Monday, September 12, 2016

Movie Review: "The Blair Witch Project" (1999)

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Movie"The Blair Witch Project"
Director: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

A documentary film crew sets out to investigate the legend of the Blair Witch, never to be heard from again.

"The Blair Witch Project" is written and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. It stars Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams, and their characters in this movie bear the same names. They play a trio of film students who head to a small Maryland town to investigate and make a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch. With only a few packs on their backs, their cameras, and of course, smokes, the trio interview locals to find out more about this mysterious legend. Eventually, they head out into the woods themselves, which could very well be the biggest mistake they ever make.

No matter how you feel about the content of "The Blair Witch Project" itself, it is certainly an historic piece of cinema. It was a massive financial success and had a micro-budget. It earned over $248 million at the box office on a mere $60,000 budget, mostly thanks to its brilliant, innovative, and timely marketing campaign. Prior to the release of this film, the filmmakers spent a huge amount of time convincing the public the movie was legitimately being released as found footage and that the events depicted within this documentary were real. We point to this movie as the single entity that spawned the popularity of the found footage genre, which could be seen as a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about it. It received critical acclaim, but was also nominated for worst picture at The Razzie awards, and Heather Donahue had the distinct honor of being awarded a Golden Raspberry trophy for worst actress of the year in 1999.

Personally, we sit somewhere in the middle when it comes to "The Blair Witch Project," which is a huge uptick from how we used to feel about it. BigJ and I have seen this movie three times together, and the first two times, we still vehemently disliked/borderline hated it. This movie is very much a product of its time, and much of its perceived frightening nature may have been the direct result of the aforementioned marketing campaign rather than what is on film itself. As the years pass and the memory of that campaign fades, so do the frights that came along with it. Watching it now, it looks more like something you might see on a reality TV show as three college students argue over what happened to their map, how they got lost, what direction they are going, and where they want to camp. The vast majority of the dialogue is improvised and it certainly shows. This is meant to add another element of realism, which is really the entire purpose of this movie. However, most of it winds up feeling a bit inane. For every 5 minutes of screaming and arguing, there are only about 30 seconds of real creeps and freaks. This is presented as a slow burning horror where the filmmakers had to build tension throughout the movie to reach its ultimate payoff. Within the last year, we have seen several successful slow burning horror films, so we know they are possible within the genre. Some may find the payoff here a little disappointing or even non-existent, though we enjoy the entire last scene. Unfortunately, we just didn't feel the tension for most of its run time. In fact, instead of scared, we feel uncomfortable and awkward, the way you might feel when you're are at a friend or family member's house and the hosts start arguing in front of you.

Ultimately, if you turn out all of the lights and sit in a pitch black room with friends who also love horror movies, "The Blair Witch Project" isn't a terrible choice, but it also isn't exactly a great one, either. It will always be remembered more for its financial success and phenomenal marketing campaign than the content of the film itself.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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