In 1999, young and adventurous filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez took the world by surprise with “The Blair Witch Project,” a horror movie that started a whole new craze: the “found footage” genre.
Originally developed as a slim 35-page script outline, the film’s idea came across to Myric and Sánchez because they realized they found documentaries on the paranormal scarier and more interesting than any recent horror films. They decided to combine the two and create an original product.
Made with an almost inexistent budget, the film practically exploded in the box office, raking in $248 million and making it one of the most successful independent films of all time. A great part of this success was due to a highly inventive marketing campaign, which used the nascent internet culture to spread rumors about the supposed reality of the events depicted in the movie.
Inevitably, a sequel followed soon after. “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” (2000) abandoned the previous film’s found footage trappings in favor of a more traditional narrative, but it was widely panned by critics and audiences alike.
“Blair Witch” (2016) is the latest film in the saga. Promising horror director Adam Wingard, best known for films such as “You’re Next” (2011) and “The Guest” (2014), delivers what is basically a remake of the original movie. All the now-classic tropes are there: young people lost in the woods, shaky hand-held camera, glimpses of the horror that haunts the forest.
James Donahue (James Allen McCune) along with some of his friends (Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott and Ashley Bennett), travel to the forest in Maryland where the original Blair Witch movie occurred, in search for his sister, who was one of the protagonists of that film and who disappeared 22 years ago.
As one would expect, things soon start to get weird, with strange stick figures being hung near the camping tents of the characters and people getting inexplicably lost when their GPS devices fail.
Audiences hated “Book of Shadows” for straying too far from what they had loved in the original movie, but this new offering doesn’t really give us anything new. There are bits of inventiveness here and there, such as the use of drone-mounted cameras and new additions to the lore of the witch who roams the woods. But it, disappointingly, only treads through the same terrain as the original movie.