Released on Sept. 16, “Blair Witch” returns to the Maryville Woods that terrified audiences in 1999 with varying results.
“Blair Witch” is a mixed bag as for all its phenomenal scares, and lacks in other crucial areas. Director Adam Wingard delivers a terrifying third act and successfully expands the original’s mythology, but the film is hindered by a middling first half and lackluster characters.
A sequel to the 1999 film “The Blair Witch Project,” “Blair Witch” follows James Donahue (James Allen McCune), the younger brother of the previous film’s protagonist, Heather. After a tape is found in the woods where Heather disappeared, he decides to go searching for his sister in the forest with his friends. A fellow film student accompanies them, making a documentary about the expedition. A pair of locals lead the pack, warning of the legend of the Blair witch.
The cast is no more than cannon fodder. Other than James, the characters serve no purpose to the story other than outlets for suffering. Although unmemorable, the cast doesn’t drag down the film badly as “Blair Witch” is more focused on scares.
For the first two acts, “Blair Witch” mainly baits the audience before completely subverting their expectations. As the band of characters settle in the woods, fans of the original will recognize many familiar story beats. While it initially seems like a retread, Barrett and Wingard expand on the original’s mysteries with innovative twists.
The film takes a slogging pace initially. The second act contains excessive jump scares that seem to serve no purpose other than startling the audience with loud noises. However, the constant fake outs prove effective build up as the filmmakers save the best for last.
“Blair Witch” contains one of the scariest third acts in recent memory. Horror fans will be thoroughly pleased as every time it seems the film is coming to a halt, the tension ramps up gradually higher. Wingard thrillingly directs intense chase scenes and a particular sequence set in a tunnel that is sure to terrify claustrophobes.
Overall, “Blair Witch” is an effective horror film that suffers from a number of problems but is elevated by its atmosphere and roller-coaster ride third act. Miles above recent found footage films, moviegoers looking for scares will get their money’s worth.
“Blair Witch” is rated R and playing in theaters nationwide.