The Bland Witch
Earlier this year the world was delighted with the surprise of a secretly made Cloverfield sequel that actually turned out to be pretty amazing. When it was announced at the San Diego Comic-Con that ANOTHER beloved horror movie was getting a sequel, and that the early reviews for it were all glowing, people's expectations were suddenly sky high for a movie that just a few months ago they had no idea existed. The film in question getting its sequel was the horror classic The Blair Witch Project, a "found footage" film that basically created a million copycats and its own sub-genre within horror lore. A sequel did come out for the film back in 2000 but was greeted with poor reviews since it couldn't match the height or originality of its predecessor. Also, a reason The Blair Witch Project was so successful is that its marketing campaign was so brilliant in making people actually question whether or not the film really happened. No one knew if it was a true documentary or a fictional film. For that type of magic, it's hard to duplicate....particularly with a sequel. 17 years later, we all know the first movie is fake, so for a late sequel to have that kind of impact would be difficult. But could The Blair Witch 2016 somehow pull off this feat? Unfortunately for me, the answer was a definite no.
The sequel is set fifteen years after the events of the first film and focuses on the brother of the former lead character Heather. After losing his sister to the mysteries of the woods, he is determined to discover if she is somehow still alive. The problem is, the original Blair Witch changed the game so much, that trying to copy it now just feels so standard. The characters are cardboard cutouts with not one of the leads giving too compelling of performances. The first half of the film is so bland and boring that by the time fun stuff finally starts happening in the final third it just feels like too little, too late. Certain story lines are set up with very little payoff, that overall....while there is fun to be had, I couldn't help but feel pretty disappointed by the time it was over.
Overall, it's hard to make a sequel to one of the defining horror genre films of the 90's when you can't pull the same trick on the audience twice. As someone who has only seen the original film a couple times, perhaps I couldn't appreciate the homages the director intended, but to me, everything just felt so cookie cutter and by the numbers, I was too bored. So perhaps bigger Blair Witch buffs will disagree with my opinion. But, to the film's credit, the final portion of the film is incredibly solid, and watching the first person perspective makes it feel like a cinematic haunted house type experiment. The end was incredibly fun but just couldn't redeem the mediocre beginning and middle. RATING: 5/10