Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Storytelling: Blair Witch Project - Review

Blair Witch Project is an American debut movie of two directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, made in 1999 and considered as one of the scariest horror movies, presenting a fresh approach to that genre. 

The movie is about three young students – Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams – who, led by Heather, decide to make a documentary about the witch of Blair. They start the production by interviewing people from Burkittsville, formerly called Blair, asking questions about the legend of the witch and crimes committed on children in near woods. 

What makes Blair... different and more memorable is the way it's been made; it presents the viewer with hand-held camera, which creates the feeling of authenticity and is to be considered as 'found footage' discovered by police. 
Blair Witch Project is a movie that awakens the audience's minds and imagination. It works on the deeper levels of consciousness, makes the viewer feel like they are trapped in the forest with characters on the screen. Ebert underlines the truth about why this movie terrifies people: „Horror films that tap into our hard-wired instinctive fears probe a deeper place than movies with more sophisticated threats” (Ebert, 1999). Every person fears various things; Blair... never shows the threat, the viewer can never see the 'witch'. Everything happens in the mind of people, fear is the reaction to noises and small details, like piles of rocks appearing from nowhere. The quotation from Berardinelli's review: '(...) what our minds conjure up is always more horrifying than anything the filmmakers can put on screen (even with today's special effects technology)' (Berardinelli, 2012), only underlines and fortifies the truth about Blair's...strong and successful attribute. Throughout the whole movie the tension is growing and it reaches its highest level near the end, when the audience expects the truth to be revealed. However, nothing spectacular happens. The movie leaves people with unanswered questions. The mind of the viewer, rasped by the tension and emotions, creates its own horrifying pictures, and this only completes the process of Blair… leaving a mark of horror on people’ brains. 

Many later movies follow the scheme and idea of Blair's... “found footage” genre, although showing different stories and approaches. However, neither of them managed to become as original and fresh as Blaire Witch Project. Some of these movies like Rec, directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, create a similar level of tension and anticipation, though because of the reviled truth about the threat, it is not as horrifying. 

A mutated human being in Rec, a huge CG monster in Cloverfield and footprints in flour in Paranormal Activity (however the last one might be considered as a successful production which leaves the viewer with unanswered questions), these, and many more, are the followers of Myrick’s and Sanchez’s concept of documentary horror movies. They are inspired by Blair’s…approach to the genre, the hand-held camera type that has been scaring people for many years without getting old or boring. Even though these movies are similar, they don’t follow one unspoken truth, which Thompson states in his review:

'A truly great horror film works because of its suspense, not because of its gore, The Blair Witch Project is such a horror movie’ (Thompson, 2009), and this rule might be the finalizing word in the discussion about Blair Witch Project’s timeless features, that presented the cinema with new and fresh approach to horror genre, and still work and scare the audiences of the world.

* Ebert, Roger (1999) online source: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990716/REVIEWS/907160301/1023
* Berardinelli, James (2012) online source: http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=56
* Thomspon, Bill (2009) online source: http://billsmovieemporium.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/review-the-blair-witch-project-1999/ 
2. Stills:

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