Witch-hunt lacks craft
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.