To uncover the story of the Blair Witch, which they think to be some
kind of urban (or rural) myth, 3 students, Heather (Donahue), Mikey (Michael
Williams) & Josh (Joshua Leonard) with their cameras & equipment head
for Burkittsville, Maryland, a small village where in the 40's a bunch of kids
have disappeared & were - allegedly found dead in a house in the woods,
facing the wall with their heads knocked in ...
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The interviews with a few locals prove promising enough for our 3
filmmakers, as the Burkittsville townfolks have some creepy stories to tell,
but once the trio is off into the woods, things start to go haywire: First it's
only Heather losing her way (despite having map & compass), then the 3 of
them find weird, macabre bundles of wood & stone piles that show them they
aren't alone, even though there is not a soul around for miles ... &
finally they hear spooky noises at night. When the map suddenly goes missing,
& there's even less chance to find their way again, tensions in the group
mount, not at all helped when Mikey confesses he has thrown the map away ...
The next night, in their tent, they hear crying children from just about
everywhere, & when their tent seems to be physically attacked, they
just run ... & upon returning to the tent the next morning they find their
things in a terrible mess. after another day of walking that leads them
nowhere, Josh disappears the next night, & in the morning, Heather &
Mikey find another bundle of wood in front of their tent, & in it Josh's
shirt, full of blood, & his cut off fingers ...
Finally, following Josh's cries for help they hear from afar, they find a
run-down, uninhabited house in the middle of the woods, & Josh's cries for
help indicate he's in there ... but when Mikey & Heather descend to
the cellar, they are turned facing the wall, & bumped over the head ...
At its release, Blair Witch Project, a very cheaply, independently
produced film, caused a stir as it hit just the right nerve with many
audiences, delivering just the right blend of urban myth, mystery &
conspiracy to compete (& win out over) the many faceless blockbusters the
major studios tried to feed the world with. That this movie was one of the very
first to use the internet not solely as a rack to put on poster ads but as a
tie-in contributing to the movie's mysterious goings-on didn't hurt either -
& as a result many viewers took the movie for a real documentary.
Stylistically, the movie tried an unusual way of storytelling in telling
the story from first person point of view & making it look like just the
stuff the protagonists have filmed - a method that might have been novel for
Hollywood-audiences, but in fact it was lifted (as were many story elements)
directly from Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust from 1979, which
despite its exploitative subject matter was way more critical about
sensation-hungry media & documentary filmmaking as such than Blair Witch
Project. The other major influence of the film was obviously 1972's Deliverance,
that also had a bunch of city slickers thrown into a world they don't
understand, & where also much of the horror is just in the protagonists
(& the audience's) imagination.
Taken by its own merits though, Blair Witch Project is a genuinely
spooky movie, the (mock-)documentary style of which - & with it the
immediate first person point of view, contribute to the horror, making up for
the absence of any actual horrific images (besides from Josh's cut off fingers)
or the actual absence of any kind of villain, monster or .. witch.