The Blair Witch Project

Daniel Myrick and Bob Griffin’s, 1999 film, The Blair Witch Project, is an American horror film with a unique sense of realism due to the lack of scripting and storyboarding that took place during the production, leaving the script to be improvised by the actors while events happened around them that they were unaware would happen. The film is self-shot by the actors and is the first of the foundfootage genre where the sense of fear is heightened by being aware of what is around them and never seeing what is causing the events, making it what film critic David Denby called it in, The Blair Witch Project, ‘A cunningly conceived and crafted exercise in suggestibility and terror. ‘ (Denby, 2012), this is due to how the film suggests that the witch could be real and could be following them, while also leaving it open that it could be people out in the woods following them, allowing the audiences fear to grow as events happen throughout the film.

Fig. 1 The Blair Witch Project Poster (1999)

The sense of realism felt when watching this film comes from how the actors were unaware of what events would happen throughout the filming but only that things would happen at night and the reactions are their natural reactions to the situation. Most of the terror felt by the audience comes from the fear of the unknown and the directors knowing that the witch doesn’t need to be seen to be scary, creating suspense and tension successfully while watching, as well as the footage feeling real, adding another level of fear to the film and is best described, as said by film critic Richard C. Walls in his review, The Blair Witch Project, ‘It’s a movie which gives you just enough information to provoke you into frightening yourself. ‘ (Walls 2013) this is done by the audience constantly thinking something is about to happen and waiting for it to happen. In Fig. 2 below, is the bundles of sticks that the actors found outside their tents each night, unaware of what would happen during the night and what would be left outside.

Fig. 2 Sticks (1999)

The sound design of the film is aimed to try and make the film more realistic while staying with natural sounds of the woods to create a quiet atmosphere using the lack of sound to its advantage to heighten the tension and allowing for louder and unsettling noises to still be realistic. As stated by David Sonnenschein in, Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema, ‘The sounds are quite realistic and linked to the characters’ identifiable physical environment, until the evening brings in unknown noises from the dark woods. Furthermore, at the end when they reach the house, the ambience tracks go completely wild and subjectively overwhelming, adding to the full-blown fear of the experience.’ (Sonnenschein, 2001) the minimalist use of ambient noise during the film allows the extreme use of the ambience tracks to be more successful in creating fear in the audience. The combination of how the film uses absence of sound, the increasing tension between the actors while events are happening around them makes it a successful film. Creating tension throughout the film and raising the fear levels of the audience watching it, who would start to believe the realism of the film.

Bibliography
Denby, D. (2012) The Blair Witch Project. At: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/reviews/film/the_blair_witch_project (Accessed 24/02/14) Sonnenschein, D. (2001) Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema. [Online] At: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=iGt70tqyWGwC&pg=PA170&lpg=PA170&dq=blair+witch+project+s ound+design&source=bl&ots=a_7wum0fXr&sig=mmRwIAMEsxhVz8Ag6MWuXkJVUUk&hl=en&sa=X&ei= diQLU66cLzA7AajxYCICw&ved=0CEUQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=blair%20witch%20project%20sound%20design&f=fa lse (Accessed 24/02/14) Walls, R. (2013) The Blair Witch Project. At: http://www2.metrotimes.com/screens/review.asp?rid=10712 (Accessed 24/02/14)

Illustrations List
Fig. 1 The Blair Witch Project Poster (1999) [Poster] At: http://www.hotdog.hu/ordogok/vereslegendak/the-blair-witch-project (Accessed 24/02/14) Fig. 2 Sticks. (1999) From: The Blair Witch Project. Directed by: David Myrick and Bob Griffin. [Film Still] United States: Haxan Films. (Accessed 24/02/14)

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