The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project ★★★★

“I love you mom, dad. I am so sorry. What is that? I'm scared to close my eyes; I'm scared to open them.”
-Heather Donahue (Heather Donahue)

I think everyone is going to remember the first time they saw The Blair Witch Project. Be it in the local cinema on the day of its release, or entirely alone years later. For me it was seeing it on Film4 a good many years ago, in the dead hours of the night and alone. That was probably one of the most gruelling and unsettling cinematic experiences of my life.

The premise is simple, but is perfectly executed. Even for ‘found footage’ movies, it feels unnervingly realistic, from the student’s inept filming, the incredibly believable characters, the tense atmosphere and the real emotions.
The acting from the three leads is excellent and the script is terrific. The performances are so naturalistic, which of course helps in the moments of hysteria. You know people similar to these three, they’re just average, realistic individuals. Whenever they scream or cry, it sounds genuine. You are forced to associate and sympathise with them, because it could be anyone, even yourself in their place.

Some could complain about the short running time or the amateur cinematography and editing, but in many ways these make the film. As many have noted before me, it’s got that sort of grindhouse, guerrilla feel in the way its shot, evocative of Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whilst it is relatively short, this just lends the abrupt conclusion all the more of a punch.

One would expect a story in this vein would be less effective on repeat viewings, or would have aged badly over the past decade or so, but such is not the case. Blair Witch holds up well to repeat viewings. Watching it today, it still gives me chills, that unexplainable spine-tingling sensation created by the atmosphere alone.

The finale is so ambiguous and inexplicable that it almost guarantees nightmares for weeks afterward. We hear her terror, but are never shown the demon that extracts it. The method of ‘tell don’t show’ that the two directors employ is far more powerful than anything CGI or even practical effects could achieve, not just in this scene but throughout the entire movie. Our minds must conjure up a personal monster, and that is so much more horrifying than anything that could’ve been shown.
The Blair Witch is what we want her to be, or rather that thing we fear so much we are praying it isn’t true.

VERDICT; One of very, very few films that, no matter how many times I see it, will always haunt me to my core. Truly, truly terrifying.
I’m off to clean my pants.
4/5 or 8/10

(Coming up next, the generally vilified sequel, which I haven’t seen for a good few years now. Gulp.)

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