As I proceeded to the allocated cinema in my town’s eight-screen multiplex, the usher who had just handed me my ticket stub said in a soft and slightly nervous tone, “Good luck.” I remember in that moment feeling an ounce of regret seep into my 15-year-old mind; questioning if I would be able to handle seeing a film that I was convinced was anything but fiction. Call me gullible but I was completely swept up by the online marketing campaign to promote The Blair Witch Project; the pioneering found-footage horror venture that recounts the ominous disappearance of four film students while shooting a documentary in a Maryland forest on a local legend known as the “Blair Witch.”
In retrospect, I had the good fortune of not being exposed to any media coverage that was contrary to the film’s intended strategy, and my viewing experience was all the better for it. Now that I’m enlightened to the truth, the effect of The Blair Witch Project hasn’t lost its impact. In one of the most extreme examples of less being more; an obvious calculated approach in response to the film’s low budget, the independent classic plays on the fears we derive for legends and myths, the unknown. Ambiguity, paranoia and disorientation are the ingredients that make everything click. Who or what stalks our three hopelessly lost budding filmmakers? The only recourse in answering that question is our imagination, which is mercilessly provoked with every noise, mysterious finding and the certainly of nightfall in a seemingly endless foreboding wilderness. Improvised performances from Heather Donahue, the trio’s leader and director of their film, along with cameraman Joshua Leonard and sound-tech Michael C. Williams are all thoroughly convincing despite some moments that stray from believability. Their efforts were pivotal to the film’s enormous success.
I write this somewhat reflective review on the eve of Blair Witch; a surprise sequel that was sprung upon us back in July. Ignoring the nonsense of the first official sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, I eagerly await tomorrow’s theatrical release. Will it measure up to the iconic original or will it be a mediocre affair? Only time will tell.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
(1999, dir: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez)
direct dvd screen captures