In 1999, Horror And Filmmaking Was Shook When Found-Footage Icon ‘The Blair Witch Project’ Was Released.
Right before the turn of the millennium, horror was filled with slashers, sequels, and remakes. The genre needed some spicing up. Two young filmmakers named Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez brought the change horror & film needed. No matter what you think of the movie, ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ shifted the course of the industry for years to come.
Writing the first draft of the script in 1993, it ended up being more of an outline for ‘The Blair Witch Project‘. The two University of Central Florida filmmakers always knew they wanted the dialogue to be improvised so they worked on framing the story. They began their unusual casting process later on in the 90’s with filming starting in 1998.
Filming lasted eight days at Seneca Creek State Park in Maryland. The cast and crew knew they were in for a unique experience. The actors were given clues to where each new shooting location and that’s when they would begin delivering improvised lines. This was done in order to keep the authentic feeling that these 3 people were lost in the woods.
Over 19 hours of useable footage was shot for the film and it was painstakingly edited down to 90 minutes. The post-production process was said to take over eight months.
During that editing time, Eduardo Sánchez built the website for the movie, The two directors created a large “Blair Witch” mythos during the outline’s creation so this site was a good way to expand that. This then snagged the attention of Internet users who boasted the film as being real. ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ is only one of the earliest examples of this type of marketing. Only a film like 1980’s ‘Cannibal Holocaust‘ blended the lines of reality in filmmaking. With that film, the director took it as far as having the Italian government investigate him!
In 1999, a fake documentary called ‘The Curse Of The Blair Witch‘ was released on the SciFi Channel. This docu claimed all of the mythos created by Sanchez and Myrick was real. On July 30th, 1999, ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ was released!
Being in an era now where most horror films are “based on a true story”, it’s crazy to think people actually believed this to be real but that’s what makes this film so special. Starting with a title card saying this is video footage shot by three filmmakers who got lost in the woods in 1994. This “found-footage” was presented as a detail of their horrifying experiences.
From the amateur camera work to the “behind-the-scenes” bits, the low-budget and raw acting really drove home the feeling that this could be real. Loved all the scenes before the crew of Heather, Joshua, and Michael got to the woods. When they roamed around interviewing townies, some feel like they are reading off a script while others get into it. Giving ‘The Blair Witch Project‘ a real home adds to overall mystique and believability.
Once the trio get to the woods, we are slowly driven mad when they are instantly lost. If only Heather didn’t go off the map but if only the map wasn’t thrown away later on. I blame that map for a lot of the problems they run into.
They start experiencing strange events and get lost deeper in the woods. Knowing what the actors went through while filming, their madness about getting lost feels even more real. They all start turning on each other slowly. Heather won’t stop recording everything while Mike kicks the useless map into a river, much to the anger of Heather and Josh.
After walking in circles for basically days and having more aggressive paranormal events, all three of them begin to mentality give up. Josh snaps and viciously taunts Heather for getting them into this predicament. The next morning, Josh is missing. The remaining two search for him until they hear him scream in agony.
On the final day in the woods, Heather finds Josh’s clothes along with some teeth and hair. Then comes the famous scene where Heather apologies to the families of Josh and Mike with snot running down her face. This is a much parodied moment following the film. Heather and Mike find an abounded house. Mike is attacked and Heather finds Josh eerily standing in a corner.
She is also attacked and the film ends.
With an abrupt ending, you are left with far more questions than answers. Even 17 years later, little explanation was given about the events in the film. The reason this retro review is so timely now is because on September 16th, 2016, we may finally get some more action when it comes to this mythos. ‘Blair Witch‘ is the upcoming direct sequel to the original ‘Blair Witch Project‘. The story will follow James, the fictional brother to Heather’s character. This is him trying to figure out what happened to her when she was making this documentary. Directed by the talented Adam Wingard, it will be another found-footage film.
Wingard met the directors of the original ‘Blair Witch’ while promoting a film they were all featured on called ‘V/H/S 2‘. Since that initial meeting, a quick conversation grew into the upcoming movie. It’s cool to see there was a passing of the torch from this original movie to the new one.
What do you think about ‘The Blair Witch Project‘?
Let me know in the comments below!
Don’t forget to see ‘Blair Witch‘ coming to theaters September 16th, 2016!