The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Rated R

“The Blair Witch Project follows a trio of filmmakers on what should have been a simple walk in the woods, but quickly becomes an excursion into heart-stopping terror.”

“It’s not the same on film is it? I mean, you know it’s real, but it’s like looking through the lens gives you some sort of protection from what’s on the other side. “

I hate shaky cam. I loathe that shaky cam action often replaces a well-choreographed fight scene. I abhor that shaky cam is used as shorthand for the director not knowing what to do next.

I am tired of the found footage genre. Found footage can be great (the [REC] series) or lousy (the Paranormal Activity series) or even lousier (various Asylum attempts like Alien Origin). It does not matter – it is time for found footage to go away now.

Neither of those things had worn out their welcome in 1999. Sure, shaky cam had been around for decades as cinema verite but, honestly, how many people watch French art films? The Blair Witch Project was a breath of fresh air in the horror genre.

The public responded well to this very different film. Blair Witch cost about $60,000 to make and raked in just shy of $250 million in global box office. The faux documentary style serves the story well.

The three leads are quite engaging. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams play characters named after themselves. None of them look like Hollywood actors which helps increase the fiction. Their bantering and bickering seems very natural and later, their terror is pretty well sold.

Writer/directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick crafted a fascinating film. Everything they do serves the fiction that this is a student documentary gone wrong. They use multiple cameras, terrible camera angles, and poor lighting and yet all of it helps increase the tension as something unknown stalks the crew.

Unfortunately if you are of the Paranormal Activity generation, you are unlikely to appreciate what made this film special. Everything that makes Blair Witch work (non-Hollywood actors, faux documentary style, shaky cam, etc.) has been copied ad nauseum. Eduardo Sanchez went on to write and direct the excellent alien film, Altered. Daniel Myrick went on to make the interesting Believers and The Objective.

Sequel-itis: Naturally such a successful movie spawned a sequel. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 came along the following year. Never mind that it was not written or directed by the same people nor did it star any of the three actors from the original, it was still a license to print money. By the way, it was not a good film.