On a measly budget of $60,000, directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick set out to change the horror genre forever. Enlisting 3 unknown, young actors, they set out into the Maryland Forrest to create a home-video style scare-fest.
The Blair With Project tells the story of 3 student filmmakers: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Mike Williams; who set out into the Black Hills Forrest for the weekend, in April of 1994, to shoot a documentary on an urban legend about a woman, accused of witchcraft, who was persecuted by her community over 200 years ago.
The film sets the tone with various interviews from different people who live in the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland. In their final interview, they visit the town “crazy”: an elderly woman named Mary Brown who claims to have encountered the Blair Witch as a child, a chilling monologue that serves as a starter for what’s to come; Heather, Mike and Josh set out into the Forest, dismissing Mary Brown as a crazy old woman, unbeknown to the terror they would soon encounter. After the first night, with virtually no disturbance other than “a cackling”, the trio continue with their project. After losing track of their location, mysterious meddling with their belongings and strange noises gradually increasing over time, they soon realise that they are not alone in the forrest.
The film offers slow-burn thrills with a touch of ambiguity that still has many fans interpreting them to this day. Those moments permeate throughout the entire duration, not only building up mystery around the film’s main foe, but examining the mental toll being lost in the woods can have on an individual. On those two merits, the latter point transcends any old movie monster.
The film’s dialogue was entirely improvised, with the story’s script being a 35-page outline, managing to execute minimalism in the most perfect way a film can. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Mike Williams adopt their real names for the film and all 3 put on relatable, compelling and real performances that experience a range of emotions throughout. From cheerful, sad, pragmatic, paranoid and downright scared; The versatility shown by the 3, make their performances some of the most underrated of all time, considering with what little they had to work with.
The Blair Witch Project’s marketing scheme is also one to admire, basically creating an entire mythos, complete with a website to build the legend up. On its tiny budget of 60k, the film grossed a whopping $248,639,099, making it one of the most profitable ever made.
All in all, The Blair Witch Project is a game changer, a film that opened a lot of doors for the Found Footage genre. A superb character-driven horror film that proves suspense, word-of-mouth and off-screen terror is much more scary than blood, gore and cheap pop-outs.
Does it hold up? Absolutely.
The 1999-2000 hunting season suffered badly, due to this film. The movie was so popular that fans all over the country were hiking into the wilderness to shoot their own Blair Witch-style documentaries. As a result, they kept most of the wildlife scared away from hunting areas.