‘Blair Witch’ Is ‘Effectively Scary,’ But Should’ve Been ‘Left Lost in the Woods,’ Critics Say

The sequel to 1999’s “Blair Witch Project” has a score of 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

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Critics are torn about the new “Blair Witch” film, describing it as “effectively scary” but “one found footage movie that should have been left lost in the woods.”

The sequel to 1999’s cult horror “The Blair Witch Project” currently holds a score of 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with 21 “fresh” reviews and 19 “splat” ones.

TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde wrote that the film “is the product of writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard … But not even they have figured out a way to make this movie stand on its own. The filmmaking duo guides us on a slightly different path, but it’s clear early on that the destination will be all too familiar.” At the same time, however, he wrote that it “does manage to generate occasional moments of tension, particularly when it strays from the first film’s narrative and peeks into some new dark corners.”

“Blair Witch,” produced for a very modest budget of roughly $5 million, is expected to top the box office with trackers placing its debut at a whopping $23 million (though Lionsgate is hedging bets, saying mid-to-high teens).

The movie is about a group of friends who return to a forest in Black Hills, Maryland, to find a young man’s sister, who many believe is connected to the Blair Witch legend after her disappearance 22 years before.

See 10 mixed reviews below.

Jonathan Pile, Empire Magazine:
“Effectively scary and occasionally inventive, ‘Blair Witch’ is a solid genre film both helped and hindered by its franchise’s place in cinematic history.”

Keith Watson, Slant Magazine:
“When it’s all over and the lights come up, ‘Blair Witch’ leaves one feeling swatted, thrashed, and thrown around, not to mention nearly deafened by the film’s screeching sound design. But to what end? In fairness, a lot of audiences felt the same way about ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ which received notoriously terrible CinemaScore grades, including an F from men aged 35 and older. But that film was a genuine phenomenon, one whose influence is still reverberating, while the memory of ‘Blair Witch,’ on the other hand, is unlikely to last too long after the headache wears off.”

Kim Newman, Screen International:
“It’s an intense, imaginative piece of work – which treads over familiar ground but modestly ventures a bit further in the climax – and as such is likely to connect with audiences who have supported the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise which copped its found footage angle from ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in the first place.”

Matt Prigge, Metro:
“Without revealing too much, ‘Blair Witch’ goes too far, creating a movie in which anything can happen, even a fit of Cronenbergian body horror. And because anything can happen, it lessens the thrills, makes one think too much about an increasingly byzantine plot. If franchise entries are now like a game of Exquisite Corpse, Wingard and Barrett are like the people who leave a horrible mess, then pass it off to the next person to clean up.”

Ben Travers, IndieWire:
“Compared to the ill-fated ‘Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2’ — the first follow-up which was rushed to market for financial reasons — this new iteration still comes across as downright inspiring. Wingard has gone about his sequel in a completely opposite fashion: Making it under a veil of secrecy and nearly two decades after the original debuted. More importantly, he’s done everything imaginable to hold true to the spirit of Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick’s creation; which also frames ‘Blair Witch’ as much like a reboot as it does a sequel.

Edward Douglas, New York Daily News:
“An even bigger crime is that ‘Blair Witch’ isn’t particularly scary, maybe because it’s hard to take any of it seriously when it’s just treading so much similar ground as the first movie. With nothing new to add to the ‘Blair Witch’ mythos, this is one found footage movie that should have been left lost in the woods.”

Dustin Putman, The Fright File:
“Simply put, it is a tremendously satisfying climax, and not even the contrivance that they would still be wearing their over-the-ear video cams and lugging around a camcorder can dampen the breathless fun. ‘Blair Witch’ is no ‘The Blair Witch Project’–few films are–but it is a worthy, affectionate follow-up with nerve-blistering apprehension to spare.”

Jordan Hoffman, Vanity Fair:
“Once it becomes evident that this movie is just the 1999 version done with an electric guitar instead of an acoustic, all tension is shot. This isn’t to say the jump-scares won’t make for a fun night at the movies, but it’s like chomping on White Castle hamburgers — when this creative team has previously served us a prime rib.”

Matt Donato, We Got This Covered:
“‘Blair Witch’ brings a jolt of energy to a legendary horror franchise, making for a respectful and uniquely haunting chapter.”

Matt Goldberg, Collider:
“For those who have seen the original, ‘Blair Witch’ is a frustrating experience. It’s well crafted, and at times incredibly scary, but the woods aren’t as terrifying when you’ve already walked through them.”