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BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

by • October 27, 2011 • Editorial, NewsComments (0)7

Halloween Horror Week: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

Today’s entry is brought to you by Andy Triefenbach. Here’s a little about Andy…

Andy Triefenbach is the Editor-In-Chief of DestroytheBrain.com – a website that covers horror, cult and all genres fantastique. He is also the programmer and promoter of St. Louis’ midnight program, Late Nite Grindhouse. A devoted horror fan of more than 25 of his 30 years, Andy Triefenbach wears horror on his sleeve.

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We love horror movies. So do you, that’s why you’re reading this. Seeing as how Halloween is quickly approaching, we figured we’d give you examples of truly great horror. Here are scary movies that shook us to the core, that we keep coming back to, that we bust out on a dark, stormy night. Warning, there may be spoilers below…

Film:
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

Year:
1999

Director:
Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick

Cast:
Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard

Plot:

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.

This entry for Halloween Horror Week is either a film you have seen or haven’t. The majority of you have and probably have already stopped reading because you hated this film. There is no doubt that this film left many horror fans and general public, for that matter, unsatisfied. However, as a seasoned horror fanatic, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is still one of the few films that have truly scared me.

While the plot isn’t original (see CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST), the film’s execution is what makes the film not only believable but holds all of its power. Channeling in a urban legend of a woman who was outcast from society based on the suspicion that she was a witch kidnapping the village’s children and murdering them in the woods. When the villagers decided that they thought they found their woman, they carried out vigilantism towards her and tied her to a plank of wood and left her in the vast forest for her to die. The story is told through a Hi-8 camera and a black & white 16mm camera. Supposedly edited by a group of filmmakers, the film was released to try and acquire new clues about the disappearance of the three filmmakers and to try and make sense of the events that were documented.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT ended up inventing and/or reintroducing Hollywood to independent marketing. Shortly before its premiere at Sundance the film started garnering a reputation of being true. Stories of other filmmakers and fans, that  ended up having loose connections to the directors, unexpectedly received VHS tapes of the film. This was an amazing move because the content of the story and for anyone who hadn’t been privy to the production would spread the story like wildfire. By the time Sundance rolled around, the seeds had already been planted and its first show was already sold out. After the show, the bidding wars started. Artisan Entertainment ended up winning the heated battle which was necessary for the new company. They had a back catalog of films previous put out on Live Home Video but Artisan saw this film as their golden ticket to actually start the company off to a successful one. Later on, Artisan ran into money problems and Lionsgate took over – almost in a similar way of starting up.

Throughout the summer of 1999, under the hype of STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE, people started hearing rumblings about what was being toted as “The Scariest Film of All Time”. I, of course, heard about the film around its showing at Sundance. I was working at a local movie theater as a concessionist and would tell my managers that they need to look into picking up this film as I think it would do really well. At the time, it was not determined if the film would have a wide release out the gate or if it would start in New York City and Los Angeles and trickle its way down to the midwest – where I live. Back in 1999, having a website was a big deal. Blair Witch had a website. However, instead of being a few pages of information about the film there was the whole mythology about the story scattered among the web pages. Video, documents and other material could be found. All just breadcrumbs to entice geeks like me to get deeply involved in the story. My mother was a big supernatural horror fan. She still is. I told her about the film and we genuinely got excited to see it together.

Opening weekend, the theater was buzzing and we entered into the biggest auditorium to witness what was once a small film that was distributed to a few people on VHS. By this time all the main media outlets like Entertainment Weekly and even Time had talked about the film. While many experienced motion sickness throughout the film and many people in the audience that I saw it with were ultimately pissed off because it wasn’t the film they thought it would be, my mother and I sat there breathless. The final shot has to be one of the most frightening scenes I have seen in a while. Keep in mind that I knew it was a fictitious tale as opposed the majority of the mainstream audiences that saw it, the film wrapped me up in its mythological web of terror and wouldn’t let me go. I ended up seeing the film five more times – only because I worked at a theater and it didn’t cost me money every time.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is an important film in the horror genre, whether you like it or not. Without it, viral marketing like the kind that J.J. Abrams has utilized for his entire career or, hell, even the marketing that is happening for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, wouldn’t exist. Websites changed and even the way independent films were made have changed because of it. It is still one – if not the only one – of the films that has genuinely made my heart skip a beat.

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