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Whyboy Spotlights... The Blair Witch Project
SPOTLIGHTED BY… Movie Doctorful
Okay I gotta first start out by apologizing to Movie Doctorful. I was unable to watch The Blair Witch Project all the way through so this article you should consider more of a first impression of the movie rather than a full review of it. Usually I could be considered the biggest coward when it comes to horror movies. I would never willingly watch any sort of horror movie. Nowadays though as a writer and aspiring filmmaker I’ve been told it’s a good idea to try at least to watch every sort of movie mostly to expand my horizon of movies so I’ve started watching a few different horror movies recently like Insidious, Medium Raw, and Troll Hunter just to name a few. Unlike these movies though, Blair Witch is a psychological tension horror rather than Insidious where it’s just monsters popping out going “BOO!”
The Blair Witch Project, directed and written by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, is the story of three documentary filmmakers named Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams (those are in fact their real names) and their disappearance while shooting a documentary on the Blair Witch legend in Burkittsville, Maryland. The three started off their little movie by talking to the local hicks in town, learning the disturbing events that surround the legend. From the banishment of the supposed Blair Witch, Elly Kedward, to the murder and disemboweling of a search party during the search of a missing person. The three then head into the woods to find evidence of the Blair Witch and this is when the shit hits the fan as the trio get themselves lost deep in the woods.
Now the beginning of the movie was good for getting all the backstory of this legend out as quickly as possible and giving us a frame of reference to what happens to these three. Everything else after that shows off this movie’s true strength and that is uncomfortable psychological horror. This movie scares its audience by not what it shows like gore fests like the Saw franchise or by silly jump scares like Insidious but by how little it shows. An example of this (and this is kinda spoilery but really even when the movie starts you know this guy is dead meat) is when Heather and Mike wake up one morning to find Josh gone and in his place a bundle of twigs. Inside the bundle was a piece of Josh's shirt wrapped around hair and what appeared to be his teeth, all bloodied. We never see Josh get hurt, except for hearing what could be his screams of agony, but our imagination puts our minds on edge with the thought of “Oh No! If they got Josh they’ll come for them next.” In this movie it’s what you don’t see that freaks you out and incidentally this is where I couldn’t handle the tension and shut off the movie. This tension building is helped by the very unique camera direction of the movie that unfortunately started one of the most sickening overused movie trends, what I call, SHAKY CAM.
Yes. Shaky cam. We’ve all heard of it even those who’ve never watched a horror movie. After Blair Witch a whole avalanche of films came out capitalizing on the new hippest and coolest shooting style. Why? Well could it be because filmmakers wanted to take shaky cam and tinker around with it to experiment and show brand new experiences to their audience? Pff… No. Blair Witch with a recorded budget around $20,000 to $25,000 achieved a box office smash hit with a profit of around $248,639,099 worldwide. Those numbers sound PRETTY good to most directors and D.O.Ps (Director of Photography). I think we all know what shaky cam is but if you've been living under a rock for the past 20 years. Shaky cam is basically having all the action being viewed from the POV of a camera usually a film camera like in Blair Witch or Cloverfield. So, the main two hurdles people come across when putting shaky cam in there movie is implementing it so it adds to the feel in a positive fashion, and making the constant movement make sense in terms of the one holding the camera. On implementing a feel the shaky cam during the scenes where the trio is increasingly growing more and more crazy creates this uncomfortable atmosphere that compliments the movie’s style of horror to a great degree. As for the reason why Heather insists on recording everything even after they find weird twig figures in the woods and Josh disappears I'd say is competently put in at best. My theory is by the time the trio grows more crazy Heather becomes somewhat attached to the camera kinda like a security blanket. The camera basically being the only thing she feels will keep her from going completely insane. It's just a theory but I think it works.
As for the characters I can say that they seem rather realistic while clearly definable. Heather is the bull-headed stubborn one, Mike is the voice of reason, and Josh is the most emotionally unstable of the group judging by how quickly he turned psycho. Also, with the shaky cam, well written dialogue, and the very empty setting, the characters bring this sense of inevitability to them and the movie(like the intro to the movie hadn’t already done) which makes their struggle to survive all the more tense and interesting.
Overall this is a fantastic horror flick and definitely deserves all the praise it gets. Only those horror fans that get motion sick easily would probably not like this or the horror fans that want action 24/7 throughout the movie. For a good 20 minutes nothing really happens except for character development, which because it’s done properly is a plus in my books. I may go back someday to watch the entire movie but until then I’ll stick with animation.
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Written by: Taylor "Whyboy" Wyatt
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