61 Days of Halloween: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Introduction

An introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween as well as past films discussed can be found here.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

To kick off this year I figure I’d go with a film I know and like, one I would gladly revisit anew for the purposes of this piece. The first thing that should be mentioned with regards to this film and myself is that I was fairly young when it first came out, and I first viewed it. Therefore, I fell for the marketing ploy hook, line and sinker; meaning, I fell into the trap that this was real footage. That made my first viewing of the film particularly intense, and perhaps the most affecting fright I ever felt.

Between that time and when I revisited it anew, I learned the truth. I came full circle with my reaction. At first, of course, I was quite angry. However, when it came time for me to see it again I took it as it really was- as fiction. I would’ve likely seen through the ruse the first time had I looked into the film more, but I hadn’t. This was one of the few real instances one can have of “seeing it again for the first time.” I knew a lot of the beats and took it all in, and it’s impressive how well it works, especially the performances. Due to the fact that there’s a brief period of expository information, and much walking and arguing, it can be easy to miss the set-ups and escalation.

I won’t spend too much time discussing it as the progenitor of many found footage films since, save to say that a lot of the shots are clear (barring the running sequences of course) and there’s escalation, pay-off, focus on character/performance, and, perhaps most importantly, it cares about explaining where the footage came from and why it was shot.

It’s a film that mixes sources of footage and has a respect for the process of filmmaking. It’s intelligent enough to be clearly edited, but it doesn’t go too far. Far too often in new-age found footage there’s too much “Hey, look this is real raw footage!” scenes clogging up the first act. By switching cameras and stocks the film spices up the beginning without wasting too much time. Having come full circle with it, it’s a film I’ve really come to admire a whole lot. It’s films like this one that make me come back to the found footage approach as tired and low-percentage as it’s been. The Blair Witch Project is a truly great film, that I just had to add to my collection. Being lost can be truly terrifying whether something is after you or not, few films exploit it as acutely as this one.

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