a horror film without the unnecessary addition of 14,000 CGI effects, buckets
of blood and a bevy of stupid, half-naked teenagers. The Blair
Witch Project is a testament to what makes a film truly scary: your runaway
imagination trying to cope with the unseen evils in the dark.
Blair Witch Project (1999)
Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard,
and Michael Williams
Blair Witch Project is a "documentary" which
claims to reveal what happened to three college students who disappeared
in 1994 while making
a film about a witch that is supposed to haunt the woods outside of a small
Maryland town. Supposedly, the footage was found buried under the foundation
of a 100 year old cabin approximately one year after they disappeared. This
film is supposed to be the footage they shot before they disappeared.
And that's how it starts. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams
are seen assembling their gear before the film shoot begins. The three college
students take a 16 mm film camera, a Hi-8 video camera and some sound equipment
to record their findings. The movie consists of footage from the film and video
cameras, shot by the three students themselves.
Before entering the woods, they interview some townsfolk to get the locals'
take on the Blair Witch legend. The interviews produce some ominous-sounding
tales of child murders, a woman whose feet don't touch the ground, and a white
vapor that climbs trees. The trio laugh the stories off as being tall tales
and nothing more.
After they enter the woods, things begin to unravel. They find strange piles
of rocks that seem to mark something. Their map doesn't seem very accurate,
causing them to wander around in circles. At night, they hear strange noises
which seem to come from every direction. At first, they believe someone is
playing a trick on them. But, as things gradually get worse, they start to
believe that something else might be happening. The trip, originally planned
for two nights, stretches on longer than they anticipated and the tension between
the three gets even worse as the sounds in the night get louder and more distinct.
The marketing for the movie has been very shrewd. It is very easy to see why
so many people have been sucked into believing the movie is really footage
found in the woods. A documentary on the Blair Witch legend appeared on the
Sci-Fi Channel several days before the film opened, adding more fuel to the
debate about the film's authenticity. Rest assured, the film is entirely fictional.
That debate aside, The
Blair Witch Project is a movie unlike any other I've
ever seen. It's truly a scary film. Much scarier than anything Hollywood has
released in a long time. The key to its success is simply that what the film
doesn't show works in its favor. The film documents the mental stress of three
characters who start to disintegrate before our eyes as the result of being
lost, hungry, scared and hunted by something in a forest they can't escape
no matter how hard they try.
The fact that it's shot by the protagonists
on a mixture of black and white film and video adds to the immediacy of the
whole thing. When they're scared,
the camera shakes. When they're running from "something," you'll
strain to see what it is, not really sure if you want to see it.
If there's a downside to the movie, it's probably that the endless panning
and shaky handheld nature of the video camera footage may make some people
a bit queasy. And, remember, the premise behind the movie's subject is that
the footage was found and the filmmakers disappeared. Do not expect a Hollywood
conclusion to this film. You'll be disappointed.
Other than that, this is a movie that will actually benefit from a home video
release so you can watch it alone on a stormy night. You will get the living
bejeezus scared out of you.
Trivia: Most of the dialogue in the film is ad-libbed. The cast was given basic information about the premise of the story and was told where to find food and more film in the forest. Everything else was pretty much shot as it happened. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)