Adam Wingard’s new Blair Witch sequel/reboot is garnering mixed reviews as the film debuts this weekend for anxious fans of the original Blair Witch Project. The film currently sits at 38% on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes and has steadily declined throughout the week. The film originally sat at 53% positive on Wednesday but as more reviews poured in, the film experienced a steep drop.
Positive reviews such as Michael Gingold of Time Out indicate that Blair Witch is a return to form after the low rated 2000 sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Gingold explains that “The you-are-there vérité techniques that gave the 1999 horror movie such a frightening immediacy have passed into cliché, and there’s no way today’s audiences would fall for the original marketing campaign’s “It really happened!” pitch. So it’s something of a small miracle that the 17-years-later Blair Witch, essentially a sequel-as-remake (ignore 2000’sBook of Shadows: Blair Witch 2), emerges as satisfying in its own right and pretty damn scary.”
Unfortunately for fans, the vast majority of critics disagree with Gingold’s assessment. Most critics such as James Berardinelli of ReelViews cite the film for overuse of now tired techniques that the first film originated. Berardinelli writes in his review that “It’s an interesting thought-piece to speculate whether this movie might have worked better had it replaced The Book of Shadows as the first sequel since it’s similar in many ways to the original. But this is 2016 and not 2000 and the horror genre has moved on. Found footage has evolved from being edgy and interesting to being an overused joke. Jump scares (which Blair Witch relies on too often) have become the province of the lazy filmmaker. Perhaps for someone who never saw The Blair Witch Project, this might represent an adequate scary movie. But for those who have seen Myrick and Sanchez’s calling card, regardless of whether they loved it or hated it, Blair Witch will seem more like a pale homage than a new chapter to the saga. ”
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone goes even further saying that the “Belated “official” sequel to 1999 hit updates technology but repeats the original’s shocks – only much louder and lamer.”
Perhaps most troubling of all for the new film is that fact that the audience score is also under 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Traditionally, the audience score (which is calculated based on the percentage of users who rate a film 3.5 or higher out of 5 stars on the site) is much higher than the critics average, but Blair Witch clocks in at a lower than average 47%.
Blair Witch brought in roughly $765,000 during Thursday previews and it remains to be seen how the film will do at this weekend’s box office. Check back on Sunday for a full box office report on the Horror News Network.