It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon, 18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17, Last House on the Left, 16, The Beyond, 15, An American Werewolf in London, 14, [REC], 13, Don’t Look Now, 12, Event Horizon , 11, Cannibal Holocaust, 10, The Wicker Man and 9, Halloween.
We now go for a wander in the woods in The Blair Witch Project.
It’s a simple plot which has now become far too familiar as the Found Footage genre became overused but in 1999, it was still fairly new.
Three film students go missing after traveling into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend leaving only their footage behind.
The film starts with an opening text telling us about the three student documentary makers going missing before launching us right into their lives before going to film their documentary about the Blair Witch. Not a lot happens for this early part of the film, but in fact this is the most important part of the film as it’s during the interviews with the people of Blair and the telling of it’s history that we as the audience get told what exactly is going to happen to our three protagonists. These scenes need to be watched closely as it’s all about mood, and also, because most of the people are acting naturally they present a convincing tale so by the time our filmmakers are hopelessly lost in the woods being stalked by something, we’re unsure and thrown off balance by the events on screen.
At the end we get what I think is such a simply terrifying shot that was set up in the film’s opening ten minutes or so.
Assuming we’ve been paying attention then we should be sitting in a cooling pool of piss by now. If you’ve not been paying attention then you’ll find all of this boring, and frankly, that makes you worse than Hitler.
The Blair Witch Project is a spectacular horror film even though it’s made for around a fiver and some orange peel because it does everything right, while remembering that without any money the best thing you can do is get the audiences imagination working overtime. This creates a genuinely unsettling experience as the mounting doom of our three main characters looms closer and closer we don’t know how they’ll meet their fate, but as said, we actually do. It also helps if you’ve seen The Curse of the Blair Witch, the mockumentary which was shown on TV just before the cinema release of the film. That gives a lot of background only hinted at in The Blair Witch Project, plus it’s an effectively creepy little film in it’s own right that deserves it’s place with the best of it’s genre.
I adore The Blair Witch Project. I first saw it at a late night showing at a cinema in Leicester when I was living there, and to this day the reaction of that audience sticks in my memory because it was amazing. Having a few hundred people breathe in deeply at the same point as the remaining two characters explore a derelict house is an amazing feeling.
Also, this was the first film to really, seriously use the internet to market itself properly, as well as use the online campaign as part of the film itself. You can see the legacy of the Blair Witch in virtually every marketing campaign for every film released today, and that’s not bad for a film that cost just over 20 grand.
However it’d be remiss of me at this stage to not point out The Last Broadcast and the huge similarities between that and The Blair Witch Project.
I won’t give too much away about The Last Broadcast but I will say that everyone has one good film in them then this is that film for the people who made this. It’s a bloody brilliant piece of horror that is probably the first film of any sort to effectively use the internet within the plot without it seeming awful. Considering The Last Broadcast was made a full year at least before production on Blair Witch started I’ll leave it to you to decide who copied who, but both films owe a lot to Cannibal Holocaust, not to mention there’s a wee bit of Ghostwatch in both films.
At the end of the day I don’t care. Both films are wonderful. Both films should be enjoyed. Watch them both.
Next time, I have such sights to show you!