THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
Release Date: July 16, 1999
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael
Williams & Joshua Leonard
Runtime: 81 minutes
Distributor: Artisan Entertainment
Director: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo
Producer: Gregg Hale & Robin Cowie
Writer: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo
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The premise is this: in 1994, three ambitious student filmmakers enter Maryland's Blair Hills Forest to make a documentary on the legendary Blair Witch, a seldom seen, ghostly presence that has a history of brutal murder. Led by Heather Donahue, they first get reaction from surrounding townsfolk on the Blair Witch. Opinions range from denial to firm belief. Joining Heather is cameraman Joshua Leonard (who carries both video and 16 mm cameras) and sound man Michael Williams. These three enter the woods and come across a large rock in a stream. This large rock is the supposed murder ground of a search party hunting for a missing child in 1886, 100 years after the first alleged murders by an accused witch who was banished into the woods and presumed dead. As the three film students travel deeper into the woods, the threesome gets lost and lose their map. Irritation arises, then anger, then panic.
Though Josh and Mike simply want to find a way to leave and hence survive, Heather, always the journalist, keeps her video camera rolling even during the biggest arguments. Night after night, strange noises become louder and more prevalent. In the morning, strange totems, suggesting that they are targets of murder, are left outside their tent. The three come across an area in the woods with creepy hand-made people made out of natural materials. The story comes to a climax when Josh suddenly disappears and the remaining two can hear him tortured but cannot find him in the black night. Eventually, the two come across "witch central," resulting in certain doom.
Poor lighting and shaky hand-held camera work suggest a true tale, and the acting likewise seems genuine, unforced and contributing to the realism. However, because this is a movie about the Blair Witch and not about the filmmakers, it is strange to see so much footage of the filmmakers just walking around through the woods. Do they not care they are burning so much tape and film? Yet, this point becomes forgivable when the point becomes survival. One can imagine that Heather will tell quite a story with her documentary, even if it isn't the one she expected. Some people may find the reality of the situation undermined by the documentary film approach, however, especially since the student filmmakers seem to have little idea what they're doing. Midway in the movie, it's unclear why these people don't stop filming their pointless, hysterical arguments and just try to leave the woods as fast as they can.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT may not fly with teenagers whose idea of horror is Jennifer Love Hewitt running around in a tight T-shirt screaming all the time while a psycho-killer's on the loose. Those movies try to scare with blood, graphic murder and even torture. Plus, you can't get away from the noisy heavy metal soundtracks. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT happily has none of these.
It does have, however, a moderately strong occult worldview where evil demonic forces are physically & mentally stronger than human beings and even God. No one gains any victory whatsoever against these evil forces. Also, the three "heroes" are hedonistic, pagan characters with little moral awareness. They turn to lots of cursing and profane speech and hysterical arguing when things don't go their way. Unlike the appealing, sympathetic Jamie Lee Curtis character in the original HALLOWEEN, it may be hard for some viewers, if not many, to identify with the unlikable characters in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.