When critically analysing Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch purely in terms of scares, it passes with flying colours, for here lies a film that is likely to terrify even the most hardened of horror aficionados. For many, it will deem this eagerly anticipated sequel something of a success, but it’s when placing the title in the context of the franchise it exists within where the shortcomings appear – for while undoubtedly a scary endeavour, unlike The Blair Witch Project, this title shows the viewer far, far too much.
As we’re fully aware, the three film students who journeyed into the woods 15 years ago never returned home. One of which, Heather, left behind a younger brother, James (James Allen McCune) who has been tortured by his big sister’s disappearance ever since the haunting footage from her fateful venture surfaced. In a bid to gain some closure, he decides to set off back into the same woods, alongside his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid), documenting every step they take in order to put an end to this dark and mysterious set of events. Reluctantly they agree to allow Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) tag along, as they set off, hoping to find some answers.
One of the perks that help justify this sequel is the fact technology has advanced in remarkable ways since the first movie, and where Eduardo Sanchez’s picture deliberately compromised on production value to enhance the naturalistic elements and unwavering commitment to realism, in this feature the visual experience is far more gratifying, as handheld cameras have got so much better, and what transpires is a visually impressive slice of contemporary horror. What Wingard manages to pull off too, which is so often a major flaw to the found-footage sub-genre, is that you never once doubt why the protagonists are filming. It’s been crafted in such a way that it doesn’t feel false; there aren’t moments where you feel detached from the narrative simply because you find it impossible to believe anybody would film in these situations – and that’s essential.
Blair Witch is an extremely accomplished piece of cinema – it’s terrifying in parts and carries an engaging narrative too, it just doesn’t leave enough to the imagination, and perhaps spoils a few of the mysteries of the first film with its inclination to be so giving. But it becomes something a side-note when the film kicks into gear, as the entire middle act – which runs right through to the finale – is unrelenting in its approach. The original movie offered a fair share of much needed breathers that came in the form of daylight, but not in this instance, with large quantities of the story unfolding in the dark as you crave any form of respite. For in these woods, daylight doesn’t necessarily have to arrive. Good luck.