To this day, critics and pundits have celebrated “The Blair Witch Project” as one of the most successful movies in the genre. The movie didn’t have a $300 million budget, Hollywood hotshots like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, nor was it filmed in high-class settings. It was a simple movie, completely devoid of music scores like that of Hanz Zimmer, with no CGI or graphic violence. Big-budget movies often depend on high-quality VFX, giving us little to no room to use our Imagination. In a way, we’re spoiled by what we see on screens, and I think it might diminish our appreciation of films.
After a while, we stop caring because we’ve gotten used to it. After being served death after death and continuous decapitations, seeing Chucky stabbing anyone who thinks he’s just a useless toy has lost its chilling effect. After twenty years of slasher movies, we were ready for something different, and “The Blair Witch Project” was delivered. The film strikes a perfect balance between horror and Imagination.
The Perfect Plot
Three filmmakers become trapped in a forest with a dark history of violent attacks and ritualistic murders involving children. True terror generates from our feeling of anxiety, and this film succeeds in doing just that. Josh’s kidnapping, the deaths of the remaining two characters, and the Witch herself are all events that we are not privy to. Our anxiety is heightened not just by using specific cinematography styles but also by eliminating technology. In one of the movie’s most stressful sequences, Mike kicks the map into a stream after realizing it is worthless, fracturing the group’s unity and symbolizing a severe setback for their ability to find their way out of the woods. Afterward, the compass stops working, and they spend the day walking in a full circle, failing to get to the south.
The movie brilliantly balances the stress and keeps its audience hooked on screen from the prologue to the climax. The group is stuck in the woods with no way of getting out. The group pulled out their cameras, hoping to trace back their steps, but all they could find were eerie noises like cries of children, footsteps, weird stompings, and corrupted laughter. The fact that Heather uses her phone so much to deal with the continuous possibility of dying causes conflict among the group. It is clear how dependent we are on electronics to maintain social order because when it breaks, anarchy ensues. Since the beginning of time, people have tended to see forests as threatening, unfriendly places that must be conquered. You don’t know what’s waiting for you behind the bushes if you take a stroll in the forest, and it could be something bad, really bad. This raises the stakes as we follow the protagonist’s trek into uncharted territory.
The True Horror Is Within
Over the course of many days and nights, Heather, Mike, and Josh’s mental health steadily worsen as their possibilities of survival dwindle. After having spent the majority of a day wandering and trying to traverse a river using a broken plank, they eventually realize that they have come full circle and are back where they had started. Heather collapses and sobs in despair as she realizes that they can never escape the forest and will die trying to get out. Soon after, Josh goes missing, and she films a video clip for her family and friends in which she blames herself for what has transpired and expresses regret for their suffering. The fear in Heather’s eyes as she delivers her unrehearsed eulogy is genuine and adds an extra layer of eeriness to the scene.
The most important element of a horror movie is not how scary the evil is or how many people it has killed. The real answer lies in anxiety, depression, and other mental breakdowns. Picture this: you’re lost in the woods; you’ve been there for a week; you’ve run out of supplies; an ugly 7-foot witch is following you everywhere; she’s keeping you up at night with her horrible pranks. In such a predicament, I can’t see anybody feeling anything but a deep sense of misery. The movie’s climax is hands down the scariest and most horrifying scene. After losing track of Mike, Heather runs hysterically down into the cellar of the house, where she discovers him still and quiet, just as the camera tilts to one side and crashes to the ground. Their last moments are never captured on screen, yet we know they’ve succumbed.
The Perfect Marketing
The movie’s official website had fabricated public records and statements leading up to its debut in order to promote the movie as found footage. The directors sent out posters at events like Sundance in an effort to track down any leads on the whereabouts of the three vanished students. All the characters were marked as “lost, presumed deceased” on IMDB during the first year the film was mentioned. This was done to prompt audiences to learn more about the origins of the Blair Witch legend. Different documentaries and parody local news footage were created to shed light on the legend.
When seen through the lens of storytelling, the entire project is a triumph for the directors. There is no other horror movie that nails reality quite like this one. All of the players used their own identities, and the script was nearly entirely left up to improvisation. The performers were so exhausted and hungry that they basically method-acted their way through their roles. The film’s most unsettling moments are very believable, such as Heather breaking down in tears. Because of the movie’s horrific vibe and the disturbing rumor that preceded it, “The Blair Witch Project” sent shockwaves across popular culture. True terror lies not in the dread of the Witch but rather in the worry of the unknown, and anybody who has camped in the forest can understand this. Dark places are dangerous because you can never tell what could be there.
The movie is living proof that you don’t require millions of dollars’ worth of shooting equipment to make a successful movie. All you need is a good script, actors who stay true to their roles, and a camera. The movie was made on a $60k budget and managed to earn over $250 million when it hit theatres. The film’s backstory is interesting, and it remains compelling even after a decade. Its simplicity is its strongest weapon. However, the sophistication with which it is used is what really sets it apart.
“The Blair Witch Project” is 1999 horror movie directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez.