Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project remains the only film I have seen three times in the theater. Opening night, the next night and about a week later.

Carl was (and still is thank you very much) on top of things. You see, this was a time when we had discovered something called the internet. Carl showed me pictures of the stick people figures and told me the story of how some kids had disappeared while doing a documentary on something called The Blair Witch.

"Is it real? These kids disappearing?"- Me

"I don't know. It seems like it, yes?"- Carl

This was weeks before the film opened and likely the first instance of a film having a viral marketing campaign. What I knew of the internet at the time was basically message boards and dial up connections. My dad would let me use the computer for an hour every so often and you had to have a clearly defined plan of what you were going to look up. Otherwise your time would run out while you were waiting for three(!) pages to load in that hour. So the internet was as mysterious to me as this film that we were talking about.

Several of us (When you see Matthew, ask him about Book Of Shadows) went all the way to Nashville on opening night. The place was packed and the film was sold out. We didn't let this deter us. We just bought tickets to something else and went into The Blair Witch Project theater anyway. There was not enough seating and folks were sitting on the floor. Management came in and announced that they knew there were several people in there that weren't supposed to be. They checked a few tickets. I was sweating. But no one (at least in my group) was kicked out.

Man, this film was scary. It's quite a testament to a film's scariness when I can say that, 1.) The film was scary, and 2.) The scariest part of the film to me was a guy standing in a corner.

Often the hype around a film can obscure just how good it is in hindsight. When I first got into gialli I was blown away by Deep Red. Then I started digging into more and more obscure gialli and even though I KNOW how awesome the film is I forget until I watch it again. "Wow. Deep Red is amazing." I mean, I know that but I kind of take it for granted until I see it. (The Blue Underground bluray really helps hammer that point home by the way.)  

I bought the bluray last year. It was cheap and an impulse buy. Does it hold up? That is the question that I've been leading up to. I think it does. You never see anything. Not really. And that fact means more to me now than it did in 1999. (God, I am old.) You never see The Blair Witch herself. Just a lot of sounds, tension and atmosphere building that finally crescendos as the film...ends. It reaches it's highest point and it's over. Bam.

There. I've ruined it for you.

Sometime last year there was a big brouhaha because a bunch of teenagers watched Halloween and thought it wasn't scary or good or said it was dull or something stupid. I don't remember exactly other than it squarely thrusts me into the 'old man shakes fist at cloud' crowd. But inversely I also think, "Who gives a shit?" Because I can't help it if kids have no imagination these days.

And imagination is indeed something you need to appreciate The Blair Witch Project. And the first Paranormal Activity for that matter, but that's another blog entry/rant. I don't have to be shown everything. I don't have to be spoonfed. I don't have to see The Blair Witch. 


  1. Nicely done, sir. Seeing Blair Witch was an amazing film experience. I too saw it in a packed house and everyone went bananas. On the drive home, my roommate Mike and I talked about the film and we were getting more and more creeped out along that dark, moonlit stretch of highway back to the apartment.

  2. I'll confess I could probably have done with a touch more imagination myself when I first saw Blair Witch on it's initial theatrical release. I loved the ending and certain scenes leading up to it, but generally speaking I was a bit disappointed. This was, I think, for two reasons...

    Firstly, by the time this hit British cinemas, I'm sure the cat was pretty much out of the bag regarding the film's genesis... I remember reading a feature about it in Empire at the time and quite possibly before seeing the film, which was probably a bad idea.

    And secondly, it took me a while to get used to the whole found footage aesthetic... though later in the film I'm pretty sure I'd acclimatised to it. Still though, I'd have much preferred to encounter this as a blank VHS tape, knowing nothing about it... though that probably would have scarred us for life!

    And to be fair, while we were a bit underwhelmed by the film as a whole, I'll admit the ending hit us pretty hard. In fact, overall it's perhaps right to say we had no idea what hit us at the time... but hey, we were all only 14/15!

    So needless to say, I'm very jealous of your (and Richard's) viewing experience!

    1. It was a very different world then my friend!

  3. I definitely think it holds up. The true genius behind the making of this film was they only gave loose outlines to the actors, and some camping gear. The actors having little idea of what was going on in the woods, or when it would happen. This "base fear" approach forced instinctive fear, and it translated very well. It took me back to the days of visiting New Hope Church, a local Shelbyville, TN legend. This is what would've happened if any of those trips had gone horribly wrong.
    Carl and oates

    1. As a member of several of those expeditions, I'm glad it didn't turn out that way!