(US - 2016)
Directed by Adam Wingard. Written by Simon Barrett. Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry, Corbin Reid, Wes Robinson. (R, 89 mins)
Shot in secrecy as THE WOODS, complete with a trailer and promotional materials under that title until it was revealed to be a sequel to/reboot of 1999's THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT at this past summer's Comic Con, BLAIR WITCH goes the route of the third EXORCIST and HIGHLANDER installments and pretends the second film, 2000's much-maligned BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2, never happened. You'll be just as eager to pretend BLAIR WITCH never happened by the time it's all over, as the cult/horror team of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett pretty much faceplant despite their significant cred as "genre remixers" with the terrific YOU'RE NEXT (2013) and THE GUEST (2014). BLAIR WITCH '16 adds some modern elements not possible in Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez's trailblazing original (they get courtesy executive producer credits here), like earpiece cameras with GPS tracking and a camera drone capable of flying over the woods and surveying the area, but once the cast is stranded in the forest, the GPS is useless and the camera drone becomes a non-factor after it gets stuck in a tree. "Stuck" would be a way to describe Wingard and Barrett here, as the pair are unable to do much with the story that wasn't already accomplished 17 years ago. There's jump scares and some unsettling imagery, but by the film's midpoint, it seems the only option left is to turn it into a de facto remake of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.
remake of Eli Roth's 2003 debut CABIN FEVER, but BLAIR WITCH '16's second half is so slavishly devoted to recycling the events of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT that it ends up looking like a lazy, cynical, bigger-budgeted cash grab. It has a nicely eerie, ambient score by Wingard himself, but ultimately, its biggest accomplishment may be establishing some retroactive appreciation for what Joe Berlinger was trying to do with BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2. Somehow, I'm guessing that's not what Wingard and Barrett had in mind.