In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.
Those two simple sentences accompanied by a website detailing the case of the three missing students (Heather, Josh, and Mike) became nothing short of an advertising phenomenon. I remember word spreading about the upcoming release of the edited "found footage", and whether you knew it was all a hoax or not, The Blair Witch Project was a highly anticipated film. I scored tickets to a packed opening at the Angelika in New York, and man...what a night. The lobby of the theatre was filled with glass cases, inside which were things (supposedly, of course) found buried beneath the farmhouse in the woods- film reels, DAT tapes, Heather's jornal, bits of clothing...it was like a museum exhibit. The movie I'd been looking forward to seeing so much wasn't a letdown to me whatsoever. I was seriously creeped out, I was in the moment...I was scared and at the film's end I was suddenly not looking forward to my impending camping trip to the woods of Maine whatsoever. The film affected me greatly, despite the fact that I knew it was all a put-on. Imagine how my friend Jim felt, however...on the subway ride home that night, he turned to me and asked "So...was that all the actual footage they found under the house, or did they re-shoot it?" Yeah, the lucky bastard believed it the entire time. Never had there been (nor will there ever be again, I don't think) a film quite like The Blair Witch Project.
For plenty of people, they hype surrounding the film simply doesn't match up to the final product. I can understand that. Ultimately, not much happens in the movie- people get lost in the woods. They find some rocks. They see some sticks. They hear some noises. What they don't find is a witch. The end. What's so scary about that?
Undoubtedly, Blair Witch is a film that requires you to work a little. It's like audience participation, in a way- you get out of Blair Witch exactly what you put into it. If you allow yourself to be sucked in, to give in to that primordial fear of the dark and the unknown, the movie might just work for you. For me, it's quite simple. The woods are scary, infinitely more so at night when it's pitch black. Legend has it there's a monster in the woods. Now you're lost in the woods. Yeah, maybe I'm easy, but that's all it takes for me- the dark, the noises, the totems left behind. Given the proper context, sticks are scary, dammit. And I'm sorry, but if the idea of waking up in a tent in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night to the sounds of children screaming doesn't terrify you, then you have no soul.
All my gushing isn't to say the film is perfect- it's far from it. There are "plot holes", if you will, that you can fly a broomstick through (hi, the map incident, anyone?). But ultimately, I'm a big fat scaredy baby when it comes to things that go bump in the night- and in The Blair Witch Project, they're making noise right outside your door.
And I don't care what you say- you know the last 10 minutes of this movie...the 10 minutes in the fucking house- rock your face off.