October Extras #16 - The Blair Witch Project (1999)

OCTOBER 16, 2007

LAST SEEN: 2003 (?) (DVD)

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.

Still freaky.

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?


  1. Hope you review BW2. And let me know where all the damn subliminal symbols they added to the dvd are. i could only find 3 and i think there were 5.

  2. Isn't there 7? One for each letter of ESREVER? It's been ages... it can almost qualify for a regular HMAD movie.

  3. I was actually lucky enough to snag a VHS copy of this months before it came out in the theater, and me and a bunch of friends watched it in a dark apartment one night, which was a great way to watch it. The theatrical experience was fun too, and if Anchor Bay had played there cards right, I think "Behind the Mask" could have been that kind of experience for a lot of people this past summer.

    I do remember that one of the scenes they took out for the theatrical version was when Heather breaks the fence at the crazy lady's house that had dead rabbits hanging up. It was a small moment, but a very good one that I wished they had left in.

    But at the time I thought it was the best horror film to come out since "Halloween," and I'm not sure if there has been a better one since; "The Descent" would have to be pretty close, though.

  4. There's been and continues to be a horror nerd backlash against this movie, which I hope will end someday, where it's a badge of your hipness and good taste to say this movie sucks. (At least on the msgboard circuit.) I just don't understand it. I saw this movie weeks after the "jig was up," went in knowing it was all fictional, and it STILL scared the crap out of me. I was totally immersed, totally frightened, and totally impressed. I remember walking out of the theater into the bright afternoon sunlight, shaking my head, when suddenly the full import of the last scene hit me and I got the chills, literal shivers, in a bright sunny parking lot. Few movies have done that to me, ever.

    I do think it suffers from watching on the small screen in your living room rather than the big screen in a huge darkened theater, but either way, it rocks. Ghostly kids, screams in the distance, creepy woods...shudder.

    And am I the only one who wants to punch someone every time I hear, "Dude, it didn't even SHOW THE WITCH!" So not the point, so stupid.

  5. I remember seeing this movie in the theater before I knew it was "fake". Scared the crap out of me! I didn't sleep for days and all I could think of was Mike standing in the corner. Still creeps me out to this day.

  6. humm, why WAS Mike standing in the corner? I liked the movie, but always felt I didn't get the full impact of the last scene. Now it has been so long I just don't remember it.

  7. i, too, saw this knowing it was fake-- i think i went with you, brian, but you had already seen it-- and it was still scary as fuck. a bunch of us were talking about it at work the other day; it gives just the right sense of being completely disoriented and lost to totally horrify me (i hate the woods, i prefer simple groves).

    this was also the first bootleg i ever bought (shhhhh) and it did not have the scene explaining the witch putting the kids in the corner, either. in college, i had to explain it to everyone who borrowed it from me.

    i say you review FR2: the blair with parody.

    i am going to watch this now.

  8. Rustin Parr would take two kids into the basement, and put one in the corner as he killed the other, then killed the one in the corner. So at the end, Mike is in the corner, and Heather gets it first.

  9. i saw this in theaters when it came out. Bought the dvd and all the stuff also. Every time i watch it, and i know what's coming, i still get creeped out by the movie. I love it.
    It's one of the best of the past 10 years.

  10. this is still one of my favorit ehorror movies and creeps me out big time. i remember it came out in the summer and i went camping with a girlfriend and her family and about 2am we awoke screamming as our tent was being violently shaken and beaten about... turns out it was her dad saying hello after he went to the bathroom. lol

    there is someting so frightening about being lost and in the woods. its this movie (and the idea of aliens abducting me ala Fire in the Sky) that keep me from taking walks alone at night when we go to Big Bear.

  11. I Hated this movie. not only does nothing happen but a really annoying girl crying and screaming in the woods, but when I saw it in the movie theater the camera jerking around gave me a terrible case of vertigo and i spent most of the movie just trying not to throw up.

  12. I watched this in a small theatre in the middle of Melbourne at a matinee session. When I got up from my seat I was literally shaking; I don't think I've ever been affected by a scene as much as the final cellar scene of TBWP.

    Its a movie that polarises people, 'though. Some of my friends think, like me, its incredibly scary, others just think its kinda dumb and I think its because horror movies, more than probably any other genre, require audience buy-in to work properly. If you can't relate to what's going on, either through the characters or their situation, then you're not going to enjoy or be scared by a horror movie.

  13. I remember it coming out but I didn't see it until years later when I got a VHS copy of it at Dollar Tree. While I wasn't scared when I saw it, that same night, I found myself in a half-asleep state, with the horrible feeling that a formless evil surrounded my house. I have never had a similar sensation.

    On a different note, I also have those PC games.
    They are less stupid that the actions figures of the Blair Witch that were made.

  14. I'm glad to hear that I wasn't the only person who enjoyed both Blair Witch movies.

    I remember renting (before the days of getting my movies online) the Book of Shadows movie at least once a month after it came out. I always thought the ending was a bit cooky, but it worked. It was also one of (if not THE) first DVD I had ever bought/rented; I wanted to see the extra features. The VHS had a short video at the end explaining how to find the "hidden clues" in the movie, and that was one of the first times I'd seen a movie do something like that. I also remember going down to my little town's crappy little library and getting online (back when the Internet still seemed new to me) to find out more about the movie.

    Ah, nostalgia at its finest! Now that's what horror is all about! The best movies are the ones we haven't seen in ages. And I've learned that, in many cases, they are often best left as fond memories.


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