting out into the Mary­land woods where his sis­ter Heather dis­ap­peared all those years ear­lier. So is it a se­quel or a re­boot? “It is both of those things,” Win­gard an­swers. “The rea­son we’re not call­ing it ‘Blair Witch 3’ is be­cause we want to come with a fresh new per­spec­tive, say­ing: ‘We’re restart­ing it. We’re sorry about ‘Num­ber 2’. Let’s pre­tend like that didn’t hap­pen. We’ll go back to what you liked and let’s get this party started again.’”

You’re go­ing to see things out in the woods…

Ah, yes – “Num­ber 2”. Or Book Of Shadows:

Blair Witch 2 to give it its proper ti­tle – Joe Ber­linger’s mis­guided se­quel that killed the fran­chise for a decade-and-a-half. “[Now] peo­ple claim not to hate it, but I have a hard time be­liev­ing that,” says Win­gard. “I just don’t like that movie at all. I felt like, ‘How badly can you miss the mark?’ Tak­ing one of the most re­al­is­tic hor­ror films of all time and then dub­bing all this phoney act­ing and crappy-look­ing, dated-’90s style cam­er­a­work… the whole thing looked like a Pearl Jam video. It had no au­then­tic­ity to it at all!”

Work­ing with his reg­u­lar scribe Si­mon Bar­rett, the 33-year-old Win­gard wanted to re­vive mem­o­ries of the orig­i­nal, delv­ing back into the Blair Witch mythol­ogy and de­liv­er­ing a pure-blooded found-footage movie. “I wanted to play by the same rules,” he says, call­ing his movie “a tech­no­log­i­cal up­date” of the Myrick-Sánchez film. Ev­ery­thing from DSLR cam­eras to ear­piece-cams (worn by the ac­tors, helping to sta­bilise shaky footage) and even a mini-drone are used, as James and his friends head for one scary show­down.

While all of these tech-el­e­ments feel or­ganic to the story, Win­gard has also been care­ful to use the same in-cam­era ap­proach to the scary bits. “I re­ally come more from an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of old-school ef­fects,” he says. “There’s no CGI in the film. You’re def­i­nitely go­ing to see things out in the woods that you’ve never seen be­fore… We cre­ated ev­ery­thing you see on set and there are no silly CGI mon­sters.” Buckle up then… the Blair Witch is back.

Blair Witch opens on 15 Septem­ber and is re­viewed on page 94.

James Allen McCune plays the brother of the orig­i­nal film’s Heather.

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