Ahh the found footage genre. Yes, we got a look at it earlier with Cannibal Holocaust, but it was with The Blair Witch Project that it really got its feet under itself, and of course there have been countless other films of the shakey cam variety since.
As the 101 Horror Movies comes to the conclusion of the 20th century, and almost the end of the list, it’s time for me to revisit this spooky little film.
I was foolish enough to see this one in the theatres. I say foolish because I had no idea that my tummy has an aversion to shakey cam footage. I had to duck out a couple of times to still my bouncing stomach.
But for all that, I do like it. It’s the most basic of stories and makes every part of its shoestring budget work for it. There are mysterious sounds, spooky rock structures, odd things made from twigs, creepy laughing children, and then a spooky looking house in the middle of nowhere.
In all honesty the faux documentary that aired around the release of the movie creeped me out more.
Still it does get under your skin.
Heather (Heather Donahue), Josh (Joshua Leonard) and Mike (Michael C. Williams) are off to make a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch. There are rumours of children being murdered, apparitions, and the locals have all kinds of stories to share. And our three heroes (?) go into the woods to see what they an learn.
The film was shot chronologically, improvised, and the filmmakers set up things for the trio to find.
Sleep deprived, hungry and increasingly hostile to one another the three of them start to come apart as the situation spins out of control – they’re lost and there may be something in the woods that is after them.
This is one of those films that follows the belief that what you don’t see is scarier than what it shows you. If you buy into it, then yes it is, if you don’t then you’re a little bored with it.
I tend to buy into it though; I have a fairly healthy suspension of disbelief.
I love that in the end there are no real answers given, you’re left to try to puzzle out what really happened to them. Was it villainous and supernatural? Was it something far less spectral but no less evil?
Most of the clues to that lay in the Curse of the Blair Witch, the mock-umentary that was made at the same time to enhance and expand upon the story of the Blair Witch. However, taken on its own, the film can unnerve, and the line between reality and fiction does begin to blur, as one wonders how much the three actors are in fact acting, after being put through the ringer by the directors and crew. They were tired, hungry, and being frightened on a regular basis through the course of the shoot.
The marketing for this film when it came along was ingenious, you simply didn’t know if it was real or not, there were websites, links to case information, urban legends, this was the first film to truly exploit the abilities of the internet, and did it fantastically well!
In the end, the film mainstreamed the nausea inducing shakey cam of the found footage genre, one that still seems to be going on, though occasionally starting to wane. I honestly don’t mind the genre as a whole, I just think it’s truly overdone at this point, and only a few of them are truly worth note.
What did you think of the Blair Witch? What are some of your favorite found footage films (look at that alliteration!)?