Monday, October 4, 2010

Film Yap: The Blair Witch Project

A brief history lesson: In 1999, majority of the world was partying exactly like it was 1999. For the few brief moments when people were not partying, they were terrified. It was mostly because of Y2K, but a lot of people were shivering in fear from a little movie called The Blair Witch Project.

While a lot of horror movies were playing up the gore and special effects, writer/directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez used creative means to scare you with very little money. The story is famous by now. Three student filmmakers want to make a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch. They spend the first day going around town talking to the residents who lay the groundwork for the mythology.

Then they journey into the woods for more footage. The longer they spend in the woods, the higher the tension grows among them. They become very frustrated and slowly convinced there may actually be a Blair Witch.

The three actors (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams) are what sell this movie. The film is presented in a documentary like format and it’s their naturalistic performances that convinced people this might have been a true story. Most actors in horror films just have to focus on screaming and breathing heavily at the right time. This trio did a great job about selling every moment of their arc: their awkwardness, amusement, professionalism, anger, nervousness, and ultimately fear.

It is almost like theatre of the absurd. A pile of rocks on the ground is not scary imagery, but if they react like it is without appearing cartoonish then it’s effective. The movie is full of tense moments like that. The movie doesn’t have major horror set pieces, but the pacing is still incredible. It’s a very clear arc to one of the most satisfying conclusions in recent memory of the genre.

Without this movie there wouldn’t be films like REC and Paranormal Activity. This film was a phenomenon and it still holds up really well on its own, not just as one of the first of its kind.

The new Blu-Ray is full of great bonus features. There is an impressive full “documentary” called Curse of the Blair Witch that serves as a (true) sequel to this movie expanding on the mythology of the Blair Witch and trying to find out more about the three kids. There are also creepy alternate endings, an older commentary track, and another mini-documentary showing text about the other sightings of the Blair Witch. Is this a movie that needs to be experienced on Blu-Ray? No, but it still looks nice.

Film: 4 Yaps

Extras: 4 Yaps

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