In 1999 when The Blair Witch Project came out I was just six years old and knew barely anything about movies besides the fact that The Spy Who Shagged Me was the greatest movie I’d ever seen (things have changed since then). Titles like American Beauty and Fight Club were tossed around my brain every once in a while. But it was always The Blair Witch Project that seemed to interest me. And now, I have finally gotten to see it.
After finishing The Blair Witch Project I wondered what seriously made people so interested in this movie? Maybe it was the fact that it was made for under $100 thousand and ended grossing way north of $100 million, a truly rare feat. Or the groundbreaking style in which it was shot. Or maybe it’s the mystery of whether the story is myth or fact. A dream of the two filmmakers of something that really happened. In the end, it’s all style over substance.
The story is shot all with what looks like one shaky handheld camera. It focuses around a film crew who go deep into the woods of Burkittsville, MD in order to film their documentary on the legend of the Blair Witch. The Blair Witch was some sort of monster who supposedly killed a group of teenagers but was yet to be discovered. Apparently the whole crew disappeared and the footage is all that remains. Did the Witch get them? Or did they just loose their way?
One of the main things that makes Blair Witch stand out is the way it is shot. The shaky camerawork makes it seem like it’s true first person footage from the film crew. This style has inspired works of pop culture today ranging from Cloverfield to the documentary style of The Office and Arrested Development. This style is used effectively in those three, but it doesn’t work to full extent in Blair Witch.
What made the shaky camera style in Cloverfield work so brilliantly was the fact that we got to view everything through the man’s camera. And I mean everything. From the huge spiders to the giant monster himself. And we saw it as he did, and felt just as surprised as the main characters were. However in Blair Witch, we see nothing. The only hints that there is something is weird growly noises that might as well be a dog and lots of screaming and running.
The worst part though? Actress Heather Donahue. All she does is scream for 87 minutes and in what could have disturbing turns out to be campy. Yes, her performance elicits quite an amount of laughs. And she may have been trying to make it seem realistic, but it just becomes so over the top that you could never picture any real person behaving this way.
The Blair Witch Project should be admired for how much new ground it broke; it made mockumentaries popular and showed the huge potential that indie films would hold in the future. And while it changed so much it just isn’t a great movie. It takes over an hour for something to happen and once it does it’s barely anything. All that character development throughout the movie results in nothing and in the end you feel no sadness, fear, or sympathy for the characters.
One thing however that fascinates me about the movie is whether or not it’s real. The way it’s shot makes you believe in the possibility that this wasn’t even meant to be a real movie. Could this have been real footage of people who actually went missing looking for the Blair Witch. The biggest mystery however, is where did directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez go to after this huge success? Did their own film perhaps trick them in believing the Blair Witch was real and they’re out there, searching for it right now?