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‘Blair Witch’ sequel follows original’s trail

Since its inauspicious release on 27 screens in 1999, the pioneering film from Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick has been hailed as a modern horror classic, despite having no special effects, monsters or gore.

It made use of viral online marketing in a way no movie had attempted before and, despite its tiny US$60,000 budget, managed to make US$248 million worldwide.

“Book of Shadows,” a glossy, special effects-laden sequel that dispensed with the found-footage formula, was rushed out a year later and universally derided, putting the franchise on ice for 16 years.

The original has spawned myriad imitations, with found-footage movies such as “Cloverfield,” “Rec” and “Paranormal Activity” saturating the market over the following decade or so.

While each received glowing reviews, these and other franchises racked up numerous lower-quality sequels and the sub-genre is now generally thought to be on its last legs.

Enter longtime collaborators Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the respective director and screenwriter behind “Blair Witch,” the latest installment in the franchise, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.

“The most immediate feedback you can get from an audience is from doing a comedy or a horror film, and we’ve had a lot of experience with that,” Wingard said ahead of the screening of “Blair Witch.”

“And that’s why with this film, we specifically made it with the mainstream reaction in (mind), where we really wanted to get lots of jump scares, lots of direct audience feedback.”