Monday, 2 May 2016

"The Blair Witch Project" (1999) - A review.

Fig 1. 

The Blair Witch Project” (1999) by Eduardo Sánchez & Daniel Myrick is the film responsible, by large, in the rise of the “found footage” genre of horror. Notable entries into this now done to death category of film, “Cloverfield” (2008), “REC” (2007), “VHS” (2012) and “Trollhunter” (2010) among a handful of others and a sea of derivative copycats. Centering on 3 students who seek to make a documentary on a local folk legend, the eponymous “Blair Witch”, and their eventual disappearance, becoming part of the folktale themselves. The film is comprised on the footage they shot, whilst on their jaunt in the woods. And we are assured at the start that everything that happens in the runtime is absolutely true.

Fig 2.
Combine this chilling affirmation with a smartly done marketing campaign that sought to steep the myth of the Blair Witch into cultural awareness prior to the release of the film, and a steady trickle of word of mouth recommendations, and it’s no surprise why this became such a phenomenon. The marketing campaign itself lead by “Haxan Films, the production company belonging to Myrick and Sánchez, had put together a basic website, www.blairwitch.com, giving the story behind the legend, which went online in June 1998” (Davidson, 2013) laying the groundwork. The horror of Blair Witch coming from the apparent ‘realness’ of events was embellished by interviews, videos of the missing teenagers, in fact “There’s a detailed section on the filmmakers, with photos of them preparing for their filming expedition, and individual biographies with photos dating back to their childhood. In addition, there are pictures of the aftermath including their abandoned car and tapes, photos of the police search, a number of interviews with family members and people who worked on the case, and footage from the news coverage from the time.” (Davidson, 2013) all produced to seem as real as possible, further clouding the line between fact and fiction, and lending itself to the inherent ‘hype’ the film would go on to generate.

In using unknown actors, the film cements the doubt even further, “Remember too, at this time fake documentaries were uncommon, and the unknown actors simply added to the mystique. It was also more difficult at that time for people to check the authenticity of the story, whereas today a simple search online would reveal in minutes that the events were not real.” (Davidson, 2013). Of course, the horror also comes from the possibility that the blair witch is a real entity, and as we never end up seeing her, the audience never receives the usual release present in typical horror films, instead, a dread permeates the ending, as if one has just witnessed a real murder, There are no jumpscares, no flashy effects, just an uncertainty, an uncertainty that is only made worse by the abruptness of the ending.

Tension is paramount in “The Blair Witch Project”, and it is interesting to muse on the fact that this strength can also be viewed as a weakness. Ultimately, the film lives or dies on how much you buy in to the events, and the viewers own expectations going in. Viewed as a conventional horror film, one could posit that events could be seen as lacking, but it is in viewing it in earnest, as if it is reality, a real account, or a quasi snuff movie that the real dread can be felt.  

Fig 3.


Davidson, Neil  “The Blair Witch Project: The best viral marketing campaign of all time
mwpdigitalmedia.com [online] https://mwpdigitalmedia.com/blog/the-blair-witch-project-the-best-viral-marketing-campaign-of-all-time/[Accessed 1/5/2016]


Fig 1. The Blair Witch Project Poster  [image] Available at: http://static.celebuzz.com/uploads/2015/10/the-blair-witch-project-393x560.jpg

Fig 3. The House [image] Available at: https://filmfork-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com/content/bl3.jpg

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joe,

    When writing your reviews (and essays), you really should be looking to use a wide selection of sources for your reference material... I can't help but notice that here, you have relied solely on the one online resource for your research. As you enter the 2nd year, I would encourage you to use the library more for your research, which will give you a much broader scope for your discussions, rather than just focussing on the obvious.