"By now, the word legend applies as much to the making and marketing of this extraordinary film as to the fictional backstory that haunts its characters" (Thomas, 2000), legend, a word that aptly describes the cinematic whirlwind Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick's 1999 cult classic The Blair Witch Project has whipped up over the years since its release. Whether it be the horror classic hysteria that surrounds this film or just a sheer desire to be petrified that attracts you to The Blair Witch Project, you will have experienced a master class in amateur filmmaking ingenuity and your film trivia will be all the better for it. The film itself truly stands as an example of just how much a group of ambitious and creative individuals can achieve if they put their minds to it, without a doubt inspiring countless numbers of budding filmmakers over the years. Now, The Blair Witch Project could easily, and most probably, be a simple show of creative achievement, however it does offer up some areas of fan and critic speculation, as surely the parallel between the fact that this is amateur filmmaking at its best and the idea that the film is almost based solely on that cannot be accidental, can it?
|Fig 1: The Blair Witch Project, Movie Poster|
The Blair Witch Project follows the story of three film students as they set out into the woods and surrounding towns in search of material for their documentary depicting the tales of the Blair Witch, a mystery that has engulfed a number of murder cases over the years. The students soon find themselves in hot water as the woods and their nocturnal demons seem to be proving too much for them to handle, individually picking off members of the crew, eventually leaving them in a state of deterioration. From the very title of the film, the idea of witchcraft and the supernatural is present, the rest of the film certainly follows suit as the cast are forced to undergo the demonic dwellings of the forest that ultimately leave the three students in a broken down state that makes for frustrating and anxiety fuelled viewing.
After one of the crew goes missing, marking the point of supernatural no return if you will, the film really steps up a gear, preying on this vast amount of 'hide behind the sofa' moments, leaving other critics to state that "It's what you don't see in The Blair Witch Project that pumps your adrenalin and, in the best Hitchcock tradition, keeps you hanging on" (Travers, 1999). As the cast is whittled down to a measly duo, this paranormal mystery effortlessly takes over, in a way that makes the audience feel as if it was inevitable the entire time, which is one of the greatest aspects of this movie, it sets up the tone instantaneously with the combination of the found footage technique and snippets of interviews with the townsfolk that all have different opinions on the Blair Witch, ultimately making the whole experience extremely natural, never once feeling forced.
|Fig 2: The Blair Witch Project, Screenshot|
There is no doubt in the fact that this idea of The Blair Witch Project existing as a visceral experience played a huge role in its initial attraction, drawing in countless audiences to witness the phenomena that was a potentially the closest an outsider will get to a paranormal happening. Now this is surely something that the directors intended from the get go, as it is impossible to imagine that this found footage approach was only intended as a style choice, it seems obvious that the creators chose this technique to ensure a sense of inclusion amongst an audience, ultimately serving as a cinematic theme park ride designed to enjoy a paranormal experience.
Now whether this is the only indication of the filmmakers putting their mark on The Blair Witch Project is debatable, as surely the main characters have some correlation or connection with the duo's experience of being amateurs, possibly hinting at this idea of over ambition that the film itself holds. This idea is backed up a number of times throughout the film, namely when apparent director Heather Donahue, played by Heather Donahue, states that she has been extremely naïve, possibly marking a potential moment when this genre definer seemed too ambitious or out of reach. Now this remains purely on a speculative level, however it does seem entirely reasonable that there is some relationship to the directors own personal experience as they tried to break into the film industry.
|Fig 3: The Blair Project, Screenshot|
Whichever part of The Blair Witch Project initially attracted an audience to the film, has surely managed to continue to entice viewers ever since, remaining a solid 'bucket list' film that fans of cinema and its history simply need to see. Over the years gaining descriptions such as an "extraordinarily effective horror film" (Ebert, 1999), which it most definitely deserves. No matter how long the horror genre continues to evolve for over the years, this duo of amateur creative genius certainly managed to craft a staple of cinema, and horror, that will go on to inspire for a very long time.
Ebert, Roger, 1999, The Blair Witch Project, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-blair-witch-project-1999, Accessed on: 19/04/16
Thomas, William, 2000, The Blair Witch Project Review, http://www.empireonline.com/movies/blair-witch-project/review/, Accessed on: 19/04/16
Travers, Peter, 1999, The Blair Witch Project, http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-blair-witch-project-19990730, Accessed on: 19/04/16
Fig 1: Movie Poster, The Blair Witch Project, https://uk.movieposter.com/poster/A70-1127/Blair_Witch_Project.html, Accessed on: 19/04/16
Fig 2: Screenshot, The Blair Witch Project, http://moviepilot.com/posts/2770407, Accessed on: 19/04/16
Fig 3: Screenshot, The Blair Witch Project, https://zuts.wordpress.com/2014/03/, Accessed on: 19/04/16