Recommended Viewing Situation:

In the woods  with your friends, snot dribbling from your noses.

Running time: 81 minutes.

Format: Cinema Products CP-16A and RCA Hi-8 Camcorder.

Director: Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick.

Writer: Jacob Cruse, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez.

Cinematography: Neal Fredericks.

Awards: Won the Award of the Youth at Cannes Film for Foreign Film and more.

 

Ultimately, there are going to be mixed feelings about this film from many of our readers, but for me as a fan of found footage horrors, this might be the best. I might even go so far as to say it is a landmark in the horror genre, up there with Nosferatu (1922), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and The Exorcist (1973). The Blair Witch Project (1999), written and directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick, is a found footage ‘mockumentary’ that follows three young documentary film students on a quest to find the truth behind the urban legend that is the Blair Witch.

For those of you who are unaware, much of the film is largely extempore; the set being purely the woodlands and the direction merely Myrick and Sánchez loosely pupating their actors in ways they saw fit. Thus, The Blair Witch is a much larger experimental ‘project’ than one might consider, imagine Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment in a forest or The Truman Show (1998) plus the occult. Consequently, it is genuinely chilling to see the desperation in Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard’s eyes because it is about as close to real as you can get. They are stunning improvisational actors and survivalists. Given very little scripting and only really ‘directed’ through the forests when baited into scarring traps (of Sanchez’s and Myrick’s design), this is ‘method’. However, it is the uncanny nuances surrounding the Blair Witch that stay with you long after the film is over. Most notably, the way the ‘locals’ talk about her ‘gliding’ over the water, conjuring up ethereal and incomprehensible images just eerie enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

This is a film that signalled a drastic change in the industry. As it was one of the first films to be marketed through the internet, its creators dedicated an entire website to the promotion and mythos of the movie. Ranging from fake newsreels and fake interviews, to faux quirky late night paranormal television shorts and police reports; they even distributed flyers asking for people to step forward with any ‘information’ about the missing students at the Sundance Film Festival. A bold set of moves at a time when ‘the internet’ and ‘credibility’ in the same sentence wasn’t followed by a healthy dose of scepticism. In short, ground breaking. Today, we live in a postmodern haze of unfounded scepticism and pointless irony, but this film tickles the infantile fear in your stomach. It is a film that asks you to be scared just for a minute. It is a film that makes you shiver.

-Matthew Iredale