movie film review | chris tookey

Blair Witch Project

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  Blair Witch Project Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.50 /10
Heather: Heather Donahue , Josh: Joshua Leonard, Mike: Michael Williams
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Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick
Written by: Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick

Released: 1999
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 88

It starts off as matter-of-fact. "In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary," records the opening caption, closely followed by the creepy pay-off line: "One year later, their footage was found." The film has, supposedly, been edited together out of this material.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The most profitable movie ever made, partly because it was produced for only ?35,000 by a five-person filmmaking collective working out of Florida. Don't expect too much. This is an overgrown students' movie, raw in its technique and with no purpose other than to terrify its audience.

It didn't scare me as much as the true masterpieces of the horror genre, such as Hitchcock's Psycho or the original Dutch film of The Vanishing. All the same, for a large number of people, especially those in their teens and twenties, it works.

Most of it looks real enough. The two young men (Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard) and their woman director (Heather Donahue) speak convincing dialogue that they have improvised - for much of the shoot, they genuinely didn't know what was going to happen next. They behave as anyone of their age might, lost in woods and increasingly aware that matters were sliding beyond their control.

Their youthful arrogance - which they think is sophistication - strikes an especially authentic note. When they receive the traditional horror-film warnings from the locals, these are treated flippantly, as "good footage", not as a genuine threat.

The film contains few shocks. But as a study of mounting terror it works brilliantly, dismantling its characters' cool, the two men's confidence in leader Heather, and finally Heather's faith in herself. By the end, the two last survivors are reduced to children, running like Hansel and Gretel into the witch's house…

Blair Witch is not entirely plausible. Even in 1994, would these film-makers have gone into the woods without cellular phones? How come no one seems able to read a simple map or compass? Towards the end, it's inconceivable that people terrified out of their minds would carry on filming and recording.

An even bigger weakness is that the doomed characters lack charm. The older you are, the more detached from their fate you are likely to be.

Still, there is an inherent pathos in their lack of survival skills, their inadequate vocabulary when confronting evil. The implication is that pampered cynicism and over-confidence render humanity only that much more vulnerable in a real crisis.

Blair Witch may not seem to have much in common with blockbusters such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, Titanic and Armageddon. But it's like them in that it plays on our fears that nature in the raw can still play lethal tricks on us, that man's technological mastery of the world is an illusion.

The most refreshing aspect of the film's success is that Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, the young filmmakers, have realised that good movies can be made without a single special effect.

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