Fifteen years ago, horror fans and non-fans alike across the country were losing their minds over the movie The Blair Witch Project. This independent, "found footage" film with an unconventional narrative, a cast of only 3, and made with the low, low budget of $25,000, surprised everyone when it went on to earn nearly $250 million in the box office and subsequently flipped the horror genre on its head. I think that one of the most iconic and stressful endings in the history of horror movies is the ending to The Blair Witch Project. So you can imagine my surprise when I had heard that the studio originally intended to change it.
Let's just talk about the film as a whole for a second. What is it that made Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez's story so terrifying? While it probably varies from person to person, I think the general consensus is that the Blair Witch is scary because our idea of the Blair Witch is scarier than anything they could have put on screen. What exactly does she do? What's her whole story? What does she look like? In the late 90s, the horror trend was to have a big reveal at the end that explains everything to the audiences (think the Scream series). The Blair Witch Project was unique because we just don't have all the answers!
Sure, we wanted them, kind of. However, the fact that we want to see these things and we don't get to only solidifies the fact that A) You can't always get what you want and B) Sometimes our imaginations are scarier than the reality that movies create for us.
Back before the film was released, the first thing that Artisan Entertainment wanted to change was the ending. Patrick Cooper from Bloody Disgusting got to sit down with Myrick and Sánchez at Denver’s Mile High Horror Film Festival and discuss the movie. In the interview, the directors said:
We didn’t want to betray the rest of the movie. There are no real gags in the movie, we weren’t showing anything, you know, except a bundle of sticks and some teeth. And then maybe two or three days before we had to shoot the ending we came up with the idea…Artisan wanted to change it when they bought the movie. That was the first thing they wanted to do was change the ending.
In retrospect we can say definitively "Whaaat?" But at the time it kind of made sense for the studio to react that way. It would still have been a good ending had the whole movie been build up for this final, climactic scene in which we finally get a glimpse of the Witch. And I am interested to know what Artisan had in mind design-wise. But the lack of budget that nipped the studios' plan in the bud ended up being a blessing in disguise. Now I'll be haunted by my mental image of what the Blair Witch looks like forever (hint: it's creepy as f*ck)!