The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Director:  Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez
 Heather DonahueMichael C. WilliamsJoshua Leonard 

Plot:  In October of 1994, three student film makers disappeared in the woods near Burkittesville, Maryland. One year later, their footage was found.

Genre:  Horror / Mystery
Awards:  -
Runtime:  86min
Rating:  NC16 for language. 


In 1999, two young filmmakers scared the living daylights of moviegoers with a horror film unlike any other.  Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez shot The Blair Witch Project with the tiniest of film budgets and released the film in one of the most bizarre marketing campaigns ever, propelling the independent film to a remarkable box-office success. This is what happened: 

In 1994, three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams) decided to make a documentary that explored the local legend of the Blair Witch.  They hiked into Maryland’s Black Hills Forest with cameras and were never heard of again.  One year later, their footage was found and pieced together by Myrick and Sanchez.  The Blair Witch Project became their legacy.  Because of the nature of the film and the mystery of its marketing, the film is thought to be a true video recording of what happened during that fateful hike. 

Unlike other more conventional forms of horror, The Blair Witch Project does not hold up well after a decade.  This is because as it ages, it gets less appealing.  With the accessibility of digital cameras and video technology, anyone can make such a film, post it on You Tube, and get either instant gratification or immediate disparagement.  Yes it is probably the most innovative horror innovation since John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), but The Blair Witch Project has over the years lost its ability to deceive and scare viewers. 

Shot with two unsteady handheld cameras (one in color, the other in black-and-white), The Blair Witch Project was the original inspiration for Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield (2008).  This technique gives viewers a nauseating, stomach-churning feeling throughout, something which I admired in Cloverfield but detested in The Blair Witch Project.  At least the former was entertaining, but that cannot be said of the latter which is an example of execrable filmmaking at its finest. 

There is an absence of depth and substance in The Blair Witch Project.  Yes, one can argue that it is in the nature of such a film which makes it not require any kind of depth and substance.  However, to categorize something as ‘film’, there needs to be a degree of professionalism to how it is being done.  Characters and the narrative must be adequately developed. The Blair Witch Project exhibits near emptiness; it is an amateurish, long-drawn video clip that, in my opinion, has one of the lowest scare quotients for a horror flick.

The film will appear creepy to most as it plays on our fears of the unknown.  It builds tension through silence which is occasionally punctuated by strange sounds and the use of darkness adds to the eeriness.  Yet the most chilling scene happens in the day when the trio discovers human-like impressions made using leaves and twigs, and hung using nettings and ropes.  But for the rest of the film I wish to say, “I wanted to be scared, but I couldn’t.”

GRADE: F (2.5/10 or 1 star)

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