|Fig 1: Film Poster|
Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez’s “The Blair Witch Project” (1999) is a film the majority of people have seen, or even just heard about. Seen as the pioneer of “found footage” films (which inspired the likes of Matt Reeves’ “Cloverfield” (2008) and the “Paranormal Activity” franchise (2007-2015)), the movie falls in the horror genre and stays with the viewer long after the credits roll.
Movie reviewer Janet Maslin describes “The Blair Witch Project”: “Like a cabin built entirely out of soda cans, ''The Blair Witch Project'' is a nifty example of how to make something out of nothing” (Maslin, 1999) and rightfully so; the movie consists of no music what so ever, no nifty camera shots or intense specials effects; it is a very raw and real film shot by the actors themselves, and with this, the audience can feel more relatable to a “home made” documentary film, plus more immersed. With the beginning of the shaky opening credits, the film introduces the wobbly camera movement that will take place during the course of the movie. Some may find themselves to be dizzy and disoriented when watching, but at the same time, can’t help to keep watching.
|Fig 2: Josh and Mike|
This “mockumentary” tells of three students filming a documentary about the “Blair Witch”; a witch who haunts the local Black Hills forest and is held responsible for the murders of adults and children.
At first, everything seems normal and the three are passionate when filming and interviewing local residents about the Blair Witch. As they set off into the forrest, after a few days Josh (Fig 2), Mike (Fig 2) and Heather (Fig 4) comes to disagreements and get hopelessly lost, and Mike admits in frustration he kicked their map into the river, and the three increasingly start to argue and become aggressive. They do try to work things out in order to find a way out of the forest, but become increasingly desperate.
To add to their troubles, they come across sticks in the shape of human silhouettes (Fig 3) hanging above them (perhaps these represent the victims?); strange piles of rocks placed outside their tents during the night and a peculiar slime on Josh’s equipment. Each night they become more and more petrified of an unseen entity, and with the camera looking into the darkness and the sounds of rapid breathing and strange noises, the audience is put equally on edge in wait on something terrible to happen. In addition, much like Roger Ebert describes: “Because their imaginations have been inflamed by talk of witches, hermits and child murderers in the forest, because their food is running out and their smokes are gone, they (and we) are a lot more scared than if they were merely being chased by some guy in a ski mask.” (Ebert, 1999) the desperation and fear is backed up with the fear of what the locals told them.
|Fig 3: The stick figures|
Much like Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975), the feature does not actually show the enemy (in this case, at all), but the tension, anxiety and build up is done so well, there is almost no need to see a scary face; a dark figure or an intense jump scare. Some scenes include filming in pitch black darkness; only hearing the voices of the characters talking to each other, and this focuses the audiences senses more on sound rather than vision - a truly unique approach.
It seems as though the forrest itself changes its mood as the days go on and hold onto an evil secret – by the dead of night, it is unfriendly and unforgiving, hiding the evil entity and playing tricks on the three students. During the day, it feels as though the forrest is watching their every move in the daylight, enjoying how they keep going in circles, unable to escape like a fly in a venus fly trap.
|Fig 4: A hysteric Heather|
The final scene (after Josh mysteriously disappears) shows heather and mike seeing a house, but they can also hear the chilling screams of Josh. Desperate to find him, Josh runs up and down the stairs where he finally comes to the basement, but Heather enters, screaming so hard it sound bloodcurdling (adding to the horror; subsequently, the audience by now is wanting for them to escape the nightmares going on around them) to see Mike facing the corner, and she is then hit by something/someone where the film ends. This last scene links to what the locals where talking about at the very beginning; a hermit who kidnapped children in pairs and forced the first to face the wall as he killed the other, before killing the one facing the wall. The hermit, called Rustin Parr, claimed he was haunted by the spirit of Elly Kenward (a witch who was hanged) and said if he murdered the children, he would be left alone. The camera at one point shows many hand prints on the wall of the house (Fig 5) of small children, which gives a chilling end to the film.
|Fig 5: Hand prints|
After viewing “The Blair Witch Project” , it’s clear to see how the film with a budget of $60,000 earned over $200 million and is one of the most well known/talked about/ heard about movie in cinema. The film making includes the audience, and with this unique technique, proves to be a successful way of experiencing this film.
Ebert, R. (1999) rogerebert.com (Accessed on 19/04/2016) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-blair-witch-project-1999
Maslin, J. (1999) nytimes.com (Accessed on 19/04/2016) http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C02E6D91E3CF937A25754C0A96F958260
S.D, (1999) theguardian.com (Accessed on 19/04/2016) http://www.theguardian.com/film/1999/oct/22/4
Fig 1: "Film poster" (Accessed on 19/04/2016) https://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/2/A70-1127
Fig 2: "Josh and Mike" (Accessed on 19/04/2016) http://entertainmentland.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/the-blair-witch-project-joshua-leonard-and-michael-c-williams.jpg
Fig 3: "The stick figures" (Accessed on 19/04/2016) https://chrisandelizabethwatchmovies.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/blair_witch_project_720p_www_yify_torrents_com_3_large.png
Fig 4: "A hysteric Heather" (Accessed on 19/04/2016) http://media.portable.tv/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/blair-witch-project-portable.gif
Fig 5: "Hand prints" (Accessed on 19/04/2016) https://45.media.tumblr.com/d50e6ebda375c4706b20dee2b006b423/tumblr_nskp29zecz1trlcw0o1_500.gif