Cinematic Flashback: The Blair Witch Project (1999) Review

And I’m sorry to everyone. I was very naive. I am so so sorry for everything that has happened. Because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault. Because it was my project and I insisted. I insisted on everything. I insisted that we weren’t lost. I insisted that we keep going. I insisted that we walk south. Everything had to be my way. And this is where we’ve ended up and it’s all because of me that we’re here now – hungry, cold, and hunted. 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! We’re gonna die out here and is the latest “cinematic flashback” review for the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project….

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

“Everything you’ve heard is true”

Director: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Writer: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams

Run Time: 81 minutes

Release Date: July 14th, 1999

Rated: R

THE STORY


In October of 1994, three student filmmakers hike out to the woods of Blair, hoping to find evidence of a local legend “The Blair Witch”. At first, they find nothing except a pile of stones arranged by hand. As the sun goes down, they realize they are lost, but there is little panic. They camp out, and in the middle of the night they see and hear things, things that are not normal. When they awake, they find wooden dolls in cross-like formations. They were not there that night. Then one of the students, Josh, is separated from the group. The other two finally realize that they are in a very serious situation, and that they are being stalked, stalked by something that may be the very thing they were looking for…

MY THOUGHTS


Oh, I remember when The Blair Witch Project film came out. I was 13 years old (released during my 8th and 9th grade school years), but I didn’t get to chance to see it in theaters (can’t remember why I didn’t go see it). So, I finally did get to see the a few months after its release (I rented it at my local Blockbuster) and saw it with my brother and our two friends. Of course, my dad played a trick on us and hid in the nearby closet and jumped out and scared at us at one point (thanks dad). Looking beyond that scare, I actually liked The Blair Witch Project. Perhaps I found it to be interesting because it took place near where I lived, with the film’s story (and overall lore of the Blair Witch) takes place in Burkitsville, Maryland (about 40-45 minutes where I use to live) and the actual movie was majority filmed in Seneca Creek State Park (about 20 minutes where I use to live). So, of course, everyone was talking about The Blair Witch Project when it came out and, while some people didn’t like it as much, I personally found it to be quite enjoyable and perhaps one of the first horror-esque movies that I found to my liking.

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, The Blair Witch Project is definitely an intriguing movie that’s a combination of a horror movie as well as a documentary style-esque presentation. To be truthful, this is probably one of the most successful small independent films of all time, with part of the reason being its theatrical release and being bought by a major studio for said release. What makes the movie work (and work quite well) is in how its all presented; finding The Blair Witch Project’s presentation to quite unique with the usage of its camera work “found footage” style by the film’s story play out like a documentary versus the traditional / standard camera working. The result is something quite profound and, while some might say a bit “gimmicky” it definitely works in my opinion, using the “found footage” style of approach to be more believable and vaguely grounded in realistic way than a regular feature film. Additionally, the storyline of movie also works, finding Heather, Josh, and Michael’s journey into the Burkittsville’s woods in trying to find a supernatural witch the dwells within there. Of course, the scary / horror moments are what actually works in the movie and (in-conjunction with the “found footage”) definitely adds to the entertainment value of the film’s viewing experience. Heck, I was super creepied out during the movie’s final moments. Additionally, given the film’s low budget cost, I found that The Blair Witch Project looks pretty good; showcasing the point that a movie doesn’t need to have an expansive / elaborate production budget to be an effective cinematic endeavor.

Personally, I really didn’t that much wrong with The Blair Witch Project as it was exactly expected it to be; a documentary style-esque footage motion picture. The marketing campaign clearly set it up to be like that, so I wasn’t bothered by it. However, some viewers out there disliked the “found footage” approach to the film as well as the more real-life styles of its trio of characters. Even some people were upset that we (as the viewers) never really get a definitive look on how the actual “Blair Witch” looks like. On the regard, I think that’s good thing as the mystery of how the witch looks like is left to the imagination of the viewer. Perhaps the only problem with the movie is some of the “shake cam” movements that happen towards the film’s third act climax. Yes, I do understand it was supposed to be presented that way, but I wanted to see this particular sequence of events in a more visible viewing rather than some frantic blurriness. Again, that’s more of a minor quibble.

With the movie being presented as “found footage” of a documentary expedition, the cast in The Blair Witch Project is rather small, but ultimately effective; offering up a natural grouping of characters in a more real / lifelike fashion…. similar to actual people venturing into the wilderness. Thus, the acting talents of the trio cast…. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams are good in the capacity of the feature’s narrative and how they wanted to be presented. Again, they’re not Hollywood thespian actors, so I don’t expect some big dramatic portrayals, but Donahue, Leonard, and Williams each give believable “human” real-life performances to make their expedition journey worthwhile and even care about them as the film’s scary / dark moments begin to unfold.

The legacy of The Blair Witch Project is definitely palpable…. and for good reason. With the utilization of the documentary style “found footage” pave the way for other similar endeavors, including Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and Earth to Echo. Additionally, The Blair Witch Project went on to have a sizable success at the box office, with its theatrical release garnishing $250 million against its original $60,000 production budget. The movie even went on to produce a small franchise around it, including novels, comic books, and video games as well as two sequels: the negatively received / non-cannon sequel of 2000’s Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch 2 and the more favorable follow-ups sequel of 2016’s Blair Witch.

As a whole, The Blair Witch Project might not be the absolute best supernatural horror motion picture, but it’s surely is a worthy title that deserves much praise as it’s been given. The usage of the “found footage” documentary motifs, the intriguingly creepy narrative, and small independent film all adds up to being solid “sleeper hit”. Whether you (as a person / viewer) believe in the actual legend of the “Blair Witch” or not, The Blair Witch Project certainly gives you a feeling of her presence in way that’s more real than cinematic; toiling with three investigators that dare to unearth her bewitching secrets.

Cinematic Flashback Score: 4.0 Out of 5

 

Fun Fact: More money was spent on the movie afterwards than before its completion. The directors estimated the initial production budget of the movie to be around $20,000 and $25,000, but this rose to somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000 (over 20 times the original budget) after the studio did some additional post-production. The studio had acquired the movie rights for $1.1 million (over 40 times the original budget); they spent an additional $25 million to market it (over 1000 times the original budget). Even while taking into account these additional costs, with a worldwide box office of almost $250 million, the movie earned more than 9 times its final budget.

2 comments

  • Talk about coincidence. Second time this week that I see someone reviewing the original Blair Witch!. Definitely enjoyed this film a lot, and I still think it’s one of the creepiest and most effective horrorfilms of all time. Great post!

  • I unfortunately didn’t like the movie, but it was worth seeing because I did enjoy the concept of the lost file footage, and it was the best I had seen at the time. I did research and found a few gems of the same genre from the 70’s after seeing BW and really enjoyed a couple of them, so this one opened a new interest for me. But as a movie, I just couldn’t get into it.

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