The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Director:Eduardo Sánchez, Kevin Foxe
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard. USA. 1h 21m

It feels strange reviewing this so long after it gave me such a wild night out at the cinema, so this review is going to be a trip down memory lane, so grab you member berries and hop on the fuck train.

I was the gothist kid in my highschool, just one step away from shooting the place up if only I had some other trench coat kids to help me out, I might have been on the news, instead being the loner I was, I had to make do with being the go to person with horror movie info, by the time the Blair Witch had hit my radar, the magic was nearly over, it had already been screened and the amazing movie website showed images of people out searching the woods for the missing students, while the message board were filled with links to stories titles “Blair Witch is an elaborate hoax” or conspiracy stories claiming that “the story is real, ignore the hoax stories they are trying to stop you from finding the out the TRUTH”  

Sadly I realised that this was just a modern day wicca version of Cannibal Holocaust (1980), yep I knew about all these classics already, I was an early horror bloomer. I sent the main website link to my bestest friends on MSN and ICQ and we arranged to meet up and see the film at the Odeon. It was a late night horror screening on a weeknight and therefore the cinema was filled with kids, I rarely remember anyone checking us in the Odeon, it was like a creche.

The film started with an explanation, three students traveled to Maryland to make a documentary about a local folklore stories of the Blair Witch. After doing their homework on the subject they head off into the woods, laden with heavy equipment and some local knowledge. But they never returned  A concerned looking man tells us that their film was partially recovered and has been spliced back together to try and piece together what really happened to Michael, Joshua and Heather

Watching the city kids trekking through the woods getting freaked out by all sorts of noises was quite funny at first, the popcorn kept flying between the isles but each time the group heard cackling in the woods or woke up and found something wet and nasty outside their tents things started to get a little bit quieter, the howling kids started to take note, but there was still a lot of noise. Strange esoteric symbols in the trees, a missing persons tooth all adorn the forest the closer these travellers get to the witches abode.

The Student filmmakers start to get more freaked out and begin to use their cameras as journals as if they can’t imagine themselves making it out alive but they still want their story to be told, the shaky cam gets more hectic as the movie progresses which was really annoying as there hadn’t been a lot of movies doing this at the time, it was usual and difficult to get used to. The fear is quite real at times, a technique which is still used especially in films such as Creep (2004) and Hatchet (2006) where as the production team do their best to keep the actors on their toes by scaring them and freaking them out all the time. The noises in the night, the constant tormenting weren’t scripted, the kids were really scared.

It was a bold project, something which the world of cinema hasn’t seen for some time, the old video nasties that pretended to be real were mostly debunked and the ones that did show real killing were ostracised to the point where no one really talked about them anymore and it was generally people killing animals although questions still arise.

So Blair Witch hit with a terribly fury. Some folk really did believe it was real, some still do, with the numerous sequels, reboot  and various books that all try to keep the fear of witches alive but nothing could really bite at that edge again, after the truth got out, the actors doing interviews and showing up for screenings etc, we got it, but for a brief moment when it felt real, the Blair Witch was alive for a while. But with the genre now being so popular it’s not something that I can imagine happening again, Is it possible to make a found footage that it believed to be real found footage?

So we got to the end of the film, I was a little shaken by the confusing darkly twisted ending By this time the remaining members of the crew are running around an abandoned house while doing strange things, there was a brief pause when the film ended then the cinema went crazy, most of the kids were pissed off, me and my best friend “got the ending” with an aha moment, then we were off to the pub for a much needed drink. Then things got interesting, our companion Michael, looked incredibly pale. What’s wrong Mike.. .. Mike.. he couldn’t really talk

I explained that the movies wasn’t real footage and that everyone was ok, but he wasn’t having it, argued many points about the area and story which couldn’t be explained. Well okay maybe there’s something going on but the movie isn’t real and we’re nowhere near Maryland so there’s nothing to fear. His ideas and skittish nature scared us all, I was loving this, as I kinda ruined the magic by doing my research but here was the opportunity to relive that initial fear through my dear friend..  But it didn’t end there, he started up new forums and wrote some articles, keep and eye on the situation in Maryland, did some more research, kept me updated all the way.. but it didn’t end there! I ran into Michael last summer, he’s married with kids now and he still has some wild theories about the Blair Witch. It’s this kind of dedication that keeps the scene alive and well done Michael for a wonderful evening that saved the Blair Witch.

Rating: 7/10

R: Cannibal Holocaust (1980), REC (2007), Blair Witch 2 (2000), The Witch (2015), Blair WItch (2016)

One thought on “The Blair Witch Project (1999)”

  1. A great review and analysis…I am a big fan of this film – a “no budget” exercise in dread and increasingly unsettling situations that ends in a shocking and abrupt way…shows how much creativity you can have without any money to use!

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