The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project

****

Reviewed by: Trinity

The Blair Witch Project arrives as the most hyped film of the year. It's generated the kind of cult following that the likes of The Exorcist have taken two decades to garner. What's even more impressive is that most people haven't even seen the film yet.

The film opens with a slide explaining that three filmmakers went into the woods to make a documentary and never returned. This is their footage. Director Heather, cameraman Joshua and sound recordist Mike have decided to shoot a documentary on a local legend, the Blair Witch. After talking to various locals who tell of mass child killings, strange disappearances, and floating women they venture into the woods in search of an abandoned cemetery.

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Shooting using both a 16mm camera and a video camera they record not only clips for their documentary but also footage of their activities. Delving deeper into the woods they discover some strange piles of stones. Whilst filming, one of them accidentally disturbs a pile. Later that night, whilst camping, they here strange noises. The next day they realise they've lost the map and are lost. Tempers fray, hysteria kicks in, events get weirder and their camp is attacked. Now instead of worrying if they'll get their gear back in time they're worried they might not get back at all.

It's impossible after having watched the film to see any form of sequel and it's going to be difficult for anyone to successfully imitate it. What we have here is probably the apex of the mockumentary genre. The directors, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, draw extremely realistic performances from their cast who really do look tired, wet, hungry and scared.

The end result, a mix of jerky handheld video and black-and-white footage will not appeal to all, but is still strangely enthralling. The sharp edge between film and real life is blurred. Although the film is nowhere near as terrifying as it's made out to be, its shunning of shock tactics in favour of distant sound effects and creepy environments creates a psychological terror which is far more disturbing.

The ending may disappoint some but equally it will be hailed as a stroke of genius by others. I've found it difficult to shake off some of the haunting images I've seen in this film. The Blair Witch Project has to be praised for the sheer audacity of what it has pulled off: managing to get whole audiences to sit through what is essentially a badly shot documentary has got to be a first.

Whatever your preconceptions of The Blair Witch Project are, go and see this film and see them shattered.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Handheld, hyped-up horror.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Writer: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard, Bob Griffith, Jim King, Sandra Sanchez

Year: 1998

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

Festivals:

EIFF 1999

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