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Review: ‘1st Summoning’ merely a ‘Blair Witch’ redud

Review: ‘1st Summoning’ merely a ‘Blair Witch’ redud
Brook Todd in the movie "1st Summoning." (Gravitas Ventures)

The found-footage horror picture “1st Summoning” doesn’t just pay homage to the genre’s most influential movie, “The Blair Witch Project.” It’s practically a remake. Director Raymond Wood and screenwriter Chris Piner repeat the formula almost exactly: A group of fledgling filmmakers chase a scary local legend into rural America, where they document their own haunting and demonic possession.

There are a few differences from “Blair Witch,” which pep up a film that’s often tediously derivative. Rather than a spooky forest in Maryland, the kids explore an abandoned warehouse in Arkansas. They have much more sophisticated equipment too, using drones, GoPros and digital cameras to produce clean, well-lit images.

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Perhaps the biggest change is that the “1st Summoning” cast is made up of experienced young TV and movie actors, including Hayley Lovitt, Teddy Cole, Brook Todd and Ace Harney. Wood and Piner give the characters more of a backstory, introducing old disagreements and hurt feelings that get dredged up while these folks slither their way through creepy corridors marked with satanic graffiti.

Ultimately though, this is just another buy-the-numbers POV fright-fest — like the B-movie version of walking through a professional Halloween haunted house. The locations are striking, and it delivers a few solid jolts, but unlike “Blair Witch,” nothing here is likely to cause nightmares that linger 20 years later.

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‘1st Summoning’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

Playing: Available Friday on VOD

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