The original Blair Witch Project catalysed a new era in horror filmmaking: minimalism becoming an art form within the genre. Opening the floodgates for numerous films across all genres that put us in the shoes of a hero behind a handheld camera. The found footage film has come a long way and there is a treasure trove doing the rounds on the independent scene — the latest instalment in the Blair Witch franchise, is a film that balances subtlety, ambiguity and in-your-face thrills to perfect effect.
Set 20 years after Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Mike Williams went missing in the Black Hills Forest, Heather’s brother James sets out with a group of friends to uncover what really happened to his sister all those years ago.
The film’s technical aspects are a lot more advanced than its predecessor’s, with the sequel’s $5 million budget easily trumping that of the 1999 hit. If Jurassic World is a more tech-savvy version of the classic Spielberg masterpiece, then consider 2016’s Blair Witch the same thing in its respective franchise: it’s bigger, badder, suaver and utilises its own brand of terror that helps it leave the shadow of the original’s iconic status. These merits aren’t written to discourage Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’ magnum opus (which I consider an all-time classic) but to give credit to Adam Wingard and his team on making the best version of this film based on the 21st Century landscape, catering to a diverse range of fans and staying true to their style of filmmaking.
Some of the film’s elements may turn off some purists, like some of the unambiguous moments, but I think director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett hit a home run, managing to present a versatile range of situations for their characters, while maintaining a riveting authenticity over the roughly-90 minute duration.
VERDICT — The sequel to the 1999 hit is a tense, jarring tour-de-force. A lot more mainstream than its predecessor, Blair Witch (2016) hits the perfect balance of subtlety and flat-out exuberance.
MVP: Callie Hernandez as Lisa, who plays Heather’s ambitious spiritual successor and exhibits a versatile emotional range onscreen.