The Blair Witch Project : A Semi-Personal Reflection

The Blair Witch Project is 10 years old this year. In the UK and Ireland is wasn't released until October 1999 and I remember it well.

I was 15 and 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 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. 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 and 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.
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. It was shot 16mm black and white film as well as a consumer camcorder but was blown up on screens in multiplexes across the world.
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 a film on a camcorder.
On Halloween two years ago, we found out our friend was one of the few who never actually saw The Blair Witch Project. He wasn't attracted to the hype and the backlash put him off even more. So we slipped the rarely touched DVD into the player and sat down to view BWP again (despite my enthusiasm I've only watched the film 2 or 3 times in 10 years). At the end he was shaking and scared and speechless, it was great to see the film still work on a fresh viewer after the hooplah had well died down.
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.
The creators went on to make their own separate straight to DVD films and the actors faded into obscurity but their influence goes on.

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 for once they weren't being lied to.

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