THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. 1999. WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY DANIEL MYRICK AND EDUARDO SANCHEZ. STARRING HEATHER DONAHUE, MICHAEL WILLIAMS AND JOSHUA LEONARD. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I purposely avoided watching this film for the first sixteen years after it came out because I’d assumed, from everything I’d ever heard about it, that it was too scary for me. The most terrifying thing you’ll ever watch, said all the hype, and if you remember 1999, you’ll know that there was a lot of hype surrounding this movie.
On the other hand, there were some people I talked to who staunchly maintained that it’s really just about three students running around the woods like headless chickens for eighty minutes. When I eventually decided to bite the bullet and watch the film, I was inclined to agree with them, though that’s not to say that the film is devoid of scary moments.
I think most people know at least a little bit about the story. In October of 1994, three student film-makers, Heather, Mike and Josh, disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary about a local legend/myth known as The Blair Witch. (They didn’t disappear in real life, mind you. Only in the film.) A year later, their footage was ‘found,’ cinemas were jam-packed and suddenly ‘found footage’ horror movies skyrocketed in popularity.
The woods are genuinely creepy and the three students a bit annoying. This was my gut reaction. They bitch and gripe at each other during the making of their documentary-the students, that is, not the woods- and then they bitch and gripe even more when they realise that they’re actually hopelessly lost in the woods and every attempt to get the hell out of Dodge only serves to lead them right back to where they started from.
Some pretty weird stuff is going on while they sleep in their tent, too. They hear strange noises outside, children crying and someone- or something- moving around outside. Next morning, little configurations of rocks are arranged symbolically around their tent…
Add to this the freaky ‘stick-man’ iconography they find on the trees around them, the story they’ve been told about a local paedophile who used to take his victims down into his basement to kill them and the unexplained disappearance of Josh and you’ve got yourself a nice little scary movie. It’s just that the students spend a little too much time standing around gabbing and wasting time and this can be annoying. It was for me, anyway.
The ending is probably the best bit. A terrified Heather and Mike hear Josh’s voice calling to them in the night, even though they have every reason to believe he’s dead. They follow his voice blindly through the pitch-black woods in the dead of night till they come to an abandoned house…
For me, the dark creepy woods and the even darker and creepier abandoned house are the real stars of this film. I definitely do feel sorry for the hapless trio, though, for having gotten themselves into a situation so beyond their control that they never really had a chance to extricate themselves from it. What do mislaid maps matter when the woods want you to stay…?
It’s a good film. It didn’t terrify me, exactly, but it troubled me briefly when I was on my way up the stairs to bed and when I woke up in the night for a wee and a drink of water and, for that reason, I’d recommend it.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: