The new ‘Blair Witch’ sequel comes out of the woods at Toronto Film Festival

The "Blair Witch" team -- from left, writer Simon Barrett, actors James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, director Adam Wingard, actors Wes Robinson, Corbin Reid and Valorie Curry -- at Sunday's premiere in Toronto.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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If a pairing between movie and audience could be engineered in a lab, Sunday night’s Midnight Madness screening of “Blair Witch” might be the result

Before the screening, the festival’s Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes ran down the festival’s history with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett. Their first collaboration, “A Horrible Way to Die” played a different section of the festival in 2010. While at the festival, they were so into the midnight crowds that they made “You’re Next” with that audience in mind. Their next film, “The Guest,” played the festival’s midnight section as well.

Wingard and Barrett came out to briefly introduce the film.

“I’m really excited to watch this movie with you guys,” said Wingard, “because when you make a horror movie, you make it to watch it with an audience.”



In this era of prequels and reboots and movies that do everything they can to avoid being a sequel or remake, there is something refreshing about the fact the “Blair Witch” is an unabashedly genuine follow-up to the 1999 original, “The Blair Witch Project.”

That film, about three young people who disappeared while attempting to unravel the mysteries of a supposedly haunted woods, was a smash, considered one of the first hit movies of the online age and also largely responsible for kicking off the found-footage horror trend. (The new film also neatly sidesteps the widely disdained 2000 sequel “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”)

In Wingard and Barrett’s telling, James (James Allen McCune), whose sister was of one of the original trio, wants to find out what happened. So with his friends (Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid) he plans to go into those same woods. Along the way they pick up two locals (Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry) who are self-styled experts on local legends.

Even with modern technology like a flying drone and ear-piece cameras with GPS, the movie relies on the simple suspense of flashlights piercing the darkness of nighttime trees, loud noises or the terror of what’s around that corner or down that hole. The movie’s final section, a variation on a haunted house, becomes a frenzy.

The trailer for “Blair Witch,” a sequel to the original horror hit.


As the end credits rolled, Wingard, Barrett and Geddes took to the stage with flashlights under their chins, campfire ghost story style, to begin talking about the film. Then they brought out Hernandez, Scott, Reid, Robinson and Curry from the cast as well.

Wingard and Barrett talked about how they had been involved in the project for some three years and had needed to keep it a secret until the recent reveal at this year’s Comic-Con that the project they had been making known as “The Woods” was in fact the sequel “Blair Witch.”

Barrett noted that one of the main challenges was that in the original film the footage that audiences saw was largely shot by the actors with the cameras they were seen holding. Not so for the new “Blair Witch,” which nevertheless maintains the premise that what audiences see is real, recovered footage. (Wingard also noted that one of the cameras seen onscreen, meant to be an outdated model, is the actual camera they used to make their own “A Horrible Way to Die.)

“For me, the main thing that I remember from the original film as an audience member is just how authentic it felt,” said Wingard. “And that’s what’s so cool about being able to do a film like this, is being able to do it from the perspective of what worked for you whenever you saw it as a regular audience. So for me the main thing that was important was that we live up to that commitment towards reality.”

They also worked hard to both respect the mythology of the original film and to build upon it. As Barrett noted, when the first film came out people were inclined to believe just about anything they read on the Internet, while now people don’t believe much of anything they see online.

“I’ve retained all this basically useless information,” Wingard said of the fictional mythologies of the first film. “And finally I could put this to use; I spent a lot of time on the Internet looking at all this … and finally I can justify my pitiful existence.”


Barrett summed up the experience of working on the film when he said, “It was exciting just as fans to create the sequel we always wanted to see.”

When the audience exited the theater, the courtyard just outside the entrance was filled with creepy wooden figures like those seen in the movie, along with an eerie smattering of smoke-machine fog and a long, light-up banner for the film. One final bit of spooky showmanship to send everyone off into the night.

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