I was 15 when The Blair Witch Project came out in October 1999, I went to see it at the Screen on D’Olier Street in Dublin. I was and still am an avid reader of both Total Film and Empire Magazine, who were covering the hype and was closely following the phenomenon on the net, needless to say I was very excited.
First of all there was the rumours that it was real, genius! But even after that was proven nonsense it was still the most interesting film to come out that year. Reports of people running out of the cinema vomiting, amazing, there hasn’t been such an intense reaction to a horror film since The Exorcist (the fact that half of those people were vomiting because the camera work in BWP was so shakey doesn’t matter, the other half were scared).
The build up was unbearable. The UK’s Channel 4 had a fantastic documentary about the film a few nights before it opened. I recorded it and watched it twice. The anticipation was killing me, I couldn’t wait to get into that cinema and then it started…
I’m gonna pause here to say that this isn’t another “The Blair Witch was hyped up shit!” rant, because while yes it was hyped it, I feel it was anything but shit.
I was breathless, I was shaking, I loved it, it was everything I wanted it to be, nauseating, unsettling, slow burning, disturbing, bleak, harrowing, infuriating. In other words it’s not for the masses, it’s not a mainstream film, it should have been a tiny little cult horror film that people would pass around to people who they knew would appreciate this experiment in terror. Unfortunately that was never going to be the case, BWP became (regarding budget to gross income ratio) the most successful film ever made of that time.
This resulted in the crime that was the Blair Witch Backlash. People tore into it, calling it, boring, pointless, unscary and yes, nauseating.
And the ill advised sequel didn’t help much
I kept on loving it though as it also inspired me and thousands of other wannabe film-makers that thought they couldn’t make their film on a camcorder until they saw half of BWP was shot on a consumer type camcorder (the other half 16mm black and white film)
The Blair Witch Project remains a defining moment in cinema. It was a pure horror film when other’s were ironic or CGI laden. Studios started looking for the next low budget horror that can make them rich, future filmmakers started making their own witch projects in the woods and the Internet really showed what it could do in regards to marketing.
Only recently I revisited The Blair Witch Project, popped the rarely played disc into my player and viewed it after everything had long died down, the rumours, the hype, the buzz, the backlash. And that’s when you realise what a great horror it was… just to successful for it’s own good.
So pay your respects and revisit this fallen classic, chewed up and spit out by the audiences of the world because they were told they were going to see something different and strangely they weren’t being lied to.