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Taking a fresh spin on a modern classic, "Blair Witch" delivers many of the same thrills and surprises as its 1999 predecessor, "The Blair Witch Project," and kicks in a few frights of its own.
Give credit to director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett for daring to create a new chapter to a movie that's both respected and reviled for its much-copied "found footage" style. Give them more credit for making this sequel in secret, hiding it even from most of Lionsgate's top brass, and revealing the truth in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
But the neatest trick pulled off by Wingard and Barrett who collaborated on the home-invasion thriller "You're Next" and the anthologies "V/H/S" and "The ABC's of Death" is making a movie that honors the original, spruces it up with new technology and reminds audiences why we got so scared by things that go bump in the woods.
James (James Allen McCune) has been studying the goings-on in the woods near Burkittsville, Md., since he was 4 years old when his college-student sister, Heather (yes, that Heather), disappeared while making a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch.
Now James, tracking down a lead about the mystery house where he thinks Heather and the others disappeared, is heading into the woods with Lisa (Callie Hernandez), a film student, following along to complete a documentary about James' obsession.
Along for the camping trip are James' best friend, Peter (Brandon Scott); Peter's girlfriend, Ashley (Corbin Reid); and two locals, Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who claim to have knowledge of the woods' secrets. The six have tents and camping gear, and all of Lisa's latest filmmaking gadgets, including head-mounted cameras and a small drone for aerial shots.
What happens next? Like I'm going to tell. No, there are some delicious surprises, and it would spoil the fun to divulge them.
Suffice it to say that this sextet of mostly unknown actors spend some time running with flashlights through the dark woods, terrified of things unseen, much as Heather & Co. did 17 years ago. Wingard isn't merely copying the vibe created by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, the makers of the original "Blair Witch Project," but repurposing their ideas to generate new chills.
Wingard and Barrett show more of their cards than the original did, and include a bit of onscreen blood (something the first movie only implied), as they ratchet up toward an eerie finale. This new "Blair Witch" may not have all the electricity of the original classic what movie could? but the fact that the filmmakers come close is shocking in its own right.
More college kids go into the Maryland woods, and find themselves terrified by something out there, in this solid sequel to the 1999 classic.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Friday, Sept. 16.
Rating • R for language, terror and some disturbing images.
Running time • 89 minutes.