As a recent fan of the original Blair Witch Project (1999), I walked into the remake with excitement and optimism — especially given the rave reviews it has received from horror film review sites. Perhaps it was partly due to this elevated expectation, but Blair Witch (2016) really did not live up to the hype.
Director Adam Wingard kept viewers on the edge of their seat with jump-scares every 10 minutes. Tension was emphasized by a soundtrack resembling the MGM lion roar and someone repeatedly dropping a bowling ball on the floor above.
While there were moments of hilarious genre self-reflexivity, Blair Witch went nowhere new, and certainly does not stay with the audience. The story is much the same as the original except this time it is Heather’s (Heather Donahue) brother, James (James Allen McCune), who is heading into the woods. He believes he has found evidence that his sister is still alive in the woods, and takes three friends, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Ashley (Corbin Reid), and Peter (Brandon Scott), with him to try to find her. The two locals, who were supposed to be their guides, end up tagging along for the trip too.
In this case, more is not better. Retelling the ‘lost in the woods’ story with double the cast and better film equipment gave way for a faster-paced movie. The film was rushed and lacked restraint, which was the best part about the original. The addition of the new camera angles and highly exaggerated soundtrack only exacerbated this flaw even further. Instead of a slow build-up, the film rams into high gear almost as soon as they enter the woods, and the jump scares continue right to the end with almost no variation.
There are a few gems in the film, such as the meta-humour in the scene where, after yet another person pops on to the screen accompanied by an inexplicably loud sound effect, Lisa, exasperated, exclaims: “Everyone stop doing that!” There are also some fairly inventive horror moments, such as the events surrounding Ashley’s foot wound — which simultaneously invokes body horror cinema and camp — and the claustrophobic shots of Lisa trying to escape the house through a very tight underground tunnel.
These moments, however, do not make up for the incessant and cheap jump-scares that comprise the bulk of the film. The story is almost an exact retelling of the original, but with none of the elegance.