I remember when I first saw The Blair Witch Project. It was 1999 and a whole bunch of good movies came out that summer. I saw BWP along with Stir of Echoes and The Sixth Sense with my mom because my stepdad didn’t like scary movies. I turned sixteen that summer.
The power of the movie for me was that I believed it was real. I was into all sorts of New Age beliefs then so the idea that three people could be harmed by mystical forces didn’t seem implausible. I mention this because I think that your prior mindframe heavily influences how your view this movie. When I first saw the movie I saw it through the eyes of someone who believed in the supernatural. Plus, they did have a pretty good viral marketing campaign that said it was true. When I was a junior in college, one of my science classes involved a section about skeptical thinking and the scientific method. I slowly became a skeptical atheist after that class. So I watched the movie with an entirely new perspective last night. The movie became less about the supernatural and more about how people fail to work together and fall apart in a crisis.
So, on to the movie. There are no opening credits, just a brief introduction.
The plot is simple. My favorite band, Rasputina, has a song about the Donner Party that actually sums up the situation accurately. “In both cases, you’ll find, one, a fairly large group of ill-prepared greenhorns pitting themselves against nature and each other, two, an insufficient willingness to endure the very real hardships of frontiering…” We see Heather, Josh, and Mike prepare to interview locals in the town of Burkittsville, MD. about the legend of the Blair Witch. This serves as exposition about what they’ll be facing in the woods. They seem satisfied with mostly hearsay stories passed down from generation to generation. I’m surprised that they didn’t interview a historian. Where are the historical documents? This could have added some realism to the movie.
Then they go into the woods and this is where things fall apart for them. There are constant squabbles about the map and the possibility of being lost. Plus, when they go to sleep they hear ambiguous noises. It could be an animal or someone walking around their campsite. As someone who’s camped in the northeastern U.S., I can definitely say that there are a lot of night noises. Owls, deer, coyotes, they all can make creepy noises. Even rabbits howl when they’re killed. So they attribute the noises to the supernatural but I have a hard time doing that.
They start to unusual things in the woods. There are some piles of rocks that may be Native American cairns. That really wouldn’t be unusual for the woods of Maryland. Then they find these creepy little stick people.
Mike makes a good point when he says that someone could just be messing with them. So far, nothing we’ve seen points definitively to the supernatural. The fact that they’re outsiders asking questions in a small, close-knit community could be enough motive to make them a target.
They go to sleep and they wake up to hands pressing from the outside of the tent and noises that sound like children. Definitely creepy. But supernatural? I don’t know. By this point they’re very lost and really panicking. At one point, Heather mentions that she likes to go hiking and mentions being an experienced hiker but their decisions aren’t very impressive. Why do they hike in arbitrary directions instead of staying put? Or, at least follow the creek? There are plot-holes like this that you could drive a Mack truck through that kind of drive me crazy.
Finally, Josh disappears and they receive this creepy package.
They open it and it turns out it’s not full of cookies from home.
I have wondered for YEARS what it was in that package. You just get a very quick glimpse in the movie, so I thought it was a big, bloody tooth or something. Now it’s clear that it’s a finger and maybe a tongue.
Again, I ask, is this supposed to be supernatural or human? There’s no evidence that it’s a human doing this but there’s no overt evidence for the supernatural either.
Finally, they’re lured to this creepy abandoned house.
There are definitely some creepy moments and everything in this house is soo, soo wrong and creepy. Especially this:
The footage ends abruptly and there’s no real resolution. You just have to accept that these people were attacked by something and disappeared. Was the movie effective? I can’t say that it held up for me after eleven years. I think that part of it was seeing it on the big screen in a movie theater at night versus seeing it in my little apartment in the hood. Plus, the movie theater we went to when I first saw it was near this reservation and we had to drive through this wooded area after dark and it gave my mom and I the creeps so badly.
I liked the characters the first time I saw the movie, but jaded, old Scarina didn’t like them this time. I just wasn’t invested in what happened to them so I didn’t really care if they survived or not.
There were definitely some creepy moments and the fact that there was no music helped your mind forget that this isn’t really found footage. I do have to give the film-makers credit for their unique vision. This was revolutionary when they made it.
What I really did like was the special features on the dvd. They included “The Curse of the Blair Witch.” I remember seeing this as a t.v. program, I think it was on the Sci-Fi channel. I rewatched this and I found it to be more compelling than the feature. It makes me wish that they’d taken the idea of the found footage and turned it into an actual documentary. It could have been an epic hoax and a really scary story. Plus, they could have given the Blair Witch more of a back story. The witch’s motives really aren’t explained in the movie, she’s just a vague supernatural force. Well, what if she had motives? What if she had an M.O? Plus, it would be scarier if we heard about how effort had gone into the search yet these people had disappeared without a trace. Add a couple of realistic newscasts and you have a story.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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