The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Part 5 of my 13 Ghost Movies of Halloween!

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  • Directed by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
  • Starring Heather Donahue, Michael C Williams, Joshua Leonard
  • Written by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
  • Horror
  • Rated R
  • 1hr 21mins.
  • 30 July 1999

Synopsis

In what could be considered the real beginning of the ‘found footage’ craze, The Blair Witch Project tells the story of three film students who go into the woods to film a documentary about a local haunting legend and disappear, leaving behind only the footage on their cameras.

How’s the Story

The story is actually something revolutionary. Nowadays it isn’t so odd to come across a ‘found footage’ movie, and there are whole TV shows based on the idea regarding like Bigfoot eating campers or whatever, but in 1999 when this film came out, it was something so new and different and absolutely awesome.

As for the actual story, it’s pretty fun. Three young folks go into the woods to plan a documentary, they get lost, they get ‘got’. Simple but really fun.

How’s the Acting

It’s weirdly good, but in college film classes I heard that there’s a reason for that. I mean, there are a few parts that seem a little over the top from the guys, but the girl especially REALLY sells it. Like, DAMN dude. It really doesn’t seem like acting in some spots and I loved that.

How’s the Writing/Directing

The way this movie was made is what I commented on above in the acting section, and that is that the direction was largely done remotely with direction notes left in places for the actors to find. However, the direction notes for each actor were different, and the idea was that basically, to get a realistic level of frustration and discomfort, the actors all think they got the same notes so they’re performing to those notes, and then the other ones are ‘refusing’ to perform the same way. Since they can’t break character, it causes true emotional tenseness. Of course, obviously this is highly shitty, because it’s basically psychological torture of actors to get them to perform, but hey, it was effective! Very, very smart way to do it.

How’s the Cinematography

I mean, it’s terrible, it’s meant to be found-footage and done at night on amateur equipment, so about 30% of the movie is a black screen and just ambient audio of people screaming and fighting, but that’s what makes it special, right? If everything was shot like a Dawkins job, it wouldn’t work as a ‘believable’ found-footage movie. But the best choice they make regarding cinematography, in my opinion, is the fact that you never actually SEE anything.

You hear scary shit, you see them reacting to scary shit, but other than some hand prints on a wall and a bloody cloth for a second, it’s so effectively creepy because you don’t SEE what’s so scary, you just see their fear.

Is It Worth Watching?

YES!

I honestly thought this was going to be something soooo stupid, because in 1999 I was 8 years old, and obviously I heard the hype but didn’t see it, and the idea alone sounded pretty dumb. I didn’t even know it was about a haunting at all until this year when I was looking for Halloween movies about ghosts and this was on the lists. I figured it would be cheesy and stupid, but I actually loved this.

It was scary as hell to my ‘I don’t like horror movies’ ass who decided to watch it in the middle of the night, alone in my room, with no lights on. Just…. damn, dude. I took my cat with me to go brush my teeth and get ready for bed. That’s how heightened my senses were after watching this one.

This is just a good scary movie that isn’t gross or too traumatizing, and I think that’s the reason it’s so scary: the fear is the thing that makes it scary, not the thing. I’ve been lost in the woods. It’s one of the most uncomfortable things ever and I was lost while carrying a gun in the middle of the day knowing that, somewhere within a few miles, my dad was waiting for me. They’re helpless, which is far more terrifying than any monster or murderer. They’re alone, in the woods, with something stalking them, no weapons, and their navigational tools are gone or failing them. And it’s terrifying.

This is just a really effective movie for me. The only gripe I have is how abrupt the ending is, but if it weren’t abrupt then the whole ‘found footage’ thing would fail miserably, right?

 

About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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