Written by: John Edward Betancourt
There are some dark corners of the horror genre that always remain difficult to pull off when it comes to scaring the audience. Gore and violence are always an easy way to get under our skin and disturb us, but the realm of the supernatural has always been a difficult venture.
The ghost story is a fine example of this, with so many films falling in the category of either box office stud, or box office dud and with good reason. There are those of us who believe in spirits and a great beyond and others that do not. In order to please both crowds, common ground must be discovered for the audience. That place where fear is something we all share as we sit in a darkened theater.
Today’s movie spotlight visits one film that did just that, even without a big budget or big names. Today we revisit, The Blair Witch Project.
Set in Burkittsville, Maryland, The Blair Witch Project takes us on a first person journey with three young film students who have come to the supposed home of the Blair Witch in an effort to document and highlight her powerful legend, one that spans centuries. But as they delve deeper into the woods and into the mystery surrounding the Blair Witch, they quickly discover that what they believed to be legend is reality as the noises around them send a chilling message…they are not alone.
Released in 1999, The Blair Witch Project was a runaway hit. Audiences went to see the film in droves, and with good reason, this is a scary movie. Shot on a shoestring budget with unknown actors, Writers and Directors Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez went back to basics when it came to the scares in this film. We never see a monster, nor are we treated to buckets of entrails spilling everywhere. By never once knowing or seeing what exactly is happening around the poor people we watch on screen, the real horror of the film comes to life as we find ourselves sucked into the actors’ excellent portrayal of terror and the monster that waits for them in the darkness is made more horrific by our own imagination.
Yet the film was also revolutionary in nature as well. Coming out at the dawn of the Internet, Artisan Entertainment was wise enough to illicit what could be considered the first ever viral marketing campaign.
Built as a “true story” the film was advertised as recently discovered footage. That the “actors” in the film were every day people and had been missing for over a year and what we were about to see was what happened to them. This simple premise, worked like a charm. There were some that believed that the cast was indeed dead and that this film was nothing more than a disgusting documentary.
But in addition to giving us the birth of viral marketing, the film can easily be viewed as a rarity, the creation of a sub genre of horror; Found Footage. Granted there were other films at the time that also fit this category, but The Blair Witch Project was the first one to truly strike gold.
Its impact continues to be felt to this day, with the Paranormal Activity franchise being a fine example of how far its influence has reached cinema. In fact I had the opportunity to be there when Girls of Geek interviewed co-writer/director Dan Myrick at the Mile High Horror Film Festival and I have to say it was quite amazing to be in the presence of a man who helped change cinema. Yet while I was able to sit there in awe, it was obvious Mister Myrick was simply humbled by the fact that this little film designed to scare the pants off of you, turned into something so much more.
But these gentlemen should be proud of the fact that they accomplished their mission. This is a terrifying film, one that will stay with you, especially after the lights have gone out and that odd noise in the corner of the room has you wondering what terror awaits us in the dark.