'Blair Witch' Review: D.O.A. Horror Sequel Loses Its Scares in the Woods

Belated "official" sequel to 1999 hit updates technology but repeats the original's shocks — only much louder and lamer

'Blair Witch' Review: D.O.A. Horror Sequel Loses Its Scares in the Woods

It seems quaint now, and that's a generous word for it. But when The Blair Witch Project debuted in 1999, horror movies felt a seismic jolt. Shot for peanuts ($60,000), the film tracked three film student tracking evil in the Maryland woods with camcorders. The alleged "found footage" showed virtually nothing — and scared us anyway. So much so that the film became a box-office sensation ($248 million worldwide) and spawned a gimmick that's been ripped off so many times its novelty is in tatters. The awful official sequel, 2000's Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, disappeared without a trace. Yet the producers of this Blair Witch 2.0 are confident you will fall for their crash grab anyway. They're probably right, such is the sorry state of the current multiplex.

So what do you get for money this time? Bloody damn little. At least the technology is improved: GoPros, GPS, mobile aps, walkie-talkies, a drone-cam — you name it. Director Adam Wingard, who did soooo much better with You're Next (2011) and The Guest (2014), has decided to add more of everything with ever-diminishing returns. And the eerie loneliness of the woods is broken by a parade of singularly annoying characters, namely the amateur filmmakers/witch-hunters James (James Allen McCune), Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott), and Ashley (Corbin Reid). Not to mention a few unhelpful locals. Their goal is to find James' missing sister, Heather (from the first movie). A video has been sent to James suggesting that Heather is alive. The movie sure as hell isn’t. Every attempt at fright lands with a deadening thud. For shock value, Wingard and cowriter Simon Barrett simply repeat stuff from the original film, only this time louder, lamer, duller and stupider. Scarier? That got lost in the woods with whatever you spent for a movie ticket.