Did you hear that there’s a new remake of The Blair Witch Project? No? Good—you weren’t supposed to. At the July premiere, the audience entered a theater plastered with posters for a movie called The Woods and emerged after the screening to see the intentionally misleading promotional materials replaced with ones bearing the real title: Blair Witch, directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next and The Guest).

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The success of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project—with its then-innovative use of amateur documentary style and psychological thrills created on a shoestring budget—is impossible to re-create, and the first attempt (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, released just a year after the original) was a critical and commercial flop.

More than 15 years later, they tried again, this time with a direct sequel—with Heather’s little brother on a quest to find his sister who he believes may still be alive—featuring the creepy stick-people and ominous cracking sounds you know and love. But there aren’t any bundles of teeth, and it’s clear that this film is set in 2016 thanks to the replacement of the shaky hand-held camera with high-tech earpiece contraptions and a drone flying overhead.

The new technology allows for a more traditionally cinematic experience (while still maintaining the “found footage” illusion) and lets the audience see from the perspective of each character, even when they wander from the group. It also gets rid of the amusing moments in the first movie when the explorers, fighting for their lives, pathetically scream “WHY ARE YOU FILMING THIS” at the documentarian.

These millennials are more prepared for their journey than their predecessors. They brought walkie-talkies and GPS systems and all sorts of useful gadgets, and still the forest devours them. There are six main characters—but instead of safety in numbers, it’s double the death scenes.

In the first movie, the witch messes with space, making our hiking heroes walk in endless, inescapable circles. The space warp persists in this film, but in the new iteration she also plays with time, at one point plunging the characters into a period of endless, oppressive night. The witch is both omnipresent in the atmosphere and growing inside their bodies. The film takes advantage of claustrophobia and vertigo and all the phobias you can imagine, for an hour and a half of twitchy, paranoid discomfort.

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I wouldn’t wish this exhausting nightmare on my worst enemy—and at the same time, I recommend it. The copious jump scares and sound effects are impressive and relentless; the last third of the movie reduced me to a nauseated, hyperventilating blob with my fingers splayed over my face in terror… and I was far from the most frazzled person in the theater.

I felt physically ill with fear. And the moment the film ended, I was flooded with relief and joy. The whole endeavor made me question why I continue to watch horror movies at all. It’s not particularly intellectual or artistic or thought provoking—but, damn, does it feel good when it’s over. recommended

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