Witch-hunt lacks craft

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

BLAIR WITCH (MA15+)

Di­rec­tor: Adam Win­gard (You’re Next) Star­ring: James Allen McCune, Cal­lie Her­nan­dez, Corbin Reid, Bran­don Scott, Wes Robin­son, Valo­rie Curry Ver­dict: Shriek, and ye shall find

FOR those com­ing in late, or check­ing out im­me­di­ately, let’s press rewind on the whole Blair Witch thing.

Back in 1999, there was a hor­ror movie re­leased called The Blair Witch Pro­ject. Cost about 35 cents to make and grossed a few bil­lion. Or so leg­end has it.

The lo-fi pro­duc­tion was a twitchy, glitchy jig­saw of im­ages as­sem­bled to look like a weather-dam­aged video­tape some­one picked up in the woods. The story went like this. Some youths had been pok­ing their noses where an evil en­tity pre­ferred they hadn’t.

Those same youths sub­se­quently van­ished, never to be seen again. But not be­fore film­ing their fi­nal days with a hand-held cam­era.

Au­di­ences the world over soiled them­selves with fright. And lo, a new genre was born: the found-footage thriller.

The new Blair Witch is a mod­er­ately ef­fec­tive at­tempt to re­boot the fran­chise for a new gen­er­a­tion of hor­ror en­thu­si­asts.

How­ever, the tim­ing of its ar­rival ar­guably isn’t the great­est – 2016 been an ex­cep­tion­ally strong year for freshly ground pulp hor­ror, with cur­rent re­lease Don’t Breathe still lead­ing the pack.

Just as tellingly, a long run for the Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity se­ries – and the fleet­ing pop­u­lar­ity of lesser found­footage ti­tles since the hey­day of The Blair Witch Pro­ject – makes any new shaky-cam shocker look de­cid­edly old-fash­ioned.

There­fore Blair Witch has con­sid­er­able dif­fi­culty work­ing up much men­ac­ing mo­men­tum dur­ing a very flat open­ing half of the pic­ture.

A ten­u­ous sto­ry­telling link to the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion does not re­ally help. Among the new bunch pok­ing around the same cursed wood­lands is James (James Allen McCune), the younger brother of a woman who dis­ap­peared dur­ing The Blair Witch Pro­ject.

James and his en­tourage are also doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery step of what is sure to be an ill-fated jour­ney into the un­known, al­beit with vastly im­proved tech (air­borne drone cam­eras, GPS hand­sets etc).

The qual­ity on of­fer in Blair Witch rises markedly once we are sure night is fall­ing for what will be the very last time.

That mys­ti­cal venge­ful pres­ence ducks in and out of hid­ing at ran­dom (and rather fright­en­ing) in­ter­vals.

As the case in The Blair Witch Pro­ject all those years ago, what we can’t see here can still hurt us if we’re will­ing to let our guard down.

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