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Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 'The Blair Witch Project' is a horror and the one of the first of its kind, built up of 'found-footage'. Set up as the discovered documentary footage of three student filmmakers, 'The Blair Witch Project' starts as the three students set off to Burkittsville, formally Blair, Maryland, to venture into the woods to explore the legend of the Blair Witch. The protagonist is Heather Donahue, a bossy folk-lore enthusiast who has convinced fellow filmmakers Josh and Mike to aid her in making her documentary. The audience is taken along for the ride as they find themselves completely lost in the woods and haunted throughout the night, with strange rock formations and wooden dolls made from
sticks. One night, Josh is separated from the group and disappears, only to be heard the next night screaming out to his friends. On discovering a house, where they believe Josh is, the film concludes with the pair trapped inside the house, perhaps with the very thing they had come to see.
“The footage has the haphazard continuity of tormented fragments; it’s all handheld stuff, caught on the run. Tents, woods, isolation, increasing fear, and then ambiguous terrors suggested by such commonplace materials as some sticks tied together or rocks placed outside the crew’s tent.” (Denby, 1999) Through the use of hand held cameras, the footage has the illusion of documentary film caught during moment of pure terror. The audience is made is suspend their disbelief in the situation, as it doesn't seem likely that in their situation the students would continue filming. The effect of the constantly moving camera is somewhat nauseating, however manages to place the audience inside the head of the characters as they are tormented.
The film recreates the absolute terror of being completely lost. The trio start to turn on each other as the realisation that they can't find their way out of the woods hits them. “Tension mounts as Heather, Joshua and Michael lose their psychological bearings.” (Travers, 1999) The footage captures the three as they grow ever more scared. Throughout there are long stretches of blackness and even when the light is on, the constant movement makes it hard to decipher what is happening. The film has a claustrophobic feel to it, as the audience strains to hear in regular moments of darkness. A strong aspect of the film is the power of
sound. All of the sound heard is what was picked up by the two microphones on the cameras, making the voices of the students much louder and the strange noises haunting them in the night almost impossible to hear, until it builds leading to Josh's disappearance.
The ending of the film is somewhat ambiguous, due to the fact that throughout the film, the audience never really sees anything. Of course strange noises can be during the night, but unlike in many other horrors, the evil haunting the trio is not something we ever see. A big question in regards t the ending is why is Mike standing in the corner and what happened to Josh? Some theories include the possibility that Mike being in the corner is repetition of the horror story a local from Blair told the students upon their arrival in the town. They are told of a man who took children into his house in pairs, making one stand in the corner while he killed the first, only to be killed after. This man pleaded insanity, claiming that he was possessed by a witch from the 18th century, the Blair Witch. This could suggest that the witch is still haunting the house, and Mike is standing in the corner awaiting his death.
“The Blair Witch Project's strength is also its most glaring weakness: namely, it is played out on such a small, intimate scale, with none of the gory frills or bombastic artifice of your average Hollywood frightfest, that
knowing anything about it can only detract from its irrefutable capacity to disturb. It's a slow-burn build-up to terror, with folklore enthusiast Heather and her unconvinced collaborators being fed gruesome tales of torture and ritual murder by the locals, before trotting happily off into the hills to delve deeper into the myth of this unpleasant-sounding crone.” (Total Film, 1999)
Before its release, 'The Blair Witch Project' was completely unknown. Clever advertising and viral marketing were used to convince people that the events in the film really happened and that the students, or actors as is the case, had actually disappeared without a trace while filming in Maryland.
'The Blair Witch Project' is a truly unforgettable film experience that will stay with audiences long after it has ended. It manages to terrify audiences without resorting to the classic clichés of Hollywood's average horror.
Figure 1. The Blair Witch Project Film Poster 1999 At: http://themascott.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/02/the-blair-witch-project-poster.jpg Figure 2. Still from The Blair Witch Project 1999 At: http://media.avclub.com/images/50/50173/16x9/627.jpg?7116 Figure 3. Still from The Blair Witch Project 1999 At: http://api.ning.com/files/5PRnec*CnRWNGrDhWRp1SThl5NtSHbrY5PStQm8139feCwEFxdlhaqTtZOmQ-SvZycDBA94RNcNZyADF35tBYQxvhYtHg3/the_blair_witch_project_0519.jpg Figure 4. Viral Marketing 1999 At: http://chroniclesofthenerds.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/blair4.png
Denby, D The Film File – The Blair Witch Project 1999 At: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/film/the_blair_witch_project Travers, P The Blair Witch Project 1999 At: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-blair-witchproject-19990730 Total Film Reviews – The Blair Witch Project 1999 At: http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/the-blairwitch-project