The Blair Witch Project
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A filmmaking crew hikes into Maryland's Black Hills Forest seeking clues about a legendary witch.
The Blair Witch Project
Anyone who has even the slightest trouble with insomnia after seeing a horror movie should stay away from The Blair Witch Project--this film will creep under your skin and stay there for days. Credit for the effectiveness of this mock documentary goes to filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who armed three actors (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Josh Leonard) with video equipment, camping supplies, and rough plot outlines. They then let the trio loose into the Maryland woods to improvise and shoot the entire film themselves as the filmmakers attempted to scare the crap out of them. Gimmicky, yes, but it worked--to the wildly successful tune of $130 million at the box office upon its initial release (the budget was a mere $40,000).
For those of you who were under a rock when it first hit the theaters, The Blair Witch Project tracks the doomed quest of three film students shooting a documentary on the Burkittsville, Maryland, legend of the Blair Witch. After filming some local yokels (and providing only scant background on the witch herself), the three, led by Heather (something of a witch herself), head into the woods for some on-location shooting. They're never seen again. What we see is a reconstruction of their "found" footage, edited to make a barely coherent narrative. After losing their way in the forest, whining soon gives way to real terror as the three find themselves stalked by unknown forces that leave piles of rocks outside their campsite and stick-figure art projects in the woods. (As Michael succinctly puts it, "No redneck is this clever!") The masterstroke of the film is that you never actually see what's menacing them; everything is implied, and there's no terror worse than that of the unknown. If you can wade through the tedious arguing--and the shaky, motion-sickness-inducing camerawork--you'll be rewarded with an oppressively sinister atmosphere and one of the most frightening denouements in horror-film history. Even after you take away the monstrous hype, The Blair Witch Project remains a genuine, effective original. --Mark Englehart
Curse of the Blair Witch
Are you wondering just exactly who the Blair Witch was? What the Burkittsville, Maryland, legend was all about? Or what exactly fascinated student filmmaker Heather and what possibly took her, Mike, and Josh from this earth? Get all your background questions answered by Curse of the Blair Witch, a one-stop-shopping "documentary" originally produced for the Sci-Fi Channel as a tie-in marketing tool. Entirely fictionalized, Curse of the Blair Witch focuses both on the past and the present, with copious info on the Blair Witch myth as well as on the disappearance of Heather, Josh, and Mike. As it turns out, the original witch was one Elly Kedward, who was accused in 1785 of taking blood from several children; she was subsequently banished to the harsh winter woods and left for dead. Her grisly and bloody legacy involves missing children, polluted water, disemboweled men, and a serial killer of children who claims to have been haunted by "an old woman ghost." Aside from some ineffective "newsreel" footage of the serial killer, all this intriguing information is presented convincingly and chillingly. Curse may in fact freak you out more than the movie, and it evokes the great, pulpy In Search Of series of the '70s, one of the prime inspirations for filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. News clips of the search for Heather, Josh, and Mike lend a vérité atmosphere to the proceedings, but shed little light on their mysterious disappearance or their characters. Basically, it's a tease to go see the movie. Still, The Blair Witch Project provided only ever-so-slight information on the legend that haunted the forest, so you'll want this cleverly constructed mock documentary to supplement your knowledge of the film. --Mark Englehart
- Includes both the theatrical film, The Blair Witch Project, (87 min.) and the TV documentary, Curse of the Blair Witch (approx. 44 min.)
- "Newly discovered" footage
- Animated interactive menus
- DVD ROM features, exclusive web site access...to the map, excerpts from the dossier, excerpts from the comic book
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— BEFORE THE INTERNET AS WE KNOW IT —
At the time of its release, the internet was still new. Not every movie had a website, and not every movie had a *good* website. The Blair Witch Project was very much an independent movie at the time, but they managed to create a website. The website was all they needed—especially with their killer hook: "In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary... A year later their footage was found."
— MARKETING —
If you read that line on their website or saw it on a poster back in 1999, you were immediately hooked. That tag line was printed on their poster which only showed an inverted black and white photo of trees. It was simple. It was effective. Their website showed police photos and reports for missing persons, which helped solidify the premise of the missing students. Your morbid imagination took over, and you thought, "what happened?!" or "is this real?" or "we have to go see this."
If my memory is correct, the filmmakers didn't market the movie or say much about it—until after it was released. There were no late night talk show interviews with the actors because to play this as real as possible, they had to be "dead/missing," and therefore couldn't do interviews. The tagline, the police reports, the missing actors, these elements all sold the found footage as a real deal.
*Before* it was released, people were all talking about it. This was literally the first movie where people debated on the internet on whether it was legit, that this was actually what we now know today as "found footage". It effectively was *the first* "viral" movie. Everyone couldn't wait to see it.
It wasn't until the first showings happened that it was revealed it was a movie, and not real real.
— AN AUDIENCE DIVIDED —
This is the part where the audience is divided, and this is why I write. The ones that loved the movie were the ones that thought this was real. The ones that hated the movie were the ones that were told it's just a movie. The ones that thought this was real let their imagination fill in all the blanks, and it made the film that much scarier.
The ones watching "a movie", not understanding the intent behind it, were bored. They also complained about the shaky footage, even though the film is about amateur filmmakers making a film, and running around with a camera scared for their lives. Of course it's going to be shaky! Cinéma vérité!
— SUMMARY —
If you plan on watching this, your mindset will determine your enjoyment of The Blair Witch Project. If you can imagine yourself as that audience in 1999 that thought this was real, you *will* be creeped and scared the heck out. If you watch this like it's just another found footage movie, you might be disappointed. My suggestion? Watch this alone at night with only a soft light on, pretend someone gave you this mysterious video and told you only the tag line. See what happens then.
As for me, I think I knew it was a movie right before I first saw it, but I placed my mindset into previously thinking it was real, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Recommended.