What really makes human scared? The answers of this question may be so much different among people. Some may find crime as a terrifying thing, some others may be scared only by ghosts or inexistential beings, while the rests may be frightened by blood and gore. There might be a reason of cultural background that affects people to have different answers. Filmmakers also have different ways to show up their own creativity of “scaring viewers” in order to make a good horror movie. While many other movies struggling with how to choose good horrors, “The Blair Witch Project” struggled with how to deliver horror well. And it turns into a great success.
“The Blair Witch Project” is opened with a short paragraph that tells viewers that this movie is a footage from three student filmmakers who disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, USA while shooting a documentary in October 1994. These three youngsters—Heather (played by Heather Donahue), Mike (played by Michael Williams), and Josh (played by Joshua Leonard)—were curious about a previous tragedy happened in that woods that related by local folks to a myth of witch around the woods. So, they came into the woods to make a documentary about it, until they found that they’re lost in the woods.
“The Blair Witch Project” is shot in first-person camera, so try to be comfortable with the shaky-camera style used throughout the duration. In fact, there’re no cameramen at all: the pictures were shot by the three leading roles using two cameras they brought for their documentary project. There’s a mild sense of reality in “The Blair Witch Project”, making it seems more to be a capture of real event although it’s certainly not (at first I think it is, but I found this “the content of this motion picture [...] is entirely fictional” in the ending credit). We will be taken to experience how Heather, Mike, and Josh found proofs about the myth, lost in the middle of the woods, felt so tired, and were scared by disturbing and mysterious things and sounds in midnight. We don’t know exactly if it was ghost or the witch or what, but we know that we will be as terrified and exhausted as the three students because we feel it. It’s not like a fake experience, because Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez—as both the directors and the screenwriters of this movie—focused to give viewers less clue and deliver more experiences right from the eyes of the three leading roles. “The Blair Witch Project” will drag the viewers into the real situation, as if we experience it by ourselves. Finally, it’s not only creepy but stressful as well, and it’s what makes “The Blair Witch Project” looks smart and original. It still holds the predicate of “Top Budget:Box Office Ratio” in Guinness Book of World Record, for it returned $240.5 million from only $22,000 budget.
The mild sense of reality in “The Blair Witch Project” comes not only from the first-camera technique they used, but also from the three leading roles. Heather, Mike, and Josh didn’t use fake names for their roles: they used their real names. It’s funny to recall how IMDb noted the three leading roles as “missing” in the movie page before knowing that it’s just a work of fiction. Beside of the marketing reason, It’s because what the three roles transferred to viewers wasn’t seemed fake: they looked really stressful and really scared. For me, they actually didn’t act anything, because they showed their real expressions. Even all dialogues were improvised. Myrick and Sanchez are genius, for building the maximum effort from their cast (and from the minimum budget, of course) and getting the most natural “acting” from them. The three leading roles successfully brought tense and emotion to “The Blair Witch Project”, and the genuineness of this flick is their achievement. No special effect, no great sound-mixing, no astonishing cinematography. “The Blair Witch Project” ignores them all and focuses to put forward its originality without being too ambitious.
The awesomeness of “The Blair Witch Project” can be seen by how it affects latest flicks. We call it found-footage: a way of capturing horror from first-person (and with the shaky camera) or video recording. You can mention “Cloverfield”, “Paranormal Activity”, “[REC]”, and many other horror flicks that used this technique. But none of them could be as frightening and disturbing as “The Blair Witch Project”. “The Blair Witch Project” is smart, genuinely creepy, and one of very few movies from USA that scared the hell out of me.
▲ Genuinely frightening, low budget
▼ Shaky camera could make you sick
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT | COUNTRY USA YEAR 1999 RATING Rated R for language RUNTIME 81 min GENRE Horror, Mystery CAST Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael Williams, Bob Griffin, Jim King WRITER Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez DIRECTOR Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez IMDB RATING 6.3/10 METACRITIC 81/100 (Generally Favorable) ROTTEN TOMATOES 87% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO