It’s been over a decade since the last incarnation of the Blair Witch franchise and that was the resounding dud Book of Shadows which was produced a year after the 1999 found-footage phenomenon. For me, the original is still an obliquely frightening virtuoso. The key to the film’s success is understatement. For every folly that we hear in the creaky leaves, the ambiguity stirs our imagination to what could be causing it. Having said that, the usually acclaimed collaboration of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett has misconstrued what ignited the first film.
By veiling the film under the false title of The Woods, the pair were emancipated from expectations. Instead of a band of three aghast hikers, they substitute a larger pool of dumbbells. Rather than a couple of camcorders, the multimedia technology has upgraded to a drone feed, ear-mounted cameras and cell phones. Since a pile of rocks and a few stick figures aren’t spine-tingling enough, why not bigger effigies? It’s a case of diminishing returns via a wider scope and diluted jump scares. It’s comical when a character is searching for someone in the woods and there is an audible squeal when they leap into the viewfinder frame.
Heather, Mike and Josh weren’t trampled by huge tree falls and tents weren’t levitated into the air. I understand it was mostly budgetary but it was also an artistic choice and a much superior one to this bombastic misfire. In regards to the positive aspects, the finale inside the Black Hills Forest’s dilapidated lair is a ghastly, spooky affair that occasionally verges too far into Silent Hill psychosis (ex. The witch is a long-limbed, yellow leviathan stomping around the hallway).
On the other hand, a claustrophobic squeeze through a tunnel is very effective. The wrinkles of time displacement and voodoo around the stick figures are just window dressing for what it is a redux of the originator.
Rating: 2 out of 5