Film Review: Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)
Figure 1. 'The Blair Witch Project Poster'
Do you dare to enter the woods, and delve into the suspenseful world Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s film, “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)? This immensely chilling feature will leave your hairs standing on end and have you chilled to the bone.
In the chilly month of October in 1994, three students set out to Burkittsville, a small town close to nowhere, to inquire about the legend of the Blair Witch. Entitled as “The Blair Witch Project” (1999), this raw movie is scripted to be an unfinished student film, the term ‘unfinished’ being utilised to depict the plot of how these students, unbeknownst to the consequences, meet their impending doom for searching for the Blair Witch. Lloyd Rose describes this feature as, “A movie within a movie, "The Blair Witch Project" is presented as interrupted, unverifiable cinema verite, a patchwork of the actual film work on the students' documentary and a simultaneously video-recorded diary of the making of that documentary.” (Rose, L. 1999) With cameras in hand, the actors record themselves reciting improvised dialogue, creating that illusion of real life, as if this events actually happened, or so it may seem. A prologue is presented before the film stating that this footage was found in the ruins of an abandoned house a year after recording, which was then pieced together by the directors to create something out of the patchwork recordings.
Figure 2. 'Heading into the Woods'
What’s interesting about the film is that, low budget aside, what’s lacking in effects and props and sets etc. it is made up for with the terror. Not necessarily a horror, but it is a frightful experience to witness nothing. As humans, we fear the unknown, the suspense literally killing the characters, and metaphorically killing us. The psychology of the film plays on our minds where we believe that something will jump out at us, we are certain we will see a ghastly sight but instead, we are presented with nothing. Our imaginations are left to spiral. And it’s a powerful gesture to use as a tool for a movie, and a gutsy one at that. It’s very riveting in the end scene as well, where something does actually happen, but because it happens to the characters, who are still holding the camera and recording, the character is thrown into the wall, and that is all we get to see. Seeing is believing, as some would say. And as Peter Travers points out, “The cameras, which can't capture the thing or things that go bump in the night, produce increasingly shaky images that reflect the nerves of the crew.” (Travers, P. 1999)
Figure 3. 'Symbols Created with Twigs'
So by now, we have this blurred vision of what is real or not, which is impeccable improvisation on the actors behalf, and crafty editing skills from the directors. Philip French observes.”The footage and the three performances have an authentic feel to them. There are no special effects and the horror, as in the films of Val Lewton, is suggested rather than shown.” (French, P. 1999) The authentic feel may come from the fact that the actors were supposedly harassed during the night with the directors snapping twigs and making noise, and sometimes depriving them from food rations, so that they could really push through that emotion of frustration and anger and fear. Whatever the case, it is clear that one theme conveyed is that the power of suggestion alone can really intensify an already terrifying atmosphere.
So if you plan to go down in the woods today, at least bring a map, or perhaps leave a trail of breadcrumbs.
French, P. (1999) ‘Who’s Afraid of Blair Witch?’ (24.10.99) In: http://www.theguardian.com/ (1999) [Online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/1999/oct/24/philipfrench (Accessed on 28.04.15)
Rose, L. (1999) ‘Documentary Style Aids “Blair Witch”’ (16.07.99) In: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (1999) [Online] At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/blairwitchprojectrose.htm (Accessed on 28.04.15)
Travers, P. (1999) ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (30.07.99) In: http://www.rollingstone.com/ (1999) [Online] At: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-blair-witch-project-19990730 (Accessed on 28.04.15)
Figure 1. 'The Blair Witch Project Poster' (1999) [Movie Poster] At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/26/Blair_Witch_Project.jpg (Accessed on 28.04.15)
Figure 2. 'Heading into the Woods' (1999) [Movie Still] At: https://headinavice.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/the-blair-witch-project.jpg (Accessed on 28.04.15)
Figure 3. 'Symbols Created with Twigs' (1999) [Movie Still] At: https://pic.yify-torrent.org/1999/30355/e4613bc3c9884a22bd83b0002385db2d.png (Accessed on 28.04.15)