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.