The Blair Witch Project (1999)

September 27, 2016 - 2:40pm | Ryan Tutolo

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Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard

Let’s take a little trip back in time.  The year is 1999 and the idea of a film being shot from the point of view of the people in it seems ridiculous.  Flash forward back to 2016 and “found footage” is a subgenre itself to horror.  Series like Paranormal Activity and Grave Encounters are cranked out and even decent one-offs like Afflicted and As Above So Below are around for everyone to enjoy.  All of these movies owe their existence to the Blair Witch.  (Yes interweb nerds, I’m aware that The Last Broadcast and Cannibal Holocaust precede it) But does The Blair Witch Project still hold up?  Was it worth the hype in the first place?  Let’s find out.

The Blair Witch Project is a documentary style found footage film that shows both the footage of the documentary, and the behind the scenes video of the crew filming it.  The crew is made up of Heather (the documentarian), Mike (the audio guy), and  Josh (the camera man).  We get to watch these folks hike, yell, sleep, and hike.  Eventually, some weird stuff starts happening that seems to be related to the local legends the crew found out about earlier in the movie.

To really understand the whole “Blair Witch Phenomenon” you need to understand that this film also pioneered one of the great movie tricks of modern day, the viral marketing campaign. Before the movie was released, websites, fake news stories, and articles were created purporting the authenticity of the found footage that was about to be released to the public.  Of course it was all a bunch of bullshit but as a teenager at the time I can tell you that I heard plenty of people comment that they heard it was all true and these people died in it.

Since this was all filmed by the actors you get what you’d expect, a lot of shaking camera, unfocused shots, and running through the woods with the camera swinging around.  I’ve watched this movie multiple times and I swear every time I do I end up rewinding the part with the bundle of sticks and red stuff in it.  I suppose you just have to assume it’s something gross. Other than that, you can tell what’s happening the whole time and even the frantic ending doesn't confuse the viewer.  The acting is fine, though to be honest I don’t know how much of it was acting.  Apparently while the movie was being made, the director had left instructions on where the cast had to go from day to day and just let them react to the craziness that the hidden crew caused in the woods.  According to the cast, many of the arguments and hostility between them was legit so the unease you feel amongst the actors is the real deal.

While you're watching the film, and what it really leave you with is this overwhelming sense of dread and isolation. The abandoned film makers are being toyed with, and by what you never find out. This is great because now a days the film makers can't wait to show you what is doing the stalking/killing. I like the way the movie keeps you guessing and never let's up. When the remaining characters start to panic, you can feel your blood pressure rise and your pulse race.

Despite having some unnerving parts, this movie is also very divisive. Some horror fans love it and some hate it. I don't know if the haters spill out their vitriol because of the movie itself, or because of what the movie did to the industry.  The shockwaves left behind from the Blair Witch continue to resonate today in the form of the Paranormal Activities and Unfriendeds.  I’m not going to say their hate is completely unjustified but I don’t think it’s deserved.

There's no doubt the influence The Blair Witch Project had on the horror scene, whether you consider that a good or bad thing, it's undeniable. As for the quality of the movie itself, I say the movie still holds up and it works as one of the best found footage films, though depending on your tastes, that might not say much.  I say give it a shot because there are certainly worse things out Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows.

Author Information

Ryan Tutolo's picture
Ryan Tutolo is a horror movie lover and host of the UHM Podcast. Follow him on Twitter and let him know why his reviews suck!




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