The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 08

by Jovial Jay

I have purposefully stayed away from The Blair Witch Project. Marketing from the release of the film freaked me out enough and with the purported documentary nature of the film, along with it being set about an hour from my house, have kept me away, until now!

There are several different trailers for The Blair Witch Project. I couldn’t locate the one that I remember seeing prior to release, but I’ll describe the one posted below.

Before Viewing

The film claims to be found footage from a trio of college students shooting a documentary about the Blair Witch, out near Burkittsville, Maryland. Something happens to the students and they are never found. All that is recovered is this footage, which is supposed to stand on its own.

While not a real documentary, this first film in the found footage genre, appear to be pretty freaky. I’ll be keeping the lights on during this one!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

After Viewing

The Blair Witch Project is a very unique film among horror films. The opening text purports the film to be a documentary shot during 1994 and discovered 1 year later, made by three people about the Blair Witch outside Burkittsville, MD. Heather, Josh and Mike set out to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, starting with interviews of some locals to get the jist of the story about the weird going-on’s in the Burkittsville area, including one about Rustin Parr who murdered some children in his basement.

The trio set out with a 16mm film camera and a Hi-8 recorder to document some sites in the woods. Heather, the director, knows where they are going and leads the other two through the woods to Coffin Rock, where they shoot a sequence about ritualistic murders. They travel to another location, spending their second night in the woods, and planning to hike back to the car on the third day. Unfortunately, they become lost on the next day, stumbling into an area with strange totems hanging from the trees and weird rock cairns on the floor of the forest.

Weird things plague them at night; such as sounds of children playing. Heather and Mike wake up the next day to realize that Josh has gone missing. They continue to be lost in the woods, even returning to a location they had passed earlier in the day, despite the fact that they were walking South all day.

That night Heather records an apology to all their families and lets everyone know how scared she is. She and Mike come across a dilapidated house in the middle of the woods, where they believe they hear Josh’s voice. They run through the house calling and looking for him. Mike, who is carrying the 16mm camera suddenly stops and drops the camera to the floor. The footage switches to Heather’s video who catches a glimpse of Mike standing in the corner of the room (similar to the story told about how Rustin Parr killed his victims), before her camera drops and and stops recording.

I’m scared to close my eyes, I’m scared to open them!” – Heather

There is nothing overtly terrifying in The Blair Witch Project. No glimpses of monsters. No glowing eyes. Nothing that can’t be explained as “some local messing around with some hikers.” Except, this film has real spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing moments.

At the time of release, this film was marketed as a real piece of found-footage that is being presented as a documentary about the disappearance of these three filmmakers. It is arguably the best known film in the “found footage” genre, and inspired many films with higher quality and higher budgets, that followed like [Rec], The Last Exorcism, & Cloverfield (Cannibal Holocaust (1980) may be the first “found footage” film). The question about whether what the viewer is watching is real or fictional certainly adds to the horror of what is happening.

The filmmakers did a good job of setting up many small instances of weird things that really build on one another to creep the viewer out. The strange noises at night, the characters become more and more stressed at being lost in the woods, the appearance of weird totems hanging from trees. Are these things really part of a paranormal occurrence or is it just the imaginations of the characters running away with themselves.

I found that while I wasn’t scared watching the film, the spine-tingling moments stuck with me after the viewing. I cannot imagine seeing this in the theater with a bunch of people. That would be terribly freaky and probably add to the chill-inducing terror. Just keep reminding yourself that there’s no such thing as the Blair Witch. Also, don’t go traipsing about in the woods near Halloween!

Assorted Musings

  • While initial scenes were filmed on Burkittsville, MD, the later wood scenes took place in a different location further south in Seneca Creek Park. The final sequence at the house was filmed in part of Patapsco State Park.
  • While plotted out, there was no script for the film. All performances were improvised along an arc for the various characters.

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