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‘Blair Witch’ review: The horror seems familiar

James returns to the Black Hills forest to

James returns to the Black Hills forest to find his missing sister in "Blair Witch." Photo Credit: AP / Chris Helcermanas-Benge

PLOT A young man searches for his missing sister in a haunted Maryland forest.

CAST Callie Hernandez, James Allen McCune, Brandon Scott

RATED R (scary imagery and language)

LENGTH 1:29

BOTTOM LINE A near-identical retread of 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project.” No surprises and nothing new.

For a good part of this year, a film known as “The Woods” was the subject of some discussion among horror fans. Its content was a closely guarded secret, but at San Diego’s Comic-Con in July, the movie’s true identity was revealed: Its title is actually “Blair Witch,” and it’s a sequel to the 1999 low-budget sensation “The Blair Witch Project.”

That big “ta-da!” now seems worthy of a giant “so what?” Despite the marketing gimmick, “Blair Witch” is a thoroughly unimaginative retread. The only thing that prevents it from qualifying as a simple remake is that its main character, James (James Allen McCune) heads into Maryland’s Black Hills to find his missing sister, Heather, a character from the first film. Otherwise, “Blair Witch” feels like a faint carbon copy of an already much-copied movie.

Once again we’re presented with a group of friends making a documentary, this time under the guidance of film student Lisa (Callie Hernandez). Along for the trek are Peter (Brandon Scott), who unwisely scoffs at local ghost stories, and his girlfriend, Ashley (Corbin Reid). Most of their conversation centers on their many cameras — handheld, on earpieces, in a drone. This is all for our benefit, so we don’t wonder why the “found footage” we’re watching offers so many angles on the action.

Joining the party are the slightly scuzzy Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry), who seem like reiterations of the young goths introduced in the 2000 sequel, “Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch Project 2.” (At least that widely panned dud dreamed up some new characters.) The same old tricks, including the creepy stick figures that appear dangling from branches, are presented like brand-new shockers.

Director Adam Wingard (a contributor to the found-footage horror anthology “V/H/S”) makes the grave mistake of showing us, in brief glimpses, the thing that’s preying on our campers. But the whole reason “The Blair Witch Project” was so effective — it’s the rare horror film that will follow you home — is that we never saw what lurked in the darkness. All these years later, what a disappointment to find out it’s the same kind of horror we’ve seen in a dozen other movies.

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