|Fig 1: 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999) Poster|
"The Blair Witch Project" is the scariest movie I've ever seen. Not the goriest, the grossest, the weirdest, the eeriest, the sickest, the creepiest or the slimiest... Just flat out the scariest." (Rose 1999)
The way in which 'The Blair Witch Project' presents its horror element is simplistic in nature with what you don't see being the scariest thing of all, this is because it use intense audience participation, making use of their imagination and personal fears to fill in the blanks of the footage. The films found footage style goes along way in bringing absolute fear to the audience with the seemingly realistic actions and emotional portrayal of its cast; its camera work exercises two radically different angles of approach with black and white documentary like shots presenting the information clearly while the handheld colour camera symbolically gives us a view from the character's perspective, with us being unable to see very much at all and completely overwhelmed at times by the events around us.
|Fig 2: Graveyard documentary scene in 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)|
"The directors took their cue from producer Hale's Army training and shot the film like a military exercise." (Travers 1999)
The way in which the films was recorded and produced was unique and made incredibly tough for the actors. As Travers highlights above, the film was 'directed' loosely with the actors receiving their directions to the next location via milk crate dead drops. This gave emotional realism as the actors blindly followed these directions, improvising their dialogue as they went, and become both physically and emotionally drained. The night time scenes are frightening and mind boggling for not just the audience, as the actor's and their characters are harassed continuously to varying degrees in the dark woods, only to be unsettled and unhinged ever so slowly through out the day with stick puppets, stone piles and the surplus of unexplained noises echoing around them. The film gains from this unique style by capturing realist emotions of the cast as their harrowing journey slowly comes to a close; Heather Donahue, the female lead, can be noted for really pulling on the audience's heart strings as she becomes more and more unhinged and completely desperate to escape the situation, something that can be said for all three of the students however she evokes their sympathy the most through her heart wrenching video as she claims responsiblity for the events and begins to carry the heavy guilt associated with this. Her words "I'm scared to close my eyes and I'm scared to open them" becomes a singularly memorable line as it encapsulates the entire experience's emotional conclusion as it leaves each member of the audience in a similar state of terror, dread and paranoia.
|Fig 3: Donahue's crying confession in 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)|
The overarching plot of this psychological horror montage is incredibly insubstantial and merely acts as a guided tour of its constructed lore.
"While it has its scary moments, and while its central conceit is refreshingly imaginative, there's ultimately not much there there." (Brunette)
The films plot is extremely elusive throughout the entire feature, with screen time dominated by the character's improvised dialogue and the tormenting actions of the directors, the goal of the three students soon becomes bogged down under all of its excess weight. The antagonist in the film is not entirely clear, it is hinted to be the witches through the strange dolls, rock piles and then the final scene in the old basement, but it is never clearly defined. This mystery of course lends itself to making the feature all the more frightening as the invisible and unknown aggressor is the scariest of all, but the reason for the torturous events that hound the three students is forgotten, tossed aside or blatantly never explained properly. It is assumed by the plot that the aggressor doesn't require a reason and merely functions on bestial instinct, although this can be made the case and work incredibly well. There are key points throughout the film, however, that have been carefully thought out, with the tormented nights engineered to such a degree that it feels like a sinister game orchestrated around the students. The invisible aggressor however soon only serves as a generic evil which must be unconditionally feared, leaving the audience to see it as twisted two dimensional entertainment instead of the carefully plotted psychological experiment it is.
List of Illustrations
Fig 1: 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999) poster [Poster] At: http://www.nerdspan.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/the-blair-witch-project-poster.jpg
Fig 2: Graveyard documentary scene in 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999) Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick [Film Still] America: Haxan Films. At: http://www.mattfind.com/12345673215-3-2-3_img/movie/t/k/q/the_blair_witch_project_1999_720x540_477142.jpg
Fig 3: Donahue's crying confession in 'The Blair Witch Project' (1999) Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick [Film Still] America: Haxan Films. At: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/12/21/article-0-0F3F9DD700000578-685_468x286.jpg
Brunette, Peter. At: http://www.metacritic.com/movie/the-blair-witch-project [Online Review] (Accessed 18/02/2014)
Lloyd, Rose (1999) At: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/blairwitchprojectrose.htm [Online Review] (Accessed 18/02/2014)
Travers Peter (1999) At: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/the-blair-witch-project-19990730 [Online Review] (Accessed 18/02/2014)