What 'Blair Witch' lacks in originality, it makes up with dullness

Rick Bentley
The Fresno Bee (TNS)
  • James Allen McCune and Callie Hernandez star in "Blair Witch."

It wasn't a smart script or great acting that made "The Blair Witch Project" a box office sensation in 1999. It was the creative way the movie was put together and promoted that created buzz around the quirky independent film.
Even before "The Blair Witch Project" opened, there was a website and a cable special that related the story of a group of young people who went missing in some Maryland woods. The only thing left was shaky footage that gave an insight into their night of terror and encounter with something in the dark.
The found-footage style was original when it was used with "The Blair Witch Project." It not only offered a different way of looking at a horror film, it added to the suggestion that the movie was the product of a group of people with cameras running for their lives that was finally stitched together. But today, it's so overused it makes films annoying and look cheap.
In "Blair Witch," a follow-up to the original movie, James (James Allen McCune) is the brother of Heather, the woman who went missing in the original incident. He wants to find out if there is a chance his sister is still alive after all these years. To keep the shaky footage style going, James is joined by his friends who have agreed to shoot a documentary about the search. This time, the group is equipped with more high-tech gear, such as cameras that fit on their ear and a drone.
"Blah Witch" (oops, "Blair Witch") then sets the group on their path of doom aided by a couple of locals who grew up near the woods.
This is the point where you will want to get up and go stand in a corner so you don't have to see the rest of this mess. Under the guidance of director Adam Wingard, "Blair Witch" follows the identical story line of the campers getting lost and being scared by loud noises and figures made out of sticks. They begin to disappear one by one until a final confrontation.
Unless you have never seen "The Blair Witch Project," every step of this film is going to feel familiar. Little frightens when each scene is so predictable. The plot of the original film wasn't that interesting, so rehashing it is like a chef trying to make a seven-course meal out of water.
It's not fair to talk about the lack of strong acting efforts since most of the time the actors aren't even on screen. Instead, there is endless footage of a light reflecting of tree branches while someone runs through the woods. If next year's Oscars has a category for Best Supporting Sapling, "Blair Witch" is a lock.
Simon Barrett is credited as the writer. But surely a script must be longer than what can be written on a cocktail napkin to earn such a credit. They arrive. They run. They die. Roll credits.
The key to the original movie was watching the footage found after the disappearance. That gave the movie a slight touch of credibility. No such effort is made with "Blair Witch," which is presented like a standard horror movie where a group of young people end up in a place they shouldn't be and systematically get removed.
"Blair Witch" is nothing but a pale imitation of "The Blair Witch Project" — void of all creativity and originality. It's so bad, it manages what should have been impossible and is far worse that "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2." Even a dung beetle would find this too much of a stinker to endure.

Zero stars
Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry
Director: Adam Wingard
89 minutes
Rating: R (disturbing images, brief language)

From left, Brandon Scott as Peter, Corbin Reid as Ashley  and James Allen McCune as James in "Blair Witch." The movie opens Thursday at Regal West Manchester Stadium 13, Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13 and R/C Hanover Movies.
Valorie Curry as Talia in "Blair Witch." The movie opens Thursday at Regal West Manchester Stadium 13, Frank Theatres Queensgate Stadium 13 and R/C Hanover Movies.