Sticks and stones

“How do we find our way out of this movie?”

“How do we find our way out of this movie?”

Director: Adam Wingard

Starring: James Allen McCune

It’s been 17 years since a good chunk of the world’s people got the shit scared out of them by sticks, twine and Heather Donahue’s mucous in The Blair Witch Project, that little success story that got the ball rolling on the now dreaded and despised “found-footage” horror genre.

It’s been 16 years since the first sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and One Too Many came out, and essentially killed the franchise, although the found-footage cheapie horror shtick would live on, eventually peaking with Cloverfield (2008) but pretty much sucking before and after that film.

Now, here in good ole 2016, a second sequel to The Blair Witch Project makes its way into cinemas. Would Lionsgate take this opportunity to reintroduce a once promising premise into a new style of film, perhaps a traditional narrative about the Blair Witch set in the forest without the gimmick of people running around with cameras filming themselves, even when they are in great peril?

Nope—opportunity wasted. This movie is essentially the original with louder noises, a few more gizmos—drones, walkie talkies, better tents—and, yes, lots more sticks tied together with twine and piles of rocks.

For those of you who are scared shitless by stick men made out of twigs and twine (and piles of rocks in front of tents), this movie will fuck your shit up. I’m thinking that accounts for, perhaps .00009832 percent of the movie-going population. The rest of you will be bored out of your minds.

How does this new story tie into the original? Well, I will tell you. James (James Allen McCune), long suffering brother of the original film’s Heather, who vanished all those years ago, has found … a tape. That tape contains shaky footage made by somebody moronic enough to try to keep the action on camera rather than focus on their much needed getaway. In said footage, a messed-up looking woman is glimpsed for a second, so James instantly thinks it’s Heather.

James assembles a crew of idiots to go into the forest, the cursed forest where people disappear and strange tapes are found, in search of the house where the footage was filmed by some moron who didn’t just drop the stupid camera in favor of weaponry and get the hell to safety.

That crew includes a bunch of actors and actresses who basically don’t factor or matter much, so I won’t even name them. Lets just call them “The Band of Idiots Who Choose to Leave Their Cameras On and Run Around Hyperventilating Yet Keeping the Action Centered For the Most Part While Some Sort of Malevolent Force Tries to Eat Them.”

Seriously, what better way to drive a stake through the heart of the lame “found-footage” horror genre than to take the franchise that basically started it all, and take an-all new approach to the subject matter? Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) had a chance to do just this, but he opts for a louder, shakier retread.

The newness of this version is supposed to be reflected in the use of drones and hi-def cameras. It’s still just assholes finding stick men in the woods and then running around with cameras raised to their faces or that general area while a freaking witch or something of that ilk is trying to devour their soul!

OK, OK …there are a few moments of inspiration. There’s the suggestion that the group is stuck in some sort of time loop, and that the tape that James views has a really bizarre origin. The final few minutes of this movie are better than the original, including a scene where one of the characters gets stuck in an underground tunnel that plays on claustrophobic fears.

It’s too little, too late, because the film that precedes the almost-good ending is just a bunch of nimrods playing with stick men in the woods while continuing to film the action as they try to avoid getting disemboweled by a bloodthirsty witch!

For the best in cinematic witch action, see this year’s The Witch. For unnecessary and useless retreads, go ahead and plunk down for this P.O.S. Watch out though … it has scary sticks and twine and rocks in it. Oooooooh …