The Blair Witch Project is a 1999 American found footage psychological horror film written, directed and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. It starred, at the time, three unknown actors filmmakers Heather Donahue (The TV Series, Taken), Michael C. Williams (Altered) and Joshua Leonard (Shark Night 3D).
The film tells the fictional story of three student filmmakers who hike in the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. The three disappeared, but their video and sound equipment (along with most of the footage they shot) was discovered a year later; this “recovered footage” is the film the viewer is watching.
The backstory for the movie is a legend that was fabricated by the directors of the movie (in the same vain that the writers did in the movie “The Fourth Kind” years later). The creators went to great length to give the legend credence by creating a mockumentary entitled “The Curse of the Blair Witch”.
The legend describes the killings and disappearances of some of the residents of Blair, Maryland (a fictitious town on the site of Burkittsville, Maryland) from the 18th to 20th centuries. Residents blamed these occurrences on the ghost of Elly Kedward, a Blair resident accused of practicing witchcraft in 1785 and sentenced to death by exposure. The Curse of the Blair Witch presents the legend as real, complete with manufactured newspaper articles, newsreels, television news reports, and staged interviews. Pretty cool right?
Thoughts on this movie
You cannot undersell what this movie did exactly for the movie industry. The Blair Witch Project grossed $248.6 million worldwide. After reshoots, a new sound mix, experiments with different endings and other changes made by the studio, the film’s final budget ended up between $500,000 and $750,000.
The film’s “found footage” format received near-universal praise by critics and, though not the first in the found footage device, the film has been declared a milestone in film history due to its critical and box office success.
The back story is also rather eerily effective. I mean by this, that it doesn’t seem all that far out of the realms of plausibility in that in quiet towns in the middle of nowhere, you get these weird folklore stories. And while you might pass off these stories as just that, would you go camping out in a woods that is plagued with freakish lore of witches and curses. I doubt I would. At least not without holy water ha ha.
The acting in itself is pretty good and the filming, while done on handheld device which often gives somewhat of a shaky feel, is pretty cool and appropriate in that it only adds to the authenticity. It also spurred on the creation of many more films of similar type. Remember also, this was done before camera phones were around and before anyone and everyone could film a HD recording at their leisure.
I will always remember being a school kid hearing about the curse of the Blair Witch and thinking that it was so freaky. I was also pretty scared to watch it given its hype as being the most terrifying film ever. And while it probably isn’t close to the scariest, it is pretty damn unforgettable.
What are your thoughts?