Even if it wasn’t the first found footage film, The Blair Witch Project holds a special place in cinematic history as the film which certainly popularised the genre. Seventeen years and a horde of imitators later, another crew of documentarians stride into the woods to investigate the legend of the Blair Witch.
Since the disappearance of his sister Heather (one of the original film crew from the first film), Jason (James Allen McCune) has been fascinated with the idea of going back to the Maryland woods in which she disappeared. Supposedly the home of the mythical Blair Witch, the Black Hills has become a shunned area with many local superstitions and tales surrounding it. As the new film crew searches the woods, things start to go horribly wrong.
This certainly covers much of the same thematic territory of the original movie, sharing that level of tension and eeriness. There is more here than just a remake, as the story is fleshed out. Firstly it has drawn the tale into the modern age, embracing the advances in communication technology. Headsets, multiple cameras, drones and even youtube, are all woven into the storytelling, to good effect. This is more than just a technological convenience, but allows the story to be told from multiple and shifting points of view, without relying constantly on one fixed character. As such it helps increase tensions, in the same way that multiple characters always increase the tension in any horror movie. By dying, one by one.
Yet it is more than just a fresh coat of paint. The Blair Witch broadens the mythos associated with the original story, giving more context to the witch and the tales surrounding her. It also acts as a more vivid and visceral demonstration of the terror, as you gain a clearer perspective as the group is hunted. There feels to be a set of rules in play, and although not all of them are necessarily clear, we feel there existence as an audience. Within the confines of this film series this all seems to make some horrific sense, and when those rules are violated bad things follow.
The question then becomes, does The Blair Witch do enough to differentiate itself from the original? In this regard it is on less firm footing. Where it is a solid example of found footage horror, it does little that is innovative. Instead it cleaves closely to its predecessor, providing shocks and scares in an effective manner.
More shakey-cam thrills, but effectively delivered. It might be nothing new but it is still terrifying.