‘In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.’
With these two sentences, The Blair Witch Project begins its story – a tale of three students, Heather, Michael, and Josh, who embark on a journey in search of an urban legend. The movie recounts their tale through various pieces of ‘found’ footage, supposedly recorded in 1994, recovered in 1995, then edited together and released to the public in 1999.
The Blair Witch Project is presented as a real-life account, which documents the final days of the students. It focuses on the unusual experiences they encounter in the woods, as well as the events that led up to their disappearance.
The movie acts very much like a lost piece of film, abandoned by its filmmakers, but everything about The Blair Witch Project is a fraud. It is a fake – a brilliantly conceived, perfectly produced, and devilishly wicked hoax.
When conjuring up The Blair Witch Project, writer and director duo, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez drew up an outline for what they wanted to achieve with the movie. The plan was to create a low budget horror story, that appeared as if it was real.
They employed three actors to wander around a wooded area of Maryland, pretend they were lost, and react to noises off camera. Each day, the actors were given specific instructions about what they needed to do to further the story, but how they interacted was largely up to them.
The filmmakers wanted to produce an organic ghost story, with a credible cast that could fool an audience into believing they were witnessing a supernatural incident, and in The Blair Witch Project they achieved their goal.
Simple in both its presentation and execution, The Blair Witch Project is a very well-made picture. The actors do a fine job of blurring fact and fiction; the legend of the mysterious Blair Witch is suitably teased during the first act, firing up the audiences’ imagination for the witch hunt to follow; and the use of cuts, shaky camera angles, and out of focus shots all help to create the illusion that something is lurking in the wilderness.
This is a film which plays on the age-old notion that it is not what you see that scares you the most, but what you believe you see. It isn’t about terrifying the audience with huge spectacle; it is about letting the imagination run wild, so that it serves up something more frightening than could ever be produced on screen.
Faux-documentaries and found footage movies existed prior to the release of The Blair Witch Project, and countless more have been released since, but this remains the film everyone remembers. It was a sleeper hit when it arrived in cinemas back in 1999, and while it might not fool audiences as it once did, it still maintains the power to send shivers down the spine and create something out of nothing.
Josh Leonard – “OK, here’s your motivation. You’re lost, you’re angry in the woods, and no one is here to help you. There’s a fucking witch and she keeps leaving shit outside your door. There’s no one here to help you! She left little trinkets, you fucking took one of them, she ran after us. There’s no one here to help you! We walked for 15 hours today, we ended up in the same place! There’s no one here to help you, THAT’S your motivation! THAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION!”
Cast and crew
The Blair Witch Project is written and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, and produced by Robin Cowie and Gregg Hale. The cast includes Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard, playing fictionalised versions of themselves.
Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this spotlight post focusing on a must-see horror movie. This ‘spotlight’ on The Blair Witch Project is one post in a series of ten posts looking at superb horror movies and shorts which you may or may not have seen.
Other posts in this series include: Suspiria (1977), The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (2011), Don’t Look Now (1973), Psycho (1960), The Omen (1976), The ‘Burbs (1989), Lights Out (2013), The Woman in Black (2012), and Bone Tomahawk (2015).
The aim is to spread some horror love around the internet, and possibly introduce you to a slice of horror that you may have overlooked. So, make sure to add this movie to your next horror movie marathon.
And for more horror-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.