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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 AlexI
4 stars out of 4

"On October 21, 1994, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams hiked into the Black Hills Forest to shoot a documentary film on a local legend called 'The Blair Witch,' and were never seen again. One year later, their footage was found."

This is the beginning of one of the greatest achievements in the horror genre and a wonderful step away from the well known blood-and-gut-clishes. 'Blair Witch' set a box office record of having the highest profits per screen than any film has had before (Previous holder was Star Wars Episode 1). While all good sense suggests that only an experienced and acclaimed director would venture into something as controversial and original, this is not the case. This instant classic is created by two totally unknown directors and three unknown actors, sculptured from a $20.000 budget.

What follows the chilling prologue, is the footage that was ultimately found in the forest, meticulously edited together from the 16mm and video formats they used to shoot it on. Set up as a sort of pseudo-documentary about three high school teens that venture into the woods to visit the sites of certain grisly events.What starts as a fun outing in the woods, turns into hell. Before long, they get the sense that someone or something is playing games with them. And when their map disappears and their compass stops working, panic sets in...

"The Blair Witch Project" works, not only because of its original and unique style of production, but because the three central actors create believable, authentic characters. Acting is on a totally different level, than you get used to after watching too many "Scream"- features. Their entirely believable performances which, for the most part, were improvised for the eight days they spent in the woods, are mind-blowing, to say the least. This combination of incredible acting and superior production design, create an incredible realistic effect. While watching the film, not for a single moment will you doubt in the authenticity of characters and events displayed.

There is no severed limbs or flowing blood in 'Blair Witch', which plays on a much higher intellectual level than most of the films in its genre. Although the film is made as a bad homemade movie, it reveals a lot of information, without seeming to. It's beautifully directed as it shifts from terror and panic to plain old apathy and flat out exhaustion. And again resuming that high level of panic, as the characters realize that it is the end, wonderfully displaying a very natural psychological evolution of characters.

As Heather, as well as Michael and Joshua, slowly break down, becoming vulnerable and beyond frightened, they have nothing to do but pray that they will make their way out of the seemingly endless wilderness alive. In a late scene, filled with and incredible power and truthfulness, Heather, centering the camera directly on her right eye and nose, pours all of her emotions out, confessing to the faults of her own life, apologizing to her family, her comrades' families, her friends, and finally, making peace with herself.

There are times when there is nothing but a black screen, and all we can do is listen to their scared voices and the unexplained noises going on around them. The true horror behind this film is the unknown, and those dark places where you know something is lurking.

The witch is never actually shown. This mystic creature somehow represents all our fears for the unknown. It may be a frightening story we might have heard and remembered, a UFO we think we have seen or something else - personal and intimate. As any little kid knows, it is the noise in the dark that is scarier than whatever is really out there making the noise. The human mind can imagine more in any given point in time than anyone could ever put on screen.

'The Blair Witch Project' doesn't need any digital monsters or special effects. This movie taps into the raw nerves of basic emotional response.(One of the reasons "Deep Blue Sea" never achieved the high professionalism of "Jaws"). The film is frightening because every audience member relives his deepest fears once again while watching it.

Whether this film has lived up to its hype, you can judge for yourself, but one fact remains: Eduardo Sánchez (II) and Daniel Myrick have created an instant classic and certainly one of the most ambitious and interesting films of the year.

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