OCTOBER 16, 2007
I remember it like it was 8 and a half years ago... I believe it was on Aintitcoolnews; a trailer for a horror movie called Blair Witch Project, which was made out of ‘found’ footage of missing film students. The teaser was mostly just Heather’s apology scene, and it freaked me out. I sent the link around to friends and began Yahooing (no Google back then, at least not as far as you know) the film to see if I could find some more info.
Sadly, on the film’s official site, they linked to an article about Josh and Heather attending a screening at some festival. What the hell?!?!? Way to spoil your own surprise. So sadly, when I finally saw the film a few months later (it was the first time I went to an “indie” theater!), I knew perfectly well that it was all fake, though I did my best to keep the illusion alive for folks I saw it with or just spoke to.
But even knowing that it wasn’t real, it didn’t make the film any less effective for me. I did then and still consider it to be one of the finest horror films of the past 10 (now almost 20) years, and it remains effective in my eyes. Like Halloween, the film was all about taking an incredibly thin storyline and executing it in a manner that proved, if nothing else, less is more. One simply needs to use a wayback internet search or something of that nature to see that it’s possibly the most parodied film of all time (I am part of this legion), because it was filmed with consumer electronics, not to mention without anything like sets, effects, etc. If you had a camera, the woods, and a really shrill shriek, you can make the exact same film with your friends. As it came out as I was just about to begin the non-intro shit of film school, it certainly inspired me; proving once again that you didn’t need a blank check budget and all the resources in the world to make an effective film (even more fitting that it came out the same year as Phantom Menace, possibly the best example to help this argument).
Some folks claim the acting in the movie sucks, but I don’t. I think they are great. First of all, none of them knew each other before they began shooting, yet Josh plays a good friend of both Heather and Mike (Heather and Mike didn’t know each other prior to the film), and there’s enough subtleties in their actions (mostly in the pre-woods section of the film) that help sell this idea, such as Josh’s obvious comfort in Heather’s home. Also, I should note I had a huge crush on Heather – I don’t care if she’s shrill, she’s cute and makes films. What else you need?
I was a huge nerd for this movie, and I still have all the shit I amassed: t-shirt, trading cards, numerous books, 3 PC games.... most of it was crap, but the "Blair Witch Dossier" was a great read, and even adds another layer of interest in the film. For example, remember the two guys that are fishing early on? According to the book, they are in-laws. This makes their light bickering all the more amusing, at least to me.
BWP was also the first movie I ever downloaded, as I learned somewhere that the download version was a bit different. I can’t recall all the changes now (they were minimal anyway), but one significant change was that this version did NOT have the jock looking dude talking about Rustin Parr putting kids in the corner. This was added later (and not even shot by the 3 kids – if you listen closely during his scene, Heather keeps saying “right” and it’s obviously stolen from another interview). And since seeing Mike standing in the corner at the end remains the most creeped out I have ever been at a movie, I am glad this scene, which foreshadows/explains the whole thing, was added.
I also quite enjoy the sequel (a possible October Extra), though you need to watch it with the commentary to really appreciate it. Rumors of a 3rd film occasionally resurface, though I am not optimistic. Over the years, the film has been the unfortunate victim of a backlash, which is a damn shame as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen it probably a dozen times now, and I still love it. And even if not, I would never deny its significance in the horror landscape (it was the film that finally broke Halloween’s 20+ year record of “most successful independent film”). Simplicity will always win over excess, and Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez can be proud that their first film is one of the best possible examples of this fact.
Those PC games are fucking TERRIBLE though. Christ.
What say you?