This art-house experiment turned modern horror "classic" is a love it or hate it affair, or so I'm told. I LIKE The Blair Witch Project, therefore I choose to fly in the face of convention apparently. I went to see this in the theater, when people still thought it was an actual documentary, and it was great fun watching all the teenagers and old people sit there in shock at what happened to these "poor kids". I was in on the joke, so that first time seeing TBWP was magical.
Upon subsequent viewings, however, it lost me.
The hype machine was in full effect, everyone knew it was only a movie, and it's gimmick of handheld camera work and first person storytelling was being used in everything from furniture commercials to sitcoms. We had reached the oversaturation point and Blair Witch had now become a part of pop-culture, for good or bad.
For those just awaking from long comas or being cast out of Amish country The Blair Witch Project is a pseudo documentary about three college students who venture into the woods of Burkitsville, Maryland to make a film about the "legendary" Blair Witch. The trio, Heather (Donahue), Josh
(Leonard) and Mike (Williams), are soon lost in the forest and begin to get on each others nerves while attempting to find their way out. All the while, the group experience strange events that ultimately lead to outright hysteria as one by one they fall victim to their own fear.
TBWP is a very effective micro-budget thriller that depends on it's audience to succeed. Back when it first came out, it had a great promotional campaign that gave it a Bigfoot sort of Hoax appeal, and if I were to just rate it on that alone it would easily merit 5 skulls, but since this is a review of the DVD I have to weigh in the multiple viewings factor, and that's where the film falls short. Much like The Sixth Sense, TBWP is one of those flicks you see once and are blown away, but on subsequent viewings you're left cold. While The Sixth Sense had it's big twist of an ending that makes watching it more than a few times rather pointless, TWBP's big feat was it's "reality" feel, and after it made, oh, I dunno, a ZILLION dollars, it sort of lost it's edge. Also, the bickering between cast members becomes so over the top at times one wishes that an actual witch would appear and just kill them all so they would shut the fuck up!
Don't get me wrong, I recommend the film, I just don't think it's as much of a horror classic as it's been given credit for. The Last Broadcast pre-dated TWBP by two years and is virtually the same film, and Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust used the same "found footage" motif for half of his epic shock-fest back in 1980! I am one of the few who actually prefer the sequel, Book of Shadows, which was unfairly maligned by critics and fans alike for NOT following in the footsteps of the original, but, in my opinion, it is a better film for it!
The DVD, meanwhile, is a loaded affair with enough goodies to keep fans entertained long after Heather's last shriek. There's a VERY entertaining commentary with the filmmakers, who give us a sort of play by play of how they achieved the feel of the film, motivated the actors (who improvised most of their dialogue) and make fun of Heather Donahue a LOT! You kindaget the vibe that ol' Heather wasn't all that popular with, well, ANYONE.
Also thrown in to the mix is the Sci-Fi Channel "Curse of the Blair Witch "Fake-u-mentary which is pretty entertaining stuff and shows that these guys put a great deal of thought into the back story of their "witch". There is also "Newly Discovered Footage" which are basically deleted scenes with a neat name to tie into the theme of the package. There's also DVD ROM extras that let you explore the website in more detail, browse some maps, and look at more Blair Witch merchandise, but these features are for die-hard fans only (or someone who only has one DVD and is determined to get the most out of it).
The Blair Witch Project is now available for under $10 bucks everywhere, which does qualify it for must own status, but for an extra $10 bucks you can get both Blair movies, some truly awful PC games, and a neato stickman necklace. Hang the necklace from your rearview mirror, sell the PC games to some sap for $20 bucks and get the two movies for free.