Halloween Month: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS
“The Blair Witch Project” (1999) was a unique piece of film-making for its time. It was the first of the lost video footage genre which has since spawned several films of a similar style such as “Paranormal Activity” (2007), “The Last Exorcism” (2010) and a recent film in which I reviewed “Atrocious” (2010). In that sense the film is a significant landmark for its horror sub-genre and brings a fresh approach to the scare tactic rather than a chainsaw-wielding maniac or a haunted house scenario.
Personally my opinion on this film is divided. On one hand it can be respected for its daring method of horror film-making for the audience to interpret the events in Maryland Burksville as realism. This is depicted through the use of a hand held camera and also due to the fact the principal characters share the same names as the actors playing them. Back in 1999 the film was heavily marketed over the internet in an attempt to feed into potential viewer’s perceptions that its the scariest film they will ever see. On the basis of the concept I am in agreement however now in 2011 since the trend of similar films like “Paranormal Activity” it feels more of a cliche. It appears as if the film makers are trying too hard to frighten audiences which in “Blair Witch” resulted in many anti-climactic moments, especially the ending. Although at the time hysteria surrounded “The Blair Witch” as to whether the footage was real or a hoax; reality TV was emerging which fuelled the notion of it being real footage amongst the public. The other issue with the film is that the majority is seen through the female character Heather’s point of view; her character is hugely unlikeable demonstrated through her controlling nature; it is therefore difficult to develop any empathy for her in the situation. Her cinematography skills are also atrocious (excuse the pun/reference!) almost deliberately to suggest she isn’t as brilliant at her job as she assumes she is and her constant urge to be in control weakens her focus on creating a quality documentary. The male characters Mike and Josh aren’t much better either; their constant joking around and deliberate attempts at winding Heather up make them appear obnoxious. The characters portrayal’s make an interesting comment on the spoilt, pampered attitudes of the Western society. Once the characters have all their necessities taken away from them they bitch and moan about how hard done by they have become. Heather, Mike and Josh are more anxious over the fact they have no cigarettes or alcohol left rather than food or water. On the positive side tension is built up well especially during the night time scenes and all the symbolic “messages” they come across during the course of the film. However as previously pointed out these scenes didn’t particularly go anywhere for me. The fact there was consistent enigma throughout the film kept it edgy as well as eerie supporting a key theme in horror of the unknown frightening us; a little explanation or a small clue about the Blair Witch would have been helpful to the audience, because the film just fell flat and tension seemed built up towards nothing.
Even though my view of “The Blair Witch Project” on the whole is negative I would still recommend it this Halloween as its a significant film to the genre as a whole, the themes of myths and legends are interesting if not well-developed and if your the kind of person who enjoys watching obnoxious characters get their just desserts then this is the movie for you! But if your after something in a similar vein that will produce a good scare, go with the “Paranormal Activity” films.
Hayley Alice Roberts.