Plot – Three film students vanish after travelling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind – The Blair Witch Project.
Released: October 1999
One of the most lasting memories I have from the first time I watched The Blair Witch Project was the ending, long end credits end I was still thinking of all the striking images and the events that lead up to them, which is even more impressive given how simple yet terrifying the setup was.
More recent found-footage films such as Paranormal Activity or Hollow may contain more jump scenes throughout to keep the viewer interested, Blair Witch keeps this mostly contained to the last fifteen seconds, which might be why some viewers took against the film and remarked that it is boring and while it is a slow-burn, I enjoyed the more realistic build-up and growing tension.
Marking wise, Blair Witch nailed it, there was the documentary that came out beforehand along with the website to help set up the lore surrounding the witch, while the use of three unknowns isolated forest area using a 16mm and handicap helped spread the urban legend that these were real events.
The camera work is well done and highly engaging, even though the actors themselves didn’t realise some of the best shot scenes by them were accidental, helped because they weren’t told the story or even the next scene until it came time to film it. Even Donahue’s last message to her parents was purely accidental, as Heather thought the camera was recording her entire face while she shot the sequence.
On the acting, Donahue is certainly the best, going through so many emotions during the film, with the scenes where she breaks down, the most moving, while Williams and Leonard do well to support her and help to provide some more interesting exchanges, especially the ones about that map.
The problem I had with the film is that it isn’t really scary enough for three-quarters of the runtime, with the director banking on the audience feeling creeped out enough by the premise of being lost in the woods where a rumoured witch may haunt, sure it was eerie and contains some great imagery and the build-up is strong, but maybe if they had started to ramp it up sooner in the film it would have been better, but maybe not the extent of the Book of Shadows, but closer to Blair Witch.
In the same way that The Witch and Midsommar weren’t for everyone. The Blair Witch Project still deserves its place as one of the iconic films of the horror genre and along with The Last Broadcast helped revitalise the found-footage genre and it is perfect for late-night viewing, just as long as you don’t plan on a camping trip anytime soon.