Remembering “The Blair Witch Project”

By Christian DiMartino

When The Blair Witch Project opened in 1999, I was three years old. Damn. That’s weird. While I wasn’t around to experience the mania of it, I am aware that it was something of a big deal. A movie that kept people talking. A movie that even convinced some it was real (turns out the mother of Heather Donahue received sympathy cards… yeah).

Since then though, it has become one of those films that people crap on for some reason, like Avatar and The Hangover (I still like those films. I’m not one of you). Now I admit that the gimmick started from The Blair Witch Project (the found-footage style horror film) has since grown old. But in all honesty (and haters, hold your thoughts), I think The Blair Witch Project is an excellent film. I don’t really think its chill factor has worn off, and a lot of that has to do with the forces at play. There is no visible villain, but yet sometimes its what we don’t see that effects us most.

I chose to reflect on this film today because opening tonight is Blair Witch, a sequel that nobody even really knew about. It joins a long line of “comeback” sequels this year, like Finding Dory, Bridget Jones’ Baby (also opening tonight), Independence Day: Resurgence, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and so on. Do we need this movie? Eh, I’ll find out f0r myself tonight. But in the meantime, I’ll discuss the predecessor.

Part of the genius of The Blair Witch Project came from its smart casting. I call it smart casting because they weren’t well known actors or anything, and on top of that, each actor plays themselves. The film, filmed in documentary style, follows three high school students, Heather, Josh and Mike, who are making a documentary involving a local legend named “The Blair Witch.” The point of the documentary is to see if this hoe exists. How do you find out? Simple: travel into the woods and look for her. What follows is a descent into madness.

You can say that the film is basically just people screaming at nothing for 80 minutes, and I suppose you wouldn’t be wrong. But to me, what works here is all because of the delivery. The way the story is set up, the way its gimmick is put to use. And of course, the acting, which is bizarrely convincing considering it’s a horror film. It’s not a film that scares me, but rather, it’s an undeniable spine-tingler. You never really know what kind of spectre is going to strike. You never know when it’s going to strike, period. And that, to me, is why the film works so well.

I feel like a lot of horror films since this one have just sort of tried to be this movie. But you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And in some cases, that so-called “old dog” didn’t work in the first place. I can’t agree with the haters though. There’s images and sequences in The Blair Witch Project that I still can’t shake off, such as its ending, which, while I’m not a fan of abruptness, which is just quiet, subtle, and creepy enough to burn in the memory. Oh yeah, and that part where they wake up and find the tongue. Can’t forget that.

All I’m saying is, whether you loved it then, or whether you hate it now. Or whether you hate it or love it the more you think about it, one thing can be said: you’re still thinking about it. You haven’t forgotten it, and in all honesty, you may never.

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