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The Blair Witch Project

Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard
Director: Daniel Myrick / Eduardo Sanchez
Genre: Horror
Year: 1999
Rating: 3 / 5

The Blair Witch Project is fresh, original, unique, and... nothing special. I will be the first to admit that I am a victim of the immense hype surrounding this film. Having seen it roughly two weeks after its wide release, I had heard a great many critics bestow heaps of praise upon the film. I had read numerous articles explaining, in no uncertain terms, how The Blair Witch Project would revolutionize Hollywood. So many superlatives had been heaped upon this $50,000 indie project that I was driven to experience it, this in spite of numerous negative reviews from some peers of mine. While my reaction was certainly not negative, I have but one question for our nation's critics: What's the big deal?

On a cool fall weekend in 1994, three film students head into the woods in Burkittesville, MD, to uncover the mystery of the Blair Witch. The tale of this witch, detailed rather well on the film's web site, is slowly uncovered through interviews with the townsfolk, each of whom have heard bits and pieces of the legend. Dating back to the eighteenth century, the yarn spans two centuries and culminates with the disappearance of seven children around the time of World War II. Armed with this info and two video cameras, the three students boldly head forth into the haunted woods, hoping to produce a short documentary on the town's most famous legend. Of course, as they venture deeper and deeper into the woods, their journey takes on a life of their own, and they, too, begin to wonder if there is any truth to the age-old rumors.

The film is "constructed" from the two video cameras that were found by investigators shortly after the disappearance of the three unfortunate students. (This fact is made known via a brief written introduction before the onset of the film.) We view their perilous journey from this restructured footage, featuring the spliced film of the two cameras, one color and one black-and-white. This allows for a rather innovative effect, as it affords us the opportunity to "see" the voyage from the perspective of each of the three protagonists. The film weaves these two segments together seamlessly, as we see the early stages of a documentary and some classic "making of" footage. Just as one would expect with such a situation, the camera is not always running, and our guides routinely return to their cameras after a traumatic event has occurred, waiting eagerly for a follow-up.

The film is certainly a unique one, and I have the utmost respect for the creativity of the film's novice directors - Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez - who were able to do all of this on a shoestring budget. Likewise, Artisan Films did a splendid job marketing this film, building the hype with well-placed publicity blitzes and an innovative web site. I was even more intrigued when I learned that the directors merely gave their actors a script outline and sent them into the woods to improvise. Unfortunately, all of these factors cannot shift the attention away from the film, which is neither frightening nor fulfilling. The promised intensity is somewhat lacking, at least after the first half of this eighty-minute odyssey. Part of this may have been due to the fact that I had no illusions that this tale might be real. Therefore, I was not drawn in to the terror that the main characters experience, nor was I satisfied with the much-hyped finale.

The Blair Witch Project is certainly an entertaining film, and if Hollywood learns some valuable lessons from it, so be it. In that respect, I am rather enthused about the future of internet marketing when it comes to feature films. I am intrigued to learn what further progress can be made with respect to integrating web-driven campaigns with more traditional approaches. And though this film is sure to inspire a plethora of copycat efforts, I am nonetheless grateful for its novel approach to filming. In the end, though, I was left waiting for something more. Unfortunately, it appears as if the powers that be have heard my call - I am told a sequel is in the works...

Cast:
Heather Donahue..........Heather Donahue
Michael Williams..........Michael Williams
Joshua Leonard..........Joshua Leonard

Certification: Rated R.
Running Time: 80 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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