The Blair Witch Project (1999) (R)

When you look at the outside of "The Blair Witch Project", you see an unsophisticated, dull movie. Shot in blurry and unfocused, jarring clips—both black-and-white and color—the movie appears childish.
But this is one of the most successful films of all time. It was filmed with almost no money and made millions. This is why you should never judge a book by it's cover (or in this case, a movie by its poster).
Truly one of the first break-through independent movies, "The Blair Witch Project" is rumored to have only taken eight days to film. No real script was used (which added to the hype about the "truth" of the movie) and the actors were all unknown. In fact, looking at the careers of the trio—this was their peak. This is not to say that they haven't been in movies and TV shows since, on the contrary. But nothing they have done recently compares with the cultural impact and shock that "The Blair Witch Project" had...I'm sure it looks nice on their résumés.
The film starts by telling us that three young film makers disappeared in the woods. They were making a documentary about the Blair Witch. Their film was recovered and we get to see it—oh, boy!
In all fairness, I don't like horror movies. Mainly because I don't like getting scared. I don't find people jumping out at me enjoyable...however, if I am the one doing the scaring—well, now that's a different story. Yet once more...I digress.
Heather, Josh, and Mike (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams) are not friends. This is key to the movie's madness. They are just three students who want to make a creepy documentary.
Heather and Josh know each other, but the film never presumes that they are boyfriend and girlfriend. We don't even know how well they are acquainted.
 The beginning of the blurry film that we see is at Heather's where the film making is about to start. Heather has decided to document that documentation—she carries around a small, handheld camera almost constantly. Always filming for the sake of filming, Heather is the backbone of the project. She is the one who wants the movie made—she tells Josh and Mike that she doesn't want the film to be cheesy...avoid cheese at all costs.
Yet, when we see the cuts of film where she is talking about the Blair cannot escape the fact that it is cheesy—this is purposeful.
But, I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
The documentary that the students are making concerns the haunted woods of a small town (formerly named Blair) in Maryland. These woods are supposedly the host of a number of bad ghosts and spirits. The most famous of the apparitions has been named the Blair Witch. We are never really told what happened to her—the people in the town interviewed for the student's film have varying opinions. Some think the myth is complete nonsense, others don't go into the woods anymore.
Either way, the students are by no means professional. They ask leading questions and have shaky grips—but they are young and have much to learn. It's the need to make a perfect documentary that makes Heather constantly film...she doesn't want to miss anything.
After several interviews, the trio hikes into the woods to find an old cemetery—which is, of course, off the beaten path.
Heather is very sure of herself, though it's interesting to note that she is almost always off camera. She likes having the power—it makes her feels stronger.
Josh and Mike are just there because they want to make a movie...or maybe they'll make some sort of money out of this. They are not nearly as passionate about the subject material as Heather is.
Once in the woods, directions start to become bleary. Heather gets lost a few times, though the team always manages to get back on track soon.
The woods have never been simply creepier than in "The Blair Witch Project".
I've been camping, when you're trying to fall asleep and you hear any small animal making noise outside—it becomes a serial killer in your mind. The film manages to tap into that fear of the unknown...for they rarely show anything on screen.
The actions, the speech, the facial expressions of the students are so real—this film has the most underrating acting. The young actors make the audience believe in the movie...which is why it was and still is so popular.
"The Blair Witch Project" is the predecessor to "Paranormal Activity" more than anything else. It showcased how powerful a simple movie with no effects could be.
Though the film isn't dumb—snippet conversations give way to anti-American sentiments and comments about reality versus perception (very Kaufman in a very un-Kaufman movie). These aren't mindless teenagers who only think about sex and drugs. They are smart in their own ways...survival is always on the top of their list.
As the film bounds towards the last frightening scene, I was covered in chills. It's remarkable what the film's inspiring and humbling.
"The Blair Witch Project" is almost flawless—one of the best horror movies ever made.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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