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Summer is concluding and Fall is just around the corner. With the cooler weather and shorter days come the obligatory onslaught of scary movies and, for that, you’ll get no complaints from me. ‘Blair Witch‘ opens this weekend and it’s a fantastic way to kick off the season, in my opinion. Yes, they do rely on the original “found footage” gimmick from the 1999 movie. However, can it really be called a gimmick when we all know going into the movie exactly what we are getting? While the jumpy camera and angle changes are a little jarring, they help deliver in a way that puts you right into the movie from a first person point of view. This may account for the breathless and pulse-pounding climax of the film. But I am getting too far ahead of myself. Let’s establish the plot first.

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The movie focuses on James (played by James Allen McCune) who is the younger brother of Heather Donahue who disappeared while filming a documentary about The Blair Witch (which we know as ‘The Blair Witch Project’). Someone has uploaded new footage onto the web which appears to be of James’ sister Heather still alive and trapped somewhere out in the same woods where she disappeared 17 years ago. Now, with the help of his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid), James sets off into the Black Hills Forest of Maryland to meet up with YouTube user darknet666 AKA: Lane (Wes Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry). They say they can show James and his friends where they found the newly acquired DV Tape with the footage of the woman James believes to be his sister but only if they are allowed to accompany the quartet and film the experience just like Lisa plans to do.

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Once they are deep in the woods and have set up camp for the night, strange noises are heard and the group awakens to find the familiar stick totems of The Blair Witch surrounding their encampment. But later when it is revealed that Lane and Talia created the totems to scare James & his friends, that’s when things start to turn upside down. To say anymore would spoil the movie for you. Needless to say this true sequel to the original film explores some different dimensions and aspects that the original never really delved into while changing up the premise of just what is happening in The Black Hills Forest. The movie’s last half hour is relentless in it’s pacing to the point where my fellow movie reviewer noticed that his Fitbit display showed his heart rate had doubled by the film’s fateful climax. Director Adam Wingard, who is no stranger to helming  horror movies that pay off, certainly deserves credit for giving us yet another “found footage” movie that still ends up delivering thrills even 17 years after we know what it is we are watching.

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All-in-all, I’d say that ‘Blair Witch’ is certainly one movie you’ll want to check out this weekend if you are in the mood for some horror pre-gaming to kick off your season. If you’ve never seen the original, no need to worry – it isn’t required viewing to understand what’s happening in the new film. If you were a fan of the first one, then you’ll enjoy the nostalgic feeling from seeing it 17 years ago and remembering just why, to this day, the original left you feeling like you never, ever want to venture too deep into the woods ever again.

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