Back in 1999 we were all a lot younger. Then, the found-footage genre was virtually unknown, and 'The Blair Witch Project' all but introduced it to us. Meeting with critical acclaim and box office success upon its release (albeit helped by a carefully orchestrated internet build-up), it was a phenomena that spawned countless other found-footage productions of variable merit. Now 17 years later, does this second sequel emerge as Daddy to the genre, or is it just another shaky webcam outing? The answer is pretty much both it would be grossly unfair to expect it to provide the same level of hype or impact as the original, and indeed it does not. But it is very enjoyable.
James (James Allen McCune) leads an expedition into the legendary woods to locate Heather, his sister, who went missing in the original. Of the group, poor Ashley (Corbin Reid), more than most, has reason to regret her decision to partake in this venture. Her spreading foot wound provides the goriest moments this film has to offer, and yet ultimately, nothing really comes of this, other than to make us wince.
Why does James wait 16 years before trying to find his sister, and what reason would he have to think that she is still alive and in the woodlands after all this time? He was 4 when she disappeared, so perhaps his parents insisted he waited until maturity hits him before he embarked on the mission, but a word explaining this would have been appreciated.
The group are a fairly agreeable bunch certainly they are fairly attractive, which is a concession for mainstream films now, but they are not the catwalk fodder we have been 'treated to' in other productions. And yet, where we got to know only three of them in the original, and they were all fairly strong characters, here there are more of them and naturally they have to share the screen time which means we care less about them as individuals. Perhaps Peter (Brandon Scott) stands out the most: initially heavily sceptical of the mission (and understandably, because local boy Lane's (Wes Robinson) sincerity is sometimes a little intense although Peter is equally flawed in being so blatantly scorning of him) he nevertheless succumbs to growing fear.
Of the original, the most effective element was knowing that each subsequent night the lost teens spent in the forest would provide terrors ever worse than before. Here, that is not an issue, because frighteningly, the night never ends, throwing the characters into disorientation. Something achieved very effectively here is their hopeless situation for all they try and do to escape events, we know they may as well just lay down and die. The poor sods.
Towards the end, once they find the abandoned building (that according to investigations, does not actually exist), everything is thrown at the production: the haunted house, disembodied screams, a thunderstorm and manic confusion.
The subtlety that made the original so terrifying is sadly not in evidence here. Instead of the distant rustling in the trees and the possibility of human cries, everything is turned up to eleven the creepy effects and the hysteria are all loud and all-surrounding. By the end, we are treated to some almost organic sounds suggesting the Blair Witch is all-encompassing, the house's corridors comprised of 'her' innards. This and the endless night scenario expands on the hallucinogenic supernatural events prevalent in the unfairly lamented 'Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows (2000'). Here, the climactic maelstrom is chaotic yet nicely frightening and leaves the story over for now but not disallowing the idea of a sequel. I hope we see one. This may be flawed, but it could have been one heck of a lot worse.