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Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Blair Witch Project

     Three young filmmakers are doing a documentary on a local legend about the Blair Witch, who supposedly haunts the lonely and vast Maryland woods.  The three filmmakers disappear, never to be seen again- only their "footage" is found...

     Now I had read about this movie over a year prior, and knew that it was just a movie.  No "actual" footage.  You don't know how bad I had wanted to see this movie leading up to its release.  I found it to be a wonderfully fun and original marketing ploy, especially for a horror movie.  It instantly seemed cool to me, and I knew I absolutely had to see this movie.  Like, immediately.

    Opening night was a zoo.  I have never in my life seen an audience react this way to a scary movie like they did on opening night of "The Blair Witch Project".   After standing in line outside for over an hour, we finally got our seats inside and got comfortable.  Before the movie had even started, you could have cut the tension in the air with a knife.  

      It was awesome.  People were whimpering, crying, covering their eyes, and running out of the theater.  By that mind-numbing last scene, the place was out of its mind.  The audience literally walked out looking like we'd just been smacked in the head with a 2X4.  I loved every minute of "The Blair Witch Project".  I really did.  This was everything a horror movie was supposed to be, in my eyes.  A at the same time, I was breathing a sigh of relief.  Finally, a great horror movie.  The 90's sucked when it came to horror.  Really.  There were a handful of goodies here and there, but overall...

     Sometimes you have to make it simple and go back to what was scary as a child.  "The Blair Witch Project" excels at this.  It knows exactly what scared us as kids, and plunges us back down into the dark recesses of our subconscious.   For some strange reason this is one of the most hated horror movies ever.  I think people simply did not get the concept.  I knew a year before it was even released that it wasn't true.  That only made me want to see it more.  I think people stupidly thought that it was so low budget that they couldn't afford any special effects or big name stars- which would've sunk it quicker than you could say Boo!

     The brilliance of "The Blair Witch Project" is that it makes you use your brain- what you cannot see is so much more scary than what you can.  We never see the Blair Witch.  Only some fucking creepy stick figures hanging from trees, some piles of rocks placed around the tent, and the scariest of all, children giggling and laughing in the dead of night.  Giggling and laughing voices of children in the middle of the night... You cannot deny the terror of hearing that and then suddenly have something violently shake your tent- you can not even pretend you wouldn't be shitting in your pants if you were in that situation.  If that's not scary, then I don't know what is.  "The Blair Witch Project" is one of the most original, creative horror movies I've ever seen and took the place of the original "Halloween" as the highest-grossing independent movie of all time.  The shakiness of the footage only makes what you're seeing and hearing in the dark all the more disturbing, and I couldn't stop thinking about this movie afterwards, either.  There was just an enormously creepy vibe associated with this movie that I had not experienced with a scary movie in quite a while.  Movies don't effect me very often like this.

     Call me crazy, but I find "The Blair Witch Project" to be one of the most creative, entertaining, and downright spooky films of the decade. This is not your typical, Hollywood "Scream" rip-off.  This was a funky, fresh independent production.  These are the movies that will be remembered in horror history.  Movies that went against the grain, broke new ground, and influenced a ton of other filmmakers.  Movies like "Psycho", "Night of the Living Dead", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "The Exorcist", "Halloween", and "Friday the 13th" are movies like this.  And I would put "The Blair Witch Project" in that list, easily.  The movie was an enormous hit, grossing over a staggering $248 million dollars worldwide.  Roger Ebert called the movie "an extraordinarily effective horror film", and Rotten Tomatoes had 85% favorable reviews.  But a furious backlash followed, involving mass mocking of the film and stars.

     Once again, I don't expect everybody to share my tastes.  But I do get bothered sometimes when I feel that a movie unfairly gets a bad rep- "Halloween 3" anyone?...  This movie doesn't get near enough credit for its influence already- I mean we've had "Open Water", "Cloverfield", "REC/Quarantine", and now "Paranormal Activity".  "The Blair Witch Project" started the whole thing.  I know in twenty years this will be looked back upon as a classic horror movie.  I love, love, love this movie and has definitely earned a spot in my Top 20 Horror Hall of Fame. And it ranked #30 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

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