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There were parts that terrified me and made me feel uncomfortable, yet I still had hoped for more.

When Comic Con released the new trailer for Into the Woods and it was revealed that it was actually a sequel to the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, horror buffs went nuts. With the hand-shaking camera work and group of young adults camping in the woods, anyone would think that it resembled the likeness of The Blair Witch Project without even thinking of the possibility of it being its sequel. So within the last two months since the reveal, this horror/thriller went from a ‘looks good’ to a ‘hell yeah we need to watch that’ really quickly. But as much as I was anticipating watching this film, I left the theater with too many questions and feeling like I could have been scared even more.

James was only four years old when his sister, Heather, went into the Black Hills forest and never returned home. About 17 years later he goes in search of answers, and to potentially find his sister, as a group of his friends set out in the woods to do some of their own investigating. His friend Lisa films their entire journey for her documentary class project, so she equips everybody with their own camera. In this modern day, the camera equipment they had was a huge upgrade from what was used 17 years ago. However even with an upgrade in camera quality, the classic shakiness of the cameras offers the similar style of the original footage shot by Heather and her friends.

Being familiar with some of Adam Wingard’s films, I was looking forward to his take on directing this sequel. Wingard adapted easily to the style of The Blair Witch Project, providing the audience with a dash of the grittiness of the first film but incorporating modern day style. He wanted a build-up of the story and how it led the characters into the woods. The only disconnect for me in this regard is that James was only four years old when his sister disappeared, and his passion for finding her (even though it’s been 17 years) is pretty high for not having grown up with her. But as Lisa interviews James as they prepare for their camping trip, he gets pretty worked up about finding answers that local authorities weren’t able to come up with before, believing there is something he will be able to see that nobody else has. Give me a break. I honestly would have rathered the group of people camping in the woods had no connection to Heather, Josh, and Michael, and just wanted to feel adventurous to see if the Blair Witch was real. That would still be enough for me to go watch it. But the added family element gave it a little bit of cheese.

As the Director of Photography, Robby Baumgartner’s work in this film deserves some recognition. The shots looked raw, genuine, and believable, but were incredibly thought out. Shots included environmental scenes, interesting composition, and dramatic lighting. One part even had me thinking to myself, “Wow, that shot is really cool.”

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The actors cast for this film were good choices overall. Each character has a different element to offer the story, creating a nice blend of personalities. James, the main character, is a paramedic, which conveniently comes handy when someone hurts themselves. Lisa is the filmmaker, eager to get all of the shots she wants while showing sympathy towards the mission, Peter provides some comical relief, Ashley plays the damsel in distress, Lane is somewhat of a trouble maker/instigator, and Talia is kind of the quiet innocent one that just goes along with things.

As mentioned previously, I wish the story didn’t revolve around a guy trying to find his missing sister. Providing that emotion took away some of the fear for me. It became a vehicle with too much unnecessary focus and created a stale story. The build-up of thrill took awhile, but once it hit – it almost hit too hard too fast. This is where I felt like I should have been scared more, leading up toward the end. I appreciate story and character building more than the average Joe, but felt like this area could have used some TLC.

The area where I’m torn the most is in regards to the house in the woods, where James believes his sister is still at. In The Blair Witch Project, the house is seen for only a few quick moments before the footage cuts out and the film ends. In Blair Witch, we spend more time inside the house, which actually was semi-disappointing. I’m not quite sure what more I wanted out of it, but the hammer didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. When we get to the house, there’s already a lot going on (don’t worry – I won’t spill!), so we don’t actually get to build up the fear of what may be lurking inside, because the characters are already running around chaotically.

If you’re a fan of horror and thrillers, I would recommend watching Blair Witch because it deserves that much. I was entertained by it enough to enjoy myself but I really was hoping for so much more after all of the anticipation. At least there was a scene that made me feel so uncomfortable I felt like I was having a hard time breathing (hint: mega claustrophobia), which was a little unexpected. So if you love scary movies, it’s fun to watch in theaters. This film will entertain and scare you – just don’t expect it to be the newest big hit in the horror genre.

Directed By: Adam Wingard

Produced By: Keith Calder, Roy Lee, Steven Schneider, Jess Calder

Written By: Simon Barret

Starring: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott

Distributed By: Lionsgate

Release Date: September 16th, 2016

Run Time: 89 minutes

Rating: R

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