Film Review - The Blair Witch Project.

Fig. One
Release date - 1999
Director - Eduardo SánchezDaniel Myrick.
Genere - Found footage, mystery, horror.

On October 21st, 1994, A group of journalists hiked to Maryland's Black Hills forest to shoot a documentary film based around and local legend, The Blair Witch. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, they were never heard from again. One year later, their footage was found.

Or so the audience is left to believe, this film presents a very raw look at what happens to some college students messing in the world of voodoo and witchcraft, presented in a documentary style the film opens with a title card explaining in 1994 a group of students went to Maryland's Black Hills forest to do a film on the Blair Witch, interviewing the locals seeing the sights and exploring creepy places where people had said to have seen horrific sights. As the title card lets on "these kids were never seen again" and the film we are about to see is from the recovered equipment, found in the woods a year later. The whole film is a document of their adventure leading to their final moments. "Its effectiveness as horror was almost entirely dependent on the illusion that its three characters were real student filmmakers who actually went missing five years earlier, after recording this footage." (M.D, 2014)

The Blair Witch incident as we learn from the local town people, is an old legend about a group of witches who tortured and killed several children many years ago. Everyone in town knows the story but when the group try to interview them they become sketchy and don't give many details. Far away from civilisation hiking through the woods, what was a well organised trip turns into a nightmare, when out of frustration they lose their map, forcing them to spend extra days out in to wilderness alone and not knowing how to get back. Night after night the students start to hear horrific sounds outside their tents in the middle of the night, they start finding strange artefacts from what seems to be the Blair Witch (Fig.2) . Scared senseless they try to find their way out day after day but with no luck they unravel. Each night they are confronted with shrieking and sounds so haunting that they are convinced someone is following them, and they quickly begin to fear for their lives. 

What the students find out in the forest 

With a documentary style film it's hardly uncommon for this of work fiction to begin by announcing its apparent realism (fig.3). Even in films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starts off with a title claiming that its story is a true account. The difference is that The Blair Witch Project was made around the illusion of authenticity, and a great deal of effort went into keeping it that way. It looked real enough, the film was shot and edited as if it genuinely was the work of students just bumbling around in the forest and while it was not the first fiction feature to adopt the form of a documentary, it was among the most prominent to do so convincingly. Ben Rawson-Jones wrote about the authentic way this film was captured "The movie is a great example of 'method filmmaking', where those emotions we witness feel very real because they are. That emotional authenticity was partly achieved by Myrick and Sánchez only giving the actors a very broad framework of the narrative - and often failing to warn them of impending scares they had planned for the night ahead." (B.R, 2014)

Opening title card.

But one thing about The Blair Witch Project is that people genuinely thought it was real, the look and feel of a documentary style was executed so well. Steve Rose in his review would agree "That’s why The Blair Witch Project worked so well for me. There were no special effects or lighting tricks to retreat behind. It set up a convincing everyday reality and furtively sneaked the horror in. The “found-footage” gimmick was a conviction-reinforcing novelty back in 1999" (S.T, 2014) If you watched the film knowing nothing about it and being slightly ignorant about the now out dated style you would have concluded that is was real. The only problem with that would be you couldn't convince people to see a movie and not let them know anything about it, also there are certain things expected after new films are released, the stars have to appear on daytime shows and directors have to go for interviews for magazines. As the transparency of the film unfolded thanks to the wide web, checking out the backstory was easier than ever, the makers of films could no longer sustain the illusion of the film. The producers did at one point plant fake news reports online confirming the disappearances, posting authentic-seeming videos on the film's official website, it encouraged debates on forums and message boards.

Illustration List - 

Figure One - The Blair Witch Project by smalltownhero on DeviantArt (2014) 
From: The Blair Witch Project. Directed By: Eduardo SánchezDaniel Myrick. [Film Poster]
United States: Haxan Films. At: smalltownhero.deviantart.com

Figure Two - Camping (Mis)Adventures, A Weekly Menu Plan and A Few Giveaway ... (1999)
From: The Blair Witch Project. Directed By: Eduardo SánchezDaniel Myrick. [Film Still]
United States: Haxan Films. At: www.adventuresofaglutenfreemom.com

Figure Three - 15 Years Later, How The Blair Witch Project Tricked the World ... (1999) From: The Blair Witch Project. Directed By: Eduardo SánchezDaniel Myrick. [Film Still]
United States: Haxan Films. At: www.details.com

Bibliography - 

D'Angelo, Mike. (2014) '15 years beyond the hype and hatred of The Blair Witch Project' From: The Blair Witch Project. In: https://thedissolve.com.  28.10.14 (online)
At: https://thedissolve.com/features/movie-of-the-week/800-the-blair-witch-project-15-years-beyond-the-hype-a/ (Accessed 27.04.15)

Rawson-Jones, Ben. (2014) 'The Blair Witch Project 15 years on: The horror movie that changed everything' From: The Blair Witch Project. In: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk. 22.10.14 (online)
At: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/movies/feature/a605024/the-blair-witch-project-15-years-on-the-horror-movie-that-changed-everything.html#~pb19l8HSMo4R2g
(Accessed on 27.04.15)

Rose, Steev. (2014) 'Blair Witch Project: the film that frightened me most' From: The Blair Witch Project. In: http://www.theguardian.com 23.10.14 (online) At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/oct/23/blair-witch-project-film-frightened-me-most-steve-rose. (Accessed on 27.04.15)

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you catching up with the reviews Becky :)