Written & Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Oshua Leonard
Three film students go missing after traveling into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend leaving only their footage behind.
I love everything about The Blair Witch Project. This indie success story created an online marketing campaign that sucked me in. I couldn’t tell if the Blair Witch was a real thing or a very creative way to tell a story. I didn’t have the internet then, and I was lucky to have one single friend that did. After a month of hearing rumor after rumor, I finally made it to the slow, slow internet site blairwitch.com. When I found the website, I still couldn’t tell if was just a horror movie or a real documentary. Real or not, this slick marketing move filled theaters during the opening week. I was anxious as well, thrilled to see it in the amazing Kentucky Theater in downtown Lexington. I was wide-eyes when the white text appeared on the screen.
“In October 1994, three young filmmakers hiked into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to shoot a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch. A year later their footage was found.”
Shot like a documentary with the static white text on a black screen, I was already convinced this could all be true. I eventually realized the film to be a masterfully created hoax, but what a unique experience nonetheless. The three central actors were asked to stay in character the entire shoot, which included camping nightly in the woods, running out of food, and their extreme feeling of being lost. The actors were given a GPS location each day and they sought to find the marker from day-to-day, never truly knowing where they were headed. A lot of the extremely tense moments of the film were first takes, and employed camera skills the actors had to learn.
The authenticity of this film is beyond measure. So many “horror fans” hated on TBWP due to its slow nature and lack of a cliché horror money shot. No one is decapitated or cut in half, there’s no nudity or suggestive dialogue – it just is. The film starts with the three exuberant twenty somethings interviewing the locals, gaining a series of subjective spins on the haunted woods of Burkittsville, MD. Their map and careful planning don’t work out so well once the woods’ ghastly tendrils seep into their lives. The trio get lost despite the time spent mapping the trip, forcing them into near madness as nights run together, food, water, and smokes dwindle to nothing. It only gets worse when we discover the group have nightly spectral visitors – often heard, but never seen. The cracking twigs and branches surrounding the campsite are very effective in creating a unique sense of doom. This film didn’t need CGI or special effects to deliver an authentic version of horror. The last few frames of this movie are perfect. I hope you’ll give this the time it deserves this Halloween season. Hall of Famer for sure.