Few independent horror movies can be said to have gained as much prestige and respect as The Blair Witch Project has, earning a 20,000% return on its original cost whilst systematically causing critics worldwide to sing its praise. 15 years later and it has spawned slews of imitators, most notably the Paranormal Activity franchise (2007-) and whilst some of these have been extremely inventive and used the ‘found footage’ style of filmmaking to great effect, others seem to do so out of pure laziness, barely managing to explain why their characters have cameras watching them constantly. Despite having seen many of these imitators, some good some bad, I subconsciously seemed to avoid seeing ‘Blair Witch’ for reasons I can’t quite explain. I suspect though that perhaps this was not the best idea because after years of having the film explained to me as nothing short of a masterpiece, I came away strangely disappointed. Whilst not slow, the film did in places appear boring particularly when all the cast seemed to do was wander round and round in circles arguing and whilst I understand the film is designed not to create its scares from jumps, I think the end could have packed a bit more of a punch.
One of the major problems I had was the exposition of the mystery concerning the Witch herself, whilst I know the films only sequel and various spin off’s including Video Games, Novels and Comic Books have expanded upon this, to fully understand I should not have to hunt these down, or in my case read the Wikipedia page. Now before I start I did actually enjoy some of the tales we are told in the film, my main issue is how much time is spent on them. For example the tale of 1940’s Child-Murderer ‘Rustin Parr’ is a main part of the films plot as the entire ending revolves around it and then there’s also the tale of the Witch herself Kelly Edward, who supposedly possessed Rustin and forced him to murder the Children. Whilst watching all I understood was that there was a child murderer (and the ways he killed the children) and that there was also a Witch, everything else I read on Wikipedia. The problem here is that if indeed that was said it was quite clearly a one-line explanation, enough time was spent with the characters ridiculing the character of Mary Brown when this time could of been used more wisely to subtly reiterate the points that have just been made. After all, the only exposition occurs in the first 20 minutes and it’s a lot for the audience to take in, had less time been spent on just repeats of arguments and jokes about a crazy lady, perhaps I wouldn’t have been forced to resort to Wikipedia to understand what is essentially the crux of not only the ending but the entire film.
Which moves me gracefully onto my next point, the climactic moments, which I believe have been at some point voted number 50 on a list of ‘Greatest Movie Endings of All Time’? Once though I was left confused, spending the next 10 minutes or so flitting between Wikipedia and the scene itself working out what had occurred. This is what Wikipedia states occurs:
‘Mike then claims he hears Josh in the basement. He runs downstairs and after what seems to be a quick struggle goes silent and drops the camera. Heather shouts for Mike but gets no answer. She enters the basement screaming in fear while her camera catches a glimpse of Mike facing the corner, just as Parr's victims had been made to do. Heather then utters a final scream as she and her camera violently drop to the floor. There is only silence as the footage ends’
Now this may have been the intention but this was far from obvious when watching, I watched this with a friend of mine and even he complained that the ending was very confusing and was possibly the most overhyped section of the entire film! What we found confusing was that the Wikipedia entry states that Heather ‘Enters the basement screaming in fear’, we both admitted to the other that the sounds appeared as if they were far away and so we assumed they were coming from the basement where Mike was. The so called ‘struggles’ were so brief that I was hardly aware that anything had occurred and the whole scene just seemed sort of ‘messy’ but most disappointing was the final shot. Much love has been stated for this, where Mike is seen standing in the exact same position as the children in the tale about Rustin Parr. Perhaps I was expecting a longer or perhaps creepier shot, but what I got was so brief that it was gone before it even had chance to leave a lasting impression. The final few moments overall were for me instead of being the best section of the film were in fact the messiest and most disappointing.
Not all was bad and although you may find it hard to believe after reading that rather large collection of negative thoughts, I did find much to enjoy. The cast were all good and played their parts well with the characters coming across as realistic, devoid of any clichéd horror dialogue or characterisations. Ok so later on they got a tad annoying with the constant walking around arguing and Heather particularly began to get on my nerves but for the most part they were fun to watch and easy to become attached to as an audience member. I also thoroughly enjoyed the moments where the film addressed the issues of what would happen to a person psychologically if they were lost for days on end trapped with a supernatural entity and also how small the main characters and their various issues appeared once they had met said entity, as demonstrated by Heather still ‘making movies’ because it was the only thing she had left. This gave the film a slightly Lovecraftian feel which I appreciated immensely.
In short ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is one of those movies that everyone has to see at least once but with that said it’s also one that should be seen away from any influence and with as little prior knowledge as possible. Without a doubt its contribution to the Horror Genre is unforgettable, particularly in it’s (almost) singlehanded creation of the footage sub-genre. However this does not mean it is the ‘King’ of these type of movies, late last year I was fortunate to see a very low budget British Movie entitled ‘The Borderlands’ which I believe is getting a limited theatrical release and then a DVD release later this year. Borderlands not only managed to equal the Blair Witch Project but in my eyes beat it, presenting a much more interesting story and managing to being almost twice as amusing and terrifying as Blair Witch on a very similar budget. By all means see Blair Witch, but if you come away disappointed don’t think it to be the be all and end all of ‘Found Footage’ horror movies.
Welcome one and all- Please leave sanity at the door
A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.firstname.lastname@example.org. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.