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Figure 1 Blair Witch Project (1999)

Film review- The Blair Witch Project Hannah Milliner

The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 directed by Eduardo Snchez and Daniel Myrick. The film is a lost footage film about three student filmmakers who have disappeared in the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the Blair Witch. Banash suggests that the film uses basic technology to give a more authentic horror film. The film somehow bypasses technology altogether, returning us to an authentic psychological (think Hitchcock) rather than technical horror. (Banash, 2004:111) Because the whole film is filmed on two cameras used by each of the three actors at some point during the film. No CG was used throughout the film so it relies on the imagination of the audience to convince themselves something is going to happen thus making film seem more suspenseful than it actually is. A lot of the film is shot with little or no visual content because it was filmed in the dark. The film used many elements to create fear without using a big budget, being in the woods at night creates an eerie atmosphere anyway and then the characters adds to this because of their heavy breathing and the shaking camera. Because the actors are sometimes heard not seen it makes the audience feel like they are actually there or are able to be caught up emotionally. A lot of the film was improvised, and so there was a lot of natural reactions. One which seems most significant is when the main characters are interviewing people in the town and they interview a woman with a child. When the woman was explaining what she knew about the Blair Witch the child kept trying to stop her from talking about it by covering her mouth, because the myth involves the death of many children it seem highly relevant that the child afraid of the story. There is also a running theme of hopelessness and isolation throughout the film. The 3 students plan to stay in the woods for 2 nights but although following a map (which can be seen as a sign of hope) they get lost and are unable to find their way back to the car, therefore isolated from the outside world. One of the characters (Mike) throws the map into the river which can be a sign for loss of hope. The three characters are then isolated from each other one by one. First person (Josh) is abducted or walks off and goes missing. When the other two are looking for him in an abandoned house they are also separated and isolated from one another. Mike is then found by the third student heather standing in the corner of a room like a child (like the victims are made to do in the myth mentioned previously in the film) visually and emotionally isolated from the world (fig 2). Heather being the strongest and the leader of the groups almost a main character. She goes through the 5 stages of Grief before meeting her end. Heather starts off by denying they are lost when she knows they are. All three then become angry at each other about being lost and the loss of the map. Mike tries to bargain with the others to leave the woods as soon as possible. Heather also starts bargaining with the other two characters trying to regain control by asking for the map so they can leave the woods. She and Josh go into a state of depression when they realise they are lost and have gone round in circles. And finally when Heather records herself apologizing to everyone this shows she has lost hope in leaving the woods, she has entered the final stage of grief which is acceptance.

Figure 2 Isolated (1999)

The way the film is made creates a valid and believable world as well as a believable story. Roscoe suggests that because the film is made in a documentary style and theres nothing visually unbelievable in the film it creates something that could be believed. As a mock-documentary it constructs a world plausible enough for some sections of the audience to be confused as to its ontological status. (Roscoe, 2000) The idea that people were unable to tell if it was fictional or not works because nothing is exaggerated to the point that it become unbelievable, and the evidence of the witch such as the pile of rocks could seem realistic if actual paranormal reports are to be believed. It also helps because of how personal its presented, because its filmed with a hand held camera instead of using professional steady cameras it makes it seem less edited. As Thevenot suggests it allows the audience to empathise with the characters. Due to its shaky, handheld, low-budget production values, the film generates visual curiosity, which for viewers used to more polished Hollywood production values, generates its own emotional response one of displeasure (and in some cases vertigo). As the story unfolds, viewers begin to identify with the characters' fear, another emotional response. (Thevenot, 2001). It appears like three ordinary people have gone into the woods together rather than three actors. So people can relate to the film and the characters on a personal level.

The believability of the film was strengthened with the use of marketing when Artisan created a website containing evidence of the Blair witch being real including police reports and myths about the Witch. The website made it a lot harder for the audience to determine whether or not the story is fictional or not. Thevenot Lists the evidence included on the website. Artisan's creative team posted the following pieces of "evidence" on the original blairwitch.com site, embellishing the myth of the Blair Witch and the vanished students with the following content: Invented journal entries written by one of the three characters: Fictional but seemingly authentic police reports, An fictional legend of the Blair Witch dating back to the 18th century (Thevenot, 2001) Because the evidence seemed realistic there was no reason to doubt it so it made it harder for people to determine if it was real. Because of this people then sent the website to others. So marketing the film by using the word of mouth technique before the film had actually been released creating plenty of hype for the film.

Bibliography

Banash, D (2004). The Blair Witch Project. Technology, Repression, and the Evisceration of Mimesis. At: http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OlFj3G46M0sC&oi=fnd&pg=PT46&dq=The+blair+wi tch+project&ots=_CDqSsIb2X&sig=Osuxwr2NqU3s01R_JMX37ygh7K0#v=onepage&q=The%20blair% 20witch%20project&f=false (Accessed on 18/2/14)

Roscoe, J (2000) The Blair Witch Project. Mock- documentary goes Mainstream At: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC43folder/BlairWitch.html (Accessed on 18/2/14)

Thevenot, C (2001) Viral Marketing. At: http://www.watier.org/kathy/papers/ViralMarketing.pdf (Accessed on 18/2/14)

Illustrations Figure 1 Blair Witch Project (1999) From: The Blair Witch Project. Directed by Eduardo Snchez and Daniel Myrick. [Film poster] USA. At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/26/Blair_Witch_Project.jpg (Accessed on 18/2/14)

Figure 2 Isolated (1999) From: The Blair Witch Project. Directed by Eduardo Snchez and Daniel Myrick. [Film still] USA. At: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/fkIB0IRdqrE/Um6BJHoLXvI/AAAAAAAAXQo/Z2os5xtmNZI/s1600/43d6001ac1bc19dc7be5aa64535ef 8.jpg (Accessed on 18/2/14)

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