The Blair Witch Project
Drama (Horror, Thriller)
Running Time: 81 minutes
Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams
Directed By: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Rating: 7 out of 10
3 film students head out into the woods of Maryland, to film a documentary on the Legend of the Blair Witch.
I wanted to make a reference to Dirty Dancing in regards to this movie, or somehow incorporate a joke about the Blair Witch is sporting wood, but I decided to take the high road for once. I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. I love it because it was entirely fresh and original back in the day. I hate it because it spawned a phenomenon of found footage crap. The Blair Witch Project is the story of three amateur filmmakers. They head out into the woods of Maryland to shoot a documentary of a local legend known as the Blair Witch.
This is the originator of the found footage style. There may be other found footage films that have come before it and there are certainly tons of ones that have come after it, but this film is the Mack Daddy of them all. The film starts out and we are introduced to the three amateur filmmakers (Heather, Josh, Mike) as they prepare to head out into the woods. The three of them have an easy friendship that you can easily buy into. They joke and tease each other as they drive out to film their documentary. Before heading out into the woods, they interview some of the local townspeople about the Legend of Blair Witch. It is actually an effective style in that the people all sound superstitious and offer up various stories on the Legend. Everything from a hairy monster, to a murderer of small children is talked about, and it sets the tone nicely. As the amateur film crew heads out into the woods, their attitude is light and carefree. This is quickly going to change though, as the woods legend may be realer then once thought. They work as a team as they shoot various locations, which consist of apparent crime scenes and cult locales. As they progress through the woods, unexplained things slowly start to happen. If you have ever gone camping before, then you will understand the light phenomenon. Things seem to always be just outside your light source and your mind works in mysterious ways of what it could be. That is why this film is so great. Noises from the dark will have you tensing for the worst. All of those stories from the town’s people quickly are recalled as you expect them to be attacked at any moment.
The use of unknown actors really sealed the deal for me with this movie. Actors Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams all play the characters of the same name. They do a great job of interacting with each other and provide believable enough small talk to buy into this story. They laugh and joke, and seem to be at ease during the relaxed moments. The tense moments are another story though. They seem to fight and break down quicker than one would expect. Heather and Michael in particular, struggle when they are upset or yelling. All in all though, they give off decent performances as they struggle their way through the creepy woods. They may fight a little too much but it could have been much worse.
As the three of them keep making their way through the forest, the unthinkable happens. They get lost. The effectiveness in this film can really be felt through their plight in a desperate situation. They have only packed food and supplies for a couple of days, not to mention they seem to be followed by unknown things in the dark. What once was camaraderie, quickly turns nasty as they yell and bicker with one another. They need to try to find a way out of these ominous woods as they are tormented whenever they make camp. The films calm and frantic style works perfectly to scare you. They can be composed and collected discussing the map of the area, and then the next moment they can be running as fast as they can through the trees. The pace is wonderful as they get more and more frightened. As the film comes to its end, one gets the feeling that hiking in the woods won’t be on your agenda for the next little while. In conclusion, I liked this film because it is whatever you wanted it to be. Your mind will work in overtime as strange items are seen in the woods, and loud sounds crash in the dark. You will enjoy and understand the groups plummeting psychological state. You will also enjoy hating the woods in the day time and fearing them in the night time. The handheld style, (Including scenes of only dialogue) and the unknown actors are positives as they make this seem like a real film. The negatives are that the camera work is shaky as hell, so if you suffer from motion sickness, then this style could be a factor. The three of them also seem to lose it quicker then what most people would. Lastly, the film could be gorier in places.
Shot on a miniscule budget, (est. $60,000) directors and writers, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez have created a phenomenon that is not ending any time soon. The found footage style has been popularized by this film and why shouldn’t it be. The actors are easy to follow, the woods are creepy as hell, and the found footage style leads to realism that a lot of Hollywood horror films can’t reach. The slow build up and the actual Legend of Blair Witch is a very effective tool of getting the viewers attention. The unknown lurking in the dark is effective in keeping the viewers attention. With a run time of 81 minutes, there is little wasted screen time. Granted, some people will hate the camera work and some people will hate the ending, but I thought it was an effective movie from start to finish.
I give this movie a recommendation, especially to people who hate the woods at night.
T Factor + If you like found footage movies then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like lots of gore in your movies then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: REC, V/H/S