(US); 1999; Rated R; 76 Minutes
Michael C. Williams
Produced by Robin Cowie, Bob Eick, Kevin J. Foxe,
Gregg Hale and Michael Monello; Directed and screenwritten
by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
by DAVID KEYES
October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in
the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a
A year later their footage was found."
words on screen which open "The Blair Witch Project" are
somewhat manipulative, since this documentary of filmmakers
disappearing in the woods is moreover mocked and staged.
Haxan films, the responsible minds behind this Sundance
Film Festival hit, have pulled out all the stops to convince
the world that what they shall see is indeed fact, filmed
in a style which dialogue is easily improvised, and situations
are lifelike. There's a Sci-Fi channel exclusive telling
of the "Curse of the Blair Witch," TV spots focusing in
on vivid cries of terror, and even an official website with
journals documenting these filmmakers' frightful journey
(up to a point).
of these efforts may seem somewhat ridiculous in convincing
audiences that the movie is completely factual, but nevertheless
they are needed, and appropriate, to help set up the movie
itself. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the directors,
know for a fact that they have to convince us these things
are genuine in order for them to scare us. And with everything
they have done in the months leading up to the nationwide
release, people will walk into the theater convinced that
they are watching something authentic. That factor alone
might scare them more than what they actually see on screen.
but that doesn't mean what happens on screen isn't horrifying.
Most of the events chronicled in this "lost footage" are
pretty creepy, as if we were the ones in the woods watching
them happen. Slime appears on backpacks, children laughter
is heard at a distance, tints shake, maps are lost, and
sanity is doomed; meanwhile, the camera is rolling, capturing
all these things as they unfold. There is something in the
power of suggestion that makes "The Blair Witch Project"
so hair-rasing and disturbing. The film is a redefining
moment in the horror genre, the first since "The Exorcist"
that has generated enough courage to challenge what we regard
success of the film is not of blood, gore, or special effects,
but of the suggestion that something evil and supernatural
occupies the dark shadows, and we can easily be terrified
of them without ever having to see them. By using hand-held
cameras and invigorating impromptu, there is a feeling of
real life that accompanies these people on their journey.
The movie is about three young film students who are on
location in Burkittsville, Maryland, to explore the essence
of the years-old legend of the infamous Blair Witch, who
went into the woods, continuously haunted them, and killed
those who crept into her lair.
tales from those in town feature descriptions of brutal
child murders in the 1940s, and a woman floating in air
covered head-to-toe with thick hair. These filmmakers have
their minds so preoccupied with the old stories surrounding
the Blair Witch that their own journey into the woods becomes
disoriented, sometimes having them hike in circles. It all
becomes considerably sad, as one of the filmmakers disappears
without a trace, and the next day a bundle of sticks is
found, with his teeth, pulled from the jaw line, wrapped
up in cloth. Eventually these events force the main filmmaker,
Heather Donahue, to film her own apology, confessing that
everything that has happened is her fault. And then there's
the ending, which is in itself so horrifying that I would
compare it to the shower scene of "Psycho," or the vomiting
scene of "The Exorcist." Such an ending does not deserve
to be revealed.
though it did not win any awards at Sundance, the film generated
remarkable interest with crowds at midnight screenings,
making it the biggest hit of the whole festival. Response
since then has been overwhelmingly positive, although a
few of my online colleagues (Jeffrey Huston, Harvey Karten
and Chuck Schwartz) have been part of an opposing influence
on the picture's popularity. Will it be remembered as one
of the great films of the horror genre though? Probably
not. Aside from the chills it sends down your spine, the
film takes quite awhile to get off the ground. The first
few minutes, in which the filmmakers stroll into town interviewing
others, are establishing but not always explored with depth,
and the camera shots in the woods are sometimes too jumbled
to tell what is really going on.
there is no ignoring the movie's overall impact. In contriving
a story of myth and the supernatural, directors Myrick and
Sánchez easily create one of the most atmospheric and tense
movies of the year. Who would have thought that old stories
about witchcraft, haunted houses and the woods at night
would once again provoke fear in moviegoers? Looks like
witches in the woods are scarier than killers in hockey
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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