“The Blair Witch Project” shocked viewers upon its 1999 theatrical release. Directed by Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick, “Blair Witch” pioneered the found footage style of filmmaking. I watched “Blair Witch” for the first time in years yesterday, and it still scared the living bejeezus out of me.
The movie centers around three high schoolers, Heather, Josh, and Mike, filming a documentary about the mythical Blair Witch. Heather is the director and the driving force behind the crew’s excursion into the woods where the witch supposedly resides. They soon get lost, and all three become consumed with paranoia as more and more signs point to the witch’s existence. Their food and water run out, one of them disappears, and eventually they find themselves in an abandoned house. Heather’s screams echo throughout the house as her video camera drops to the floor, leaving us with a final shot of … a wall.
People forget that we never see the witch at any point in the movie. We see her rock formations and her “True Detective”-esque stick piles. But never her. The absence lends itself to the film’s horror, because our imagination is 100 times more frightening than reality. That being said, the scariest part of the film is the trio’s descension into madness. All three argue vehemently with each other, and we feel the full stress of the situation after one of them loses a map. It’s chilling.
People forget that when “Blair Witch” first came out, audiences genuinely thought it was real. It’s a credit to the director’s filmmaking, but also to the performances. Heather Donahue, ingeniously “playing herself” delivers a harrowing depiction of an overly ambitious kid. Towards the latter half of the film, Donahue speaks directly to camera and solely blames herself for the situation. She apologizes to the mothers of Mike and Josh, and to this day the break in her voice still gives me goosebumps.
But like any groundbreaking film, the legacy of “The Blair Witch Project” lie in its successors. Aside from “Blaire Witch” and maybe the Duplass brothers “Creep,” the found footage genre consists of gimmicky atrocities. Even “The Blair Witch” sequels are fruitless, paling in comparison to the OG. Nevertheless, the film is a masterpiece and worth watching for fans of the horror genre.