Many people consider The Blair Witch Project to be one of the scariest movies ever made; if not the scariest. The 1999 low budget indie film featured an unknown cast, a non-traditional plot, and a unique (at the time) found footage style, all of which combined to convince many viewers that what they were seeing on screen was actually real. It's hard to replicate that effect 17 years later, with found footage horror now being a genre in itself, but that's exactly what the new sequel, Blair Witch, will try to do. So how scary is Blair Witch ?
A number of critics have already sounded off on the movie, and the reviews are mixed. As of this writing, the film holds a 53 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the consensus reads: "Blair Witch doles out a handful of effective scares, but aside from a few new twists, it mainly offers a belated rehash of the original — and far more memorable — first film." In other words, Blair Witch is a scary movie, for sure. But the ways in which it scares you aren't necessarily the same ways the original Blair Witch Project scared you back in 1999, even though it follows much of the same course.
The new film features a very similar plot to the original. A group of college-aged kids venture into the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland trying to find out the truth behind something sinister. This time, however, instead of investigating the legend of the Blair Witch, they're trying to find out what happened to Heather Donahue. Heather was one of the students who went missing during the events of the first film, and she happens to be the sister of the leader of this new expedition. So as far as having creepy things happening to unsuspecting people in the woods, Blair Witch certainly succeeds much in the same way that its predecessor did.
However, there are some significant changes in the style of the new movie that several reviewers have noted. There are more modern horror touches, like an increase in jump scares and scenes of body horror, compared to the original. A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd remarked, "It’s more like a funhouse inspired by [the original] — scary in the safe way that sends popcorn flying, but it doesn’t linger much after the house lights have come back on." Benedict Seal of Bloody Disgusting said in his review, "This sequel is more of a non-stop thrill ride than [the original] ... Each set piece is souped-up inventively and we get a broader spectrum of scares this time round, not least the moments of wince-inducing body horror bled into the frantic running and screaming." So if you're the type of person who finds jumpy movies, where you never know what's around the next corner, and over-the-top scares more frightening than psychologically disturbing films, then you may even find the new film scarier than the original.
On the other side of the spectrum, many critics have also remarked that the film fails to replicate the overall feeling of unease that the original was able to create. It recreates a lot of the same beats, and it still uses the found footage style, but no one is being fooled this time around. "For better or worse ... Blair Witch is a 'Blair Witch' movie," wrote Forbes' Scott Mendelson. "You know the stories and you (know) the rhymes, and you know the ingredients for this particular stew." Everyone knows found footage is a style of filmmaking now, some might say an overused one, and it simply can't carry the same effect as the inventive original did almost two decades ago. However, if you haven't watched much found footage horror, then the movie's style will likely have its intended effect and you will indeed find it very scary.
At the end of the day, Blair Witch is a scary movie — probably one of the scariest of the year. Its whole purpose is to terrify you, and given that it used one of the scariest films of all time as a template, while adding in some modern horror touches, it will probably do a pretty good job of it.
Images: Lionsgate; Giphy