Wednesday, 21 September 2011
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project; horror adventure, USA, 1999; D: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez, S: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
In '94, three film students disappeared mysteriously in Maryland. Five years later, their camera footage was discovered with the following recording: students Heather, Michael and Joshua are preparing a documentary about the alleged witch from Blair, a city that abounds with stories about her. According to the legend, the witch killed children centuries ago. The trio goes to the nearby forest by foot. They spend the first night in fear due to strange noises in the dark. They get lost and have an argument, while numerous stones are placed in unusual positions. Joshua disappears. Heather and Michael go to a house from which they hear noises. Then something grabs them and the camera turns off.
"The Blair Witch Project" is the US film that gained cult status thanks to its mainstream promotion of a horror story told from the protagonist's POV, filmed in its entirety with hand-held camera: if it was not already an international phenomenon in 1999, then it became one based on numerous follow-up movies like "REC", "The Troll Hunter", "Cloverfield" and others that all acted as an extension to its concept. Despite everything, it is interesting to note how directors Myrick and Sanchez "obscured" the fact that "Blair" has so little, practically nothing to show through its shaky camera that gives the empty story intensity and suspenseful adventure tone: not only does the opening state that the entire recording from three "disappeared" students is "authentic", but the three main actors do indeed use their own names. The opening with them improvising random lines has charm: for instance, when Heather takes a sip of Scotch and makes a comical grimace or when she hides from the camera in the forest to urinate. However, basically, the title witch never shows up - instead, the entire film is just based on the three protagonists anticipating her, which is why a large part of the viewers felt cheated: to be fair, the authors are indeed trying to sell 'hot water', allowing the story to turn too much 'lassez-faire' instead of opting for a strong directorial intervention, yet the mood does occasionally send genuine (clever) scares here and there.