SURE, THERE WAS NOTHING technically wrong with Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of Psycho, but it sure did lack a certain something. The shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock's classic suffered from a slavish devotion to its source material—and Blair Witch, the sequel to 1999's The Blair Witch Project, suffers from the same flat-line syndrome. There's nothing glaringly bad about it, but the magic has been recycled away.
Throwing oodles of new, high-tech gadgets at the old trope of college students heading into the woods to seek out the supernatural, Blair Witch puts a larger group of kids in danger and gives them all kinds of improbable GPS-enabled ear cameras, microphones, and a drone (does that drone come in an ultra-light backpacking weight?) to film their reactions to big, bad noises in the forest. Every point from the first film gets done again here, except now, each is leached of suspense: Gone is the fear of wondering whether sobbing, snot-soaked Heather will make it out of the woods alive. Instead, we're left with the certainty that Heather's much younger brother (James Allen McCune), on an ill-fated search for his missing sister, won't fare much better.
While Blair Witch: 2016 Edition is packed with stressful situations, it's a lackluster outing that's especially disappointing when you know the film's pedigree. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are responsible for the some of the best indie horror and thriller flicks in recent years—check out their great films The Guest, You're Next (swoon!), and their shorts in the horror anthologies The ABCs of Death and V/H/S. These guys are good. But Blair Witch isn't good, it's tired. Take a lesson from Van Sant, guys! Do your own thing—you've already proven it'll be better.