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What ‘Blair Witch’ lacks in originality, it makes up with dullness

Wes Robinson, left, and Valorie Curry in a scene from “Blair Witch”
Wes Robinson, left, and Valorie Curry in a scene from “Blair Witch” Lionsgat

It wasn’t a smart script or great acting that made “The Blair Witch Project” a box-office sensation in 1999. It was the the creative way the movie was put together and promoted that created buzz around the quirky indie.

Even before “The Blair Witch Project” opened, there was a website and a cable special that related the story of a group of young people who went missing in some Maryland woods. The only thing left was shaky footage that gave insight into their night of terror in the woods.

The found-footage style was original when it was used with “The Blair Witch Project.” It not only offered a different way of looking at a horror film, it added to the suggestion that the movie was the product of a group of people with cameras running for their lives that was finally stitched together. But today, it’s so overused it makes films annoying and cheap.

In “Blair Witch,” a follow-up to the original movie, James (James Allen McCune) is the brother of Heather, the woman who went missing in the original incident. He wants to find out if there is a chance his sister is still alive after all these years. To keep the shaky footage style going, James is joined by his friends who have agreed to shoot a documentary about the search. This time, the group is equipped with more high-tech gear, such as a drone and cameras that fit on their ears.

“Blah Witch” (oops, “Blair Witch”) then sets the group on its path of doom aided by a couple of locals who grew up near the woods.

This is the point where you will want to get up and go stand in a corner so you don’t have to see the rest of this mess. Under the guidance of director Adam Wingard, “Blair Witch” follows the identical story line of the campers getting lost and being scared by loud noises and figures made out of sticks. They begin to disappear one by one until a final confrontation.

Unless you have never seen “The Blair Witch Project,” every step of this film is going to feel familiar. Little frightens when each scene is so predictable. The plot of the original film wasn’t that interesting, so rehashing it is like a chef trying to make a seven-course meal out of water.

It’s not fair to talk about the lack of strong acting efforts since most of the time the actors aren’t even on screen. Instead, there is endless footage of a light reflecting off tree branches while someone runs through the woods. If next year’s Oscars has a category for best supporting sapling, “Blair Witch” is a lock.

Simon Barrett is credited as the writer. But surely a script must be too long to fit on a cocktail napkin to earn such a credit. They arrive. They run. They die. Roll credits.

The key to the original movie was watching the footage found after the disappearance. That gave the movie a slight touch of credibility. No such effort is made with “Blair Witch,” which is presented like a standard horror movie where a group of young people end up in a place they shouldn’t be and systematically get removed.

“Blair Witch’ is nothing but a pale imitation of “The Blair Witch Project” – void of all creativity and originality. It’s so bad, it manages what should have been impossible and is far worse than “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.” Even a dung beetle would find this too much of a stinker to endure.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

Blair Witch

No stars

Movie review

Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Valorie Curry

Director: Adam Wingard

89 minutes

Rating: R (disturbing images, brief language)

Opens: Friday, Sept. 16

Check movie times at calendar.fresnobee.com/movies.aspx

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