BACK into the WOODS

89 min. | R

Way back in 1999, indie filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez came up with the truly brilliant idea to make a movie on an ultra-low budget: Give cameras to three actors and set them loose in the woods to improvise a “documentary” about a search for the “true” story of a legendary witch.

The effect was so convincing that some people believed The Blair Witch Project was real, that the three young people had gone missing, and that the video footage depicting the horrors befalling them had been found.

The movie’s success ensured that the faux-found-footage conceit would be imitated. And boy, was it ever.

Now enter director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett. They’ve made names for themselves snarking on 80s action movies with The Guest and 70s slasher flicks with You’re Next. They don’t make their own movies so much as remake those of everyone else. So who better to give us Blair Witch, an entirely superfluous attempt to recapture the magic of the original and offer a remake masquerading as a sequel.

This time, it’s Lisa (Callie Hernandez) heading into the woods with friends Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid) to make a documentary about their pal James (James Allen McCune) and his quest to find out what happened to his sister, Heather, the documentary director from the 1999 movie.

James is heartened that some locals discovered what could be more of Heather’s missing footage, which doesn’t offer any new evidence of anything. But James is obsessed with finding Heather. It could have been interesting if James and his friends weren’t 20-somethings—making James only four years old when Heather went missing. But old people don’t buy tickets for found-footage horror movies, and young people don’t want to watch old people running around in the woods screaming, I guess.

The gang heads into the woods with a drone to get aerial footage, and each has an ear-fitted camera that gives us POV shots. Material from these sources plus handheld cameras has been edited together into something that more closely approximates a traditional narrative movie. It raises the question of who edited the footage, and to what end.

There was story left untold from 1999, like who or what the witch is and what happened to those filmmakers. Blair Witch seems to set up a particularly trippy solution, but after a lot of tromping around in the woods, some familiar horror-flick scares, and dead-end hints that the fabric of our physical world has been messed with, Blair Witch ends up in the same place as first film, with no answers.