The summer this movie came out was a big one for me. I saw Shannon Elizabeth‘s boobs in American Pie, I saw this movie…I guess those were the highlights. I went to see this with some friends of mine, escorted by my mom, since it was rated R, and later that night we slept outside. My friends and I, not my mom. She was probably inside. We slept on a trampoline and boy oh boy, let me tell YOU how fucking uncomfortable it is to sleep on a trampoline. At least I get to look back on the experience and say how I was so brave that I slept outside that night. Remember how many people thought this movie was real? And the internet was becoming a “thing” so there were websites promoting this as real? I guess that’s a pretty cool way to market a movie, except for the fact that every goddamned movie that comes out now makes the same claims. Remember how easy it was for Ruggero Deodato to convince people that the stars of his movie, Cannibal Holocaust, were dead and then they had to show up in course to prove they were alive? Man, that was crazy! You can’t do that shit now with this whole “internet” thing!
Luckily, from now until the end of time, we will get to see this shot parodied in anything that parodies anything ever, and it will never be funny ever.
The film starts with the premise that the following film we would see was recovered a year after three individuals went missing in the woods of Maryland. The reason they were in the woods was that Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, and Mike Williams are exploring the legend of the “Blair Witch“. We see the local residents of the town telling stories involving some Blair Witch lady, as well as the stories of a man who was supposedly under this witch’s influence who murdered seven children. Supposedly he would take two into his basement, make one face the corner, then kill the other. After their interviews with the residents are done, they head off into the woods with cameras, maps, and a vague idea of where to go. The trio get a little lost, and claim to have heard things on their first night camping out. While exploring deeper into the woods, they start seeing strange figures made out of sticks, as well as strange piles of rocks. They camp out again, and the strange noises seem more persistent. The paranoia and confusion of being lost, without knowing where to go, starts making them irritable and delirious. The noises persist at night, more violent and loud, and one morning, Heather and Mike wake up to find Josh missing. They continue to explore, both looking for him and looking for a way out. That night, they think they hear Josh screaming, and wake up to see a bundle of sticks, wrapped in a piece of his shirt, with some bloody teeth and other bodily items in it. Continuing to find their way out, that night they think they hear Josh screaming and pursue the sounds, only to find a house. This is the house that the seven children were murdered in, and when Mike disappears into the basement, Heather finds him, only to see him standing and facing the corner. The camera is hit violently, falls to the ground, and the movie ends.
They couldn’t even afford a pot to piss in with this budget! So he pees in the corner like an idiot.
Although “found footage” movies are relatively interchangeable these days, this film really did set the standard of this contemporary form of movie-making. It creeped me out the first time I saw it, and that last image of Mike standing in the corner stuck with me for a long time. This film certainly isn’t perfect, but when it comes to reality-based horror films that don’t have big name actors, this really gets the job done. The way this movie was filmed was also pretty innovative in the way it was filmed, considering none of the actors even really knew what was going on. For example, there is a scene where Heather is looking for the map, and between her and Josh bickering and getting more agitated, Mike lets them know that he was so frustrated that he kicked the map into the river, and Heather and Josh react genuinely. The same goes for all of the things that are experienced in the middle of the night, that the actors were instructed to record what was going on and react naturally. The directors, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, were the ones running through the woods, making cackling noises, clacking sticks together, and smashing their tent. I’d say that the actors did a sufficient job of managing to improvise their reactions while also remaining genuine to each given objective. When they go from anger, to rage, back down to delirium, they are all feelings that people can relate to when they’ve been in a similar situation of extreme frustration. Well, I guess I didn’t really notice until now how much Heather Donahue was overacting, but maybe she was trying to be annoying in how she reacted to everything, and if that was acting, she did a great job.
They interviewed this woman at one point, and I can’t really remember why they made fun of her so much. Maybe she is a witch? Or something? I don’t know, go watch it yourselves.
As terrified as I was to watch this movie in theaters, I have to say that this is one of the very few movies that is more enjoyable at home than it is in theaters. When you’re in the theater, and everything is really quiet and dark, you can hear and see and react to everything very clearly. You know that you just heard what the characters heard and saw what the characters saw. When you watch this movie at home, there are a lot more distractions and things that can steal your focus. Even if you are watching it in the dark, you might not have a theater quality sound system, or you might not have the volume turned all the way up. This means that when the characters are telling each other to be quiet or to listen, you also tell the people you are with to be quiet to see if you can hear what’s happening. Or maybe you’re watching it alone, and it just forces you to turn the volume up a little bit. I’m sure there are lots of people who talk shit on this movie because they’re jealous about how much money it made, or have justifiable reasons to dislike it, but these filmmakers took a simple idea and pulled it off quite well. They were able to come up with an original character, that of the “Blair Witch”, create mythology around it that seemed genuine, and just ran with it. Even if the film itself isn’t a milestone in the genre of horror, the film-making process opened up the doors for tons of potential filmmakers, and let them know that if you had the funds and the time, you could be the next Blair Witch Project.
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