“In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary…
A year later their footage was found.”
When these credits opened one of the most affluent independent films of all time, hairs were immediately on end. What culminated was something that is forever rare in film as it was unparalleled to any other release of its kind.
The first of its kind in more ways than one, The Blair Witch Project introduced the form of found footage; the mother of its kind that triggered hundreds of others that attempted to reach the height that was manageable from this surprising success. Made from a measly $60,000, the film went on to become a renowned box office success, garnering more than $248 million. Astounding and unheard of, The Blair Witch Project was on everyone’s must-see list.
What was even more unparalleled about this project was how it was released. With every man, woman and their dog attempting to see this critically-acclaimed nerve-jangling horror flick, it was released as it was intended to be shown: as real life, shown to the public as the credits had explained, via footage found a year after it was found.
Actor credentials were nowhere to be seen, websites, missing posters and mythology surrounding the infamous Blair Witch herself was rife around the internet. It was an alarming and terrifying execution in withstanding the terror that the film itself had offered. Though it didn’t last long, the power behind the idea was undoubtedly one for the history books. To this day, as you watch The Blair Witch Project, the sharp authenticity of what you’re watching often makes you think to yourself, is this actually real?
The power behind the myth comes from directing duo Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, whose idea behind the Blair Witch legend spanned from merely feeling more frightened hearing about paranormal phenomena rather than actual horror films themselves. An outline of a script was produced but everything else was improvised. Much of the events of the film, the tears, the arguments, the trio circling continuously, this was all real, and those they encounter along the way were actors placed by the troublesome duo that all three actors had no idea about. It’s an effort of filmmaking that is bleakly unheard of today, but if it renders a film as terrifying as Blair Witch’s initial viewing, maybe director’s should be thinking more outside the box. When flyers are handed out at Sundance Film Festival asking audience members to come forth about the whereabouts of the missing students, you can’t fault the attempts.
Whilst the film holds firm as possibly one of the scariest films of all time, audiences were undoubtedly divided. The witch shows no face as the film demanded the use of your imagination, alongside the chilling stick men, rustling in the night and that god-awful, breathlessly polarising ending that still to this day is as effective. It was only a matter of time before the myth became modernised for the audiences of today, and what better director to tackle the project than acclaimed horror fan, director and all-round swell guy Adam Wingard.
Early 2016, a film titled The Woods had a teaser trailer unleashed upon us, with alarming critiques lashed throughout the teaser, bravely calling it “one of the scariest films ever made” and ” a game-changer”. Other than the brief glimpse, Wingard’s latest was in the unknown. It wasn’t until the film premiered at Comic Con that director Wingard, cast and audience members sat patiently in the hall waiting for the film to begin when a glaring red poster titled Blair Witch hit the screen. I’m speaking for everyone that remembers the phenomenon of the original, but this is the sequel we’ve been waiting for.
Wingard’s attempt at bringing Blair Witch back to the screen in an unfamiliar fashion is notably different. It’s the kind of originality that us film fans adore, the genuine surprise that doesn’t often occur. Whether or not the film will climb and soar as terrifyingly high as the original, it’s this kind of filmmaking that i personally adore.
Blair Witch is released in UK cinemas from September 15th. The Blair Witch Project is now available on Blu-ray, with 4 alternative endings.