The Blair Witch Project (1999)

“The Blair Witch Project” is one of the most controversial horror films of recent memory, and this is not due to explicit content; the movie was never banned or placed on a parents’ watch list. It is controversial due to its lack of explicit content; there are no CGI monsters or buckets of gore, bucking the trend of most contemporary horror. It derives its scares from its setting, atmosphere, and great performances from the three leads.

“Blair Witch” tells the story of Heather (Heather Donahue), Mike (Michael Williams), and Josh (Joshua Leonard); three student filmmakers who are producing a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch, who is said to reside in the woods outside Burkittsville, Maryland. They disappear during their venture, however, and the footage of what they experienced in those woods is found a year later. The film consists entirely of that footage as if it were spliced together chronologically.

The movie was preceded by an unprecedented advertising campaign, the first in history to truly utilize the internet; a website was established claiming the footage shown during the film is true and that the leads were missing and presumed dead. Posters advertising “The Blair Witch Project” were modeled to look like missing persons posters and featured images of the three protagonists. These tactics were highly effective, with many believing the advertising’s claims.

The movie was a huge box office smash, and received mostly positive assessments from the critical community. While the advertising for “Blair Witch” was successful in drumming up interest, it also proved to be the film’s undoing in some ways. There was such a buzz surrounding the movie, and many viewers were disappointed in the film’s sparseness. At its centre, the movie is about three people yelling at each other in a forest. I see this as a positive though; “The Blair Witch Project” eschewed most of the excesses and tropes, which defined the genre over the years. The film focused on our core fears of isolation and the unknown, making it one of the most frightening entries in modern horror cinema.

Matthew Nadbrzuch

out of

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

TRAILER

THE FULL FILM

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5 Responses to “The Blair Witch Project (1999)”

  1. Mysteriron N. Cognito Says:

    Ostensibly this may seem like just a movie about whiny snot-nosed idiot college kids getting lost in the woods in the midst of making a crappy student film documentary about on old pervert. But beyond that once you peel away the layers…..oh crap, never mind. That’s all this movie is.

    Yes, yes, in your mind the monster you come up with is always scarier. Tsk. Tsk. But to that end, wouldn’t actually getting lost in the woods be a much more chilling experience than watching a bunch of snot-nosed pukes whine on shaky cam? Yes, I believe it would. So, word of advice, skip this and just have some balls and get lost in the deep dark woods instead. That would actually be unnerving and not just plain nauseating or migraine-inducing like faux shaky cam bullshit, which by the way along with deceptive viral marketing is as much of a bullshit cop out gimmick as cartoonish CGI.

  2. Matt Nadbrzuch Says:

    Haters gon’ hate, I guess.

    Thanks for the comment, but by that logic, I shouldn’t be able to watch a Jason movie without enlisting a ‘real-life’ knife wielding maniac to chase me around first.

    • Mysteriron N. Cognito Says:

      Not exactly. While I admit movies more focused on the supernatural or unseen have never given me the heebie jeebies I can still respect a classic like The Changeling and recognize it as the excellent film it is even if it never really registered a chill down my spine. Besides that one still works really well as a mystery.

      However The Blair Witch didn’t fly right over my head because “I lack imagination”; it just bored the piss out of me because it was essentially nothing happening except idiot protagonists getting lost in the woods. Also these idiot student filmmakers were unlikable protagonists as any sods you’ll find in the most by-the-numbers slasher B-movie crap. It’s the pet rock of overhyped horror wannabe classics.

    • Mysteriron N. Cognito Says:

      Yeah, but you’re watching Jason chase around the walking talking cliches for shits and giggles basically? Because if you’re not, you’re doing it all wrong.

  3. I’m interested whenever I talk with horror fans about this film. Personally, I found it to be a cheat, like the freak show in some dumpy county fair. I admired their ability to make me fall for the hype enough to buy a ticket, but to me the film simply did not deliver. Bad script, if there even was one since it played like improv games performed by amateur actors. I didn’t find the over-amped fear mugging convincing. Also, it was funny how the hand-held out-of-focus camera still happened to be pointed at anything significant before it occurred. It did sell a ton of tickets, and a lot of critics liked it. I’m just not one who ever could. Perhaps it was a matter of failed expectations, because I will go and enjoy a bad movie that I know (or hope) is going to be bad. If it turns out worse than I expected, I’m even happier in those cases!

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