So up to now, I’ve concentrated on the recent full length feature films that were directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett. As you can tell from the way I discussed them, I’m a really big fan of these two films and an even bigger fan of their genius work behind the camera and script. Their new film is coming out on Thursday, September 15th and is entitled simply Blair Witch, which takes place 22 years after the original Blair Witch Project. I will end this series with a review of the original film, then hopefully by Friday I’ll have a review up for one of my most anticipated films of the year – Blair Witch.
The original Blair Witch Project (1999) was a revitalization of a genre known as “found footage” that hadn’t been explored in many years; since, I would say, Cannibal Holocaust (1980), one of the most notorious films in the found footage genre prior to the release of The Blair Witch Project. I use the word notorious because the film developed a cult following after many years, but I think the most interesting little fact about this film is that the director Ruggero Deodato was arrested for murder after the film was released. The murders depicted on screen. It was thought that Deodato actually had real footage of these people getting murdered on camera and refused to come forward. It wasn’t until he proved that these actors were still alive that he was released from police custody. If thats not realistic enough for you, then I don’t know what is. Also a lot of animal cruelty organizations jumped on the hate bandwagon for this movie, because, sickeningly, all the animals that were killed on screen in this film were actually killed in real life. Which is disgusting and I don’t agree with it. Hug your pets close.
Back to the topic at hand, the original Blair Witch Project was released in 1999, and revitalized the found footage genre. It broke a lot of records, it scared a lot of people, and made the woods an unthinkable place to go (unless you are a thrill seeker). I still sometimes have issues going into the woods, but you bet your ass you wouldn’t find me in the woods at night. Nope, not me, count me out! The film was marketed online as a true story and a fake website was actually created with information and images that convinced people that this footage was real and that all the events that occurred in the movie were events that actually happened. It took the filmmakers a year or so to come out and say “yeah it was all fake.” But the damage was done, and they made back almost 250 million dollars in the box office, off a 60,000$ budget, which is insane to me. That box office return is insane, and it would make it one of the most profitable indie movies of all time.
The Blair Witch Project for those who haven’t seen it, or its been a very long time since they saw it, is a horror movie about three film students who vanish after travelling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.
The Blair Witch Project is directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. I’m not entirely sure how they went about directing this, I think they just gave the cast members the cameras and guided them in ways to film what they wanted, or they said “heres your situation, heres how you should be acting… AND GO!” The whole film works as a whole because it definitely feels like a amateur student film, theres a whole lot of shaky cam, the “acting” is very amateurish, it all feels amateurish, but the scares, the tension and the overall look and feel of the movie is something that stands the test of time. I was genuinely petrified to watch this movie for years, just because I heard so much about it, it wasn’t until I was in my teen years that I decided to watch it, and still to this day, now that I’m 24, if I let the film take over, and its super dark out, super quiet in the house, theres been times where i actually had to switch up movies because my imagination was taking over and I was scared. If thats not a successful horror movie, then I’m not very sure what is.
Myrick after directing this movie went on to direct a few more things, nothing I recognize, but he wrote the sequel to The Blair Witch Project – Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2(2000), which we don’t mention because that movie was garbage. He also directed The Strand(2007), Believers(2007), Solstice(2008) and The Objective(2008). I don’t think he’s found success since his first attempt at filmmaking. Eduardo Sanchez however directed films I’ve actually heard of after The Blair Witch Project. He directed Altered(2006), Seventh Moon(2008), ParaAbnormal(2009), Lovely Molly(2011), A short film for V/H/S/2(2013), and then four episodes of the Netflix original series From Dusk Till Dawn(2014-).
The scene that always gets me, is when they’re camping at night in the middle of the woods and they hear cracks and the sound of like a tree falling in the distance, its extremely unnerving, and if you’re watching it home alone at night, and you have woods in your backyard… yeah I don’t recommend it. But the scene that actually made me shake was when they were in the tent, and the tent started to violently shake, and move. I remember seeing that specific scene for the first time, and I actually had to take a break and go get some water because I was shaking.
A quick note on the acting, I said it was amateurish, but it worked very well. I thought it was genius that they used these, at the time unknown, actors that no one knew, so that their way of guerrilla marketing would work. Not only that, but you could tell at some parts, or that it was apparent that these actors were genuinely scared, It felt like a brilliant way to film a movie.
My only negative feelings about The Blair Witch Project is that you as a film watcher need to be in a specific mood to really let it take over your imagination, if you’re not in the mood or you’re not paying attention, it all seems really cheesy and sometimes dumb. I also find myself sometimes not liking the characters, or getting bored from time to time in this state of mind. But yeah, if you’re in the mood for a found footage movie, you’re home alone, its dark outside, maybe the witching hour is upon you… (I gotta stop making these puns).
Overall, I give The Blair Witch Project a 4/5. This movie still gets to me, if I let it even years later. Thats a successful horror movie in my books.
Until Next Time!
This is not part of the review, but I thought I would give some first impressions of Wingard’s take on the Blair Witch from reading around online and from seeing 3 trailers. I think its genius how they went about marketing this film, I saw the first trailer when the movie was simply known as “The Woods” and I was genuinely interested, especially because it was the writer and director combo that I’ve come to be really fond of. It wasn’t until SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) that they had a panel where people were asking questions, that Wingard actually came out and said roughly “Yeah, The Woods is actually a sequel to Blair Witch… and we’re gonna show it to you!” Thats crazy to me, and I couldn’t be more excited. Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was an absolute joke and was awful, so for Wingard and Barrett to come out of nowhere and omit the events that happened in Book of Shadows and make a true sequel to The Blair Witch Project is awesome. The trailer genuinely scared me, and peoples reactions have me really excited.
I can’t wait to go to the theatre and watch this movie, its going to definitely be an experience. Theres nothing like going to see a horror movie in a packed theatre with a group of like minded horror fans ready to be scared!
Stay tuned for that review as it’ll be coming soon!