Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Film Review - The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, 1999)

Fig 1. The Blair Witch Project Poster.

One of this films key strengths is the proximity of the characters to the camera, this means that the audience connects emotionally with the three characters very quickly and effectively (See Fig 2). As such the audience shares in the troubles and traumas that the characters experience. This is of course a crucial element in any horror film. Another thing that this film did very effectively is the way it brought a sense of horror, trauma and even stress into its world. It created horror subtly and steadily increased the intensity of events until the bitter end.

Fig 2. Extreme Close-up Shot.

Roger Ebert states in his review of the film ''The movie is like a celebration of rock-bottom production values--of how it doesn't take bells and whistles to scare us. It's presented in the form of a documentary. We learn from the opening titles that in 1994 three young filmmakers went into a wooded area in search of a legendary witch: "A year later, their footage was found." The film's style and even its production strategy enhance the illusion that it's a real documentary.'' (Ebert, 1999). The power in this film is in its world, this is because it isn't a created world, its the real world. The film is about the filming of a documentary in a real town and about a real legend. Its horror lies in peoples own fears of the woods, the mysterious sounds and the feeling of endlessness seen in every direction. When the characters feel lost, the audience does as well. The film uses sound exceedingly well, almost all of the horror in the night scenes are created out of the panicked voices of the characters and noises with unknown origins. The viewer is regularly faced with complete darkness and unsettling noises, which leaves it up to them to imagine what is happening.

Janet Maslin states in her review ''Five friends who had come out of the University of Central Florida's film program realized that the best way to make a movie without sets, costumes, music or special effects would be to incorporate that spareness into the story. With no easy formulas to fall back on, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (who are jointly credited with writing, directing and editing) give their audiences no easy idea of what to expect.'' (Maslin, 1999). Thanks to a lack of refined scripting before shooting the film, it is not a predictable plot. It is a series of events that regularly jump ahead in time, much like a real documentary. This of course easily lends itself to the films basic plot about the filming of a documentary.

Peter Bradshaw states in his review ''As the three principals, Donahue, Leonard and Williams give sickeningly convincing performances as the three scared, overgrown children, screaming mutual recriminations and descending into inarticulate panic and horror as they realise their deaths are at hand. These improvisations, cajoled from them by the directors, who appear to have effectively sub-contracted to their cast the business of making the film, go beyond a case of "acting themselves". They are as near as dammit being themselves. This film is a vivisectional experiment in anxiety.'' (Bradshaw, 1999). Another element that boosts the film significantly are its characters. The performances they give are disturbingly real, and the camera viewpoint makes the events all the more plausible. That is of course what makes this film so potent in the horror genre, its disturbing realism. It plays on real fears in real environments. Completely believable and horrific events play out and are only logically picked apart after the end of the film when you have caught your breath. Overall, an imaginative, effective and surprisingly gripping experience.

Illustration List

Myrick, D (1999) Figure 1. The Blair Witch Project Poster. (Accessed on 25/03/15)

Myrick, D (1999) Figure 2. Extreme Close-up Shot. (Accessed on 25/03/15)


Bradshaw, P (1999) (Accessed on 25/03/15)

Ebert, R (1999) (Accessed on 25/03/15)

Maslin, J (1999) (Accessed on 25/03/15)

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