Saturday, October 10, 2009

#24 - The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Written and Directed by: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez.

Plot: Three young filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams) head out into the woods to shoot a documentary about the local urban legend of the Blair Witch. Weird things start happening and soon their fear and paranoia gets the better of them.

Review: This is less a traditional movie and more a film school exercise in less-is-more - how long can you keep the audience going without showing anything? And how much weird shit can we do without the audience getting wise? And, from what I’ve ascertained, they got people real good. I know a lot of people who despised this movie as they thought it was real and were offended when they found out it wasn’t.

I laugh at this.

Anyway, the movie is extremely interesting from a mechanical standpoint. Never during the movie do we see the thing which is terrorizing (and possibly killing) the characters. We never find out what it is. By the end of the movie we’re not even one hundred percent sure that there actually is anything. Sure, one of the people goes missing and the other two find a package with a weird little chunk of flesh in it (I still think it was an ear. Or a bellybutton). Sure they never showed up but, you know, I’m not totally convinced.

That level of ambiguity would normally be extremely irritating, but in this movie it works, very effectively. The point being that it isn’t really about that. It’s about a couple of people lost in the woods, flipping their shit.

That is the stuff that really gets to me. That little moment when it goes from “we’re having a good time. Yeah, so there are weird noises in the woods - it’s the woods, there are supposed to be weird noises” to “okay, seriously, this isn’t funny anymore”. And though the characters’ reactions are seemingly overdramatic, they are actually very realistic, at least in my experience.

The actors are convincingly scared shitless. They realize that they have no idea what the fuck they are doing and they have no way to get out of it. They break down. I generally find people freaking out at one another much more disturbing than any amount of gore or scary stuff, and some of the scenes in this movie make my stomach hurt.

Apparently, most of the film was unscripted and the actors didn’t know what was going to happen most of the time. This adds to the horrific realism of the film. Although, I do feel bad for the actors. Poor bastards.

Anyway, in another interesting note, this film supposedly broke the record for highest grossing independently produced film, the record formerly having been held by Halloween.

Also, though it was not the first film to use this gimmick, it can probably be credited with starting the recent trend of first-person horror flicks (i.e., Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead), although it took almost ten years for it to become the fad it is now. This is interesting to me.

So yeah, even though this is not the most amazing film ever, it makes a lot of what would be shortcomings work for it, and cleverly utilizes its limited resources (whatever the shit that means. I hate multisyllabic words. Don’t you think it’s funny that the word ‘monosyllabic’ has many syllables? I just thought of that), and it’s a very good exercise.

I swear to God it feels like a film school project though. It’s funny.

Favourite Part: I dunno, all the best parts are vaguely nauseating. The part where the tent gets shaken is pretty freaky. I gather that the people had no idea that was going to happen. It always scares Mr. Green, too, which is funny.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Had one or two interesting ideas going on, but it’s really just a total waste of time.

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