Jun 16, 2014

Review: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project was all the rage back in 1999 but I was only nine at the time. I've also been a baby about horror movies for quite some time (I've grown out of that thankfully). A film class I did in high school actually had TBWP as part of our movies to watch during class so I prepared myself by watching it on my own before seeing it in class to not look like a wimp. Yup, I was pretty scared at the time but at least I didn't look like a wimp later on.

Honestly though, TBWP is quite an accomplishment for Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the film's directors. Apparently the movie was made for around $20,000 and went on to gross over $248 million which is just insanity. They did all sorts of crafty moves like planting real actors when the main cast didn't know and giving them less and less food every day of shooting to raise tensions even higher. The actors were almost going through what the viewers were too while making the film. The marketing for the film was also groundbreaking and is for sure a huge reason why The Blair Witch Project did so well.


Genre: horror, mystery
Directed by: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Produced by: Robin Cowie, Gregg Hale, Michael Monello, etc.
Written by: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Music by: Tony Cora
Running time: 81 minutes
Production company: Haxan Films
Distributed by: Alliance Atlantis Communications, Artisan Entertainment, Arthaus Filmverleih, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $60,000
Box office: $248,639,099 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams




The film opens with a caption that says that three filmmakers disappeared one year ago while making a documentary in Burkittsville, Maryland. This film is the tape that was found and edited together. We're introduced to Heather, Josh and Mike who are on their way to Burkittsville to make a documentary about something or someone called the Blair Witch. Stories of people going missing and other strange phenomena are gathered from local townspeople before the three characters make their way into the woods to film some additional footage of important landmarks. They end up lost and harassed by something unseen in the woods every night.


What's amazing is how effective The Blair Witch Project is. To me, one of the best kinds of genuine scares you can get is not knowing what is really there. What's really in the dark? Myrick and Sánchez use sounds effectively to make the viewer have an image in their head of what is haunting the three main characters. Also, the interviews the characters have with the local townsfolk are also great at setting the stage and creating some suspension of disbelief. 

The simplicity of the film also extends to its usage of props that are basically just rocks and sticks. How this stuff ends up being creepy is largely because of the actors. All three of them, who are playing themselves, react genuinely to what's around them and to their situations. Heather Donahue somehow got the worst actress award at the Razzies of that year but that's a big mistake. I'm not saying she's Meryl Streep, but c'mon.

The story of The Blair Witch Project is like a mountain range. It's daytime, all is well. It's nighttime, uh oh. Daytime, phew. Nighttime, oh shit! You feel the dread that the characters do every time the sun is setting because you're just as tense as they are. The found-footage filming technique just feels so real, unscripted and it's just beautifully terrifying.

The Blair Witch Project is one of those movies that became a target because of its success. When people hear about a movie being really scary, they'll watch it and point out how it's not scary with glee. If you don't invest yourself into the film, of course it's not going to be scary. I'm sure that the kinds of scares that TBWP has isn't scary for everyone but personally I'm amazed at how the directors made something out of so little. I've watched this movie probably four times now and I'm always relieved when it's over. Its impact hasn't lessened despite knowing what's going to happen. It's made to live on and I believe will be hailed as a classic in the future.



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