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The Blair Witch Project

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Blair Witch Project

Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael Williams
Director: Daniel Myrick
Rated: R
RunTime: 80 Minutes
Release Date: July 1999
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Joshua Leonard

Review by Walter Frith
3½ stars out of 4

At a perfect running length of 80 minutes, 'The Blair Witch Project' is a completely fictional film that looks ferociously like a documentary. It uses mostly the thought of horror instead of visual horror itself to make its effective showcase a truly memorable horror film that will have you looking over your shoulder in the theatre. That's something few big budget Hollywood films these days are able to do. The film was made for around thirty thousand dollars, the cost of a new car with several luxuries and is destined to do well with young audiences.

Based on the fictional premise that a group of young student film makers went into the woods in October 1994 to film a story about the legendary Blair witch, gives 'The Blair Witch Project' its name. Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard play the threesome who are ambitious yet naive, disorganized, irresponsible much of the time, and most of all tenacious. The film reports that during the week or so they went hiking in the reclusive woods of Maryland, they were never heard from again and that their footage was found a year after their disappearance and that footage is their story.

It begins with the group using various methods of recording such as both black and white and colour to tell the story of how they are preparing to leave for their excursion. We see them at home, in the driveway and in their hotel on 16 mm film. Then the film picks up considerably from this point. They talk to various people who have heard stories of the legendary Blair witch, some believing in the story and some not. Their journey into the forest gives them the lesson of their lives which may be their last. This film may do for camping what 'Jaws' did for going swimming in the ocean. One of the people in the town with whom they spoke before leaving for the woods, tells of a story about a strange collection of rocks in a certain arrangement. They find it and it becomes part of their story as a chill is sent down their spines about this prophecy coming true and the consequences that may come with it. They also find a ritual style of trees arranged in a frightening manner which further threatens their sanity which they later try desparately to maintain.

As the film moves on, their first night in the woods goes without much of a hitch. As things go on they get worse and worse. One of them throws the map away that was their salvation out of the forest, they run low on food and water and hike around in a circle only to find themselves back where they started. They make a humourous reference to the film 'Deliverance' which is intended to get a few laughs. They hear strange noises in dark and far away places in the woods at night and feel that their lives are in danger. Tempers flare and we see this all done in a true professional style with a script that looks like it was ALL improvised. In fact, much of the film was reportedly improvised but not knowing which scenes were and which weren't make it seem all the more impressive in its final blend. In a big Hollywood production you can usually tell which parts are improvised. The acting is top notch as we see the shift in friendships turn to hate and frustration.

Film makers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez have written, directed and edited a documentary style motion picture (and you still won't believe that it ISN'T a documentary) that shows they have a promising career if they stay focused with their own visions and don't sell out to the Hollywood style claptrap. The Cohen brothers ('Fargo') have been the main artists that have avoided doing this and are the true material that film students should take their cues from. Perhaps Myrick and Sanchez have.

OUT OF 5 > * * * *

Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith


* * * * * - a must see * * * * 1/2 - don't miss it * * * * - an excellent film * * * 1/2 - a marginal recommendation * * * - can't quite recommend it * * 1/2 - don't recommend it * * - avoid it * 1/2 - avoid it seriously * - avoid it AT ALL COSTS 1/2 - see it at your own risk zero - may be hazardous to your health

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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