The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project

Influential, Innovative, and... Realistic?

“The Blair Witch Project:”- people either love it or they hate it. I can understand why. The shaky cam style really bugs some people visually, and the characters demonstrate such an extraordinary lack of common sense that something would surely have killed them pretty soon even if the witch did not. Here's a tip for you in case you ever find yourself lost in a witch-infested forest because some idiot threw your map away- water always runs downhill toward larger bodies of water, and people tend to live near bodies of water. So if you see a stream, just follow it. It might lead to a swamp, but it will probably lead to a pond, a lake or a river, on any of which there will definitely be houses. Houses without any witches in them.

But just because the characters have no business being in the woods, that doesn't mean it's a bad movie. In fact, “The Blair Witch Project” stands out for several reasons. One is that it created a whole new sub-genre, the “found footage” style of horror movie. Another is that the level of fear the characters display is much more extreme than in previous horror movies, and in a realistic way. Many people- especially, but not exclusively, dummies like these- really do start to lose it when they are in genuine fear for their lives. Most horror movies before this one would show the characters screaming when they were under direct attack, but otherwise they would usually act as if seeing loved ones disemboweled and eaten alive by some godawful abomination was not really such a traumatic experience, all things considered. Previous movies tried to induce fear, “Blair Witch” tried to portray it. In portraying the effect of extreme fear in causing a total breakdown of the personality, “Blair Witch” was much more effective in inducing fear.

 

Finally, most haunting phenomena as reported by eyewitnesses are actually fairly subtle. Odd noises and an intense sense of being Watched by Something are much more common than leather-clad bald demonic gods with nail-covered heads. The makers of “Blair Witch” understood that, and built their horror story around the kinds of things that people who believe they've been haunted actually report experiencing. For all these reasons, “Blair Witch” stands out as an innovative and important contribution to the genre.