The Blair Witch conjured up a new genre of pure dread.
The Blair Witch Project is a supernatural found footage film and you can say that this film put the genre on the map for good. When the film first was released, it was put in the market as a real found footage film. That caused a great hype, that eventually turned the movie into a cult film even after it was revealed it was all a setup. Or at least, not a real found footage. Because the three actors improvised their lines, and were kept in the dark for the most part, to create reactions and actions as real as possible. And it worked, making this film an unforgettable watch.
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Three students Heather, Mike and Josh travel to a remote village Burkittsville to investigate the local legend about the Blair Witch. After they have interviewed a couple of people, they go into the woods, looking for any proof. But they soon get lost and the legend might be all too real.
Why you should watch it
Two things make this film a brilliant watch. First of all how the film was made and shot and secondly how the actors did a tremendous job, making the plot come to life.
Although it was thought that the film was an actual documentary that went terribly wrong, it soon became clear that it was just a promotional stunt, but a very smart one. It worked and because of the great setup and great acting, it didn’t make a fool out of the audience. So the found footage/mockumentary genre made it to the big screen and never left.
The film was scripted, but the actors mostly improvised. Although they kept their real names. Each night when they slept in their tents in the woods, they each got a personalized message from the production team what was expected of them. So they didn’t know what each message said, and weren’t allowed to share it, making the improv even more realistic. Also the production team harassed them at night, so they didn’t get a good night sleep either and they looked the part, and some scares were also stirred that way. In total they have wandered through the woods for eight days, acting and recording their experiments. There was over 19 hours of footage that was edited into a really realistic and scary movie.
Even the people they interviewed were real people who actually lived there. Not all of them, but a fair few, to make it even more realistic.
The setting, the vast ancient woods, the idea of a creepy witch, the missing people, them also getting lost and the finds of strange objects that felt occult, all added to a great atmosphere. While in fact, nothing really happens. At least not until the final scenes when they discover the deserted cabin. But the fear and helplessness of the actors is very tangible. It comes across as very real and that fear is contagious. Leaping out of the screen and catches hold of you. It’s a fear and feeling of dread that is very tangible, but at a visceral level. It’s the fear of what might happen and the fear that anything can happen, that makes this film stand out.
It also has some iconic scenes, where Heather is heavily breathing into the camera, absolutely petrified and we look right into her nostrils, is really one of a kind. The clumsy shots not produced at all, make this all very real. But the most ironic shot is the last one in the cabin. It embodies the irrational fear with almost surreal imagery.
There was only one shot at making a film like this to surprise the audience and to make it as real as possible with “amateurish” camerawork and no artificial effects and real reactions to create a brilliant hoax that nobody saw coming. And they nailed it.
My favorite part
When you watch the film now, it probably will be more boring than you are used to. It’s slow, nothing happens, and it all feels like a bad vlog. But that only means that this film has succeeded excellently. It feels and looks so very real. And the ending concludes everything you have seen so far in a great climax that will be an iconic shot in film history of an iconic film.
Thrill factor: ★★★★☆
Scare factor: ★★★☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
The Blair Witch Project is directed and written by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. It stars Heather Donahue (Heather), Michael C. Williams (Mike) and Joshua Leonard (Josh).
Duration: 81 minutes. Music: Antonio Cora. Cinematography: Neal Fredericks. Edited by: Daniel Myrick, Eduarod Sánchez. Produced by: Robin Cowie, Gregg Hale. Production company: Haxan Films. Distributed by: Artisan Entertainment.