The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project might not be the first found footage film, Cannibal Holocaust springs to mind, but it is the genesis of the modern day incarnation. It spawned some good (I enjoyed Rec, the first Paranormal Activity, Chronicle and Cloverfield) and a lot of bad films but for me, The Blair Witch Project remains the best and not only because of the actual film.
While I never bought into its incredible online marketing, because trying to play Quake over dial up was full time work for me back then and I didn't actually see the marketing, this was a film which sold its "truth" before it sold its tickets. Loads of people bought into the myth The Blair Witch Project created online and the way the film was presented visually, looking like it was genuinely made by students, added to the credibility.
The Blair Witch also gave us the great Chris Rock joke “they say The Blair Witch Project cost sixty thousand dollars? Where the hell did all the money go? One of them was walking around with fifty nine thousand dollars in their pocket!” Again, the apparent lack of budget only helped people believe it was real. It doesn't matter that it is not, none of anything matters, this film should scare you.
Shot in a mix of cinema verite* digital video, new on the big screen back then, and well composed, filmed black and white in parts The Blair Witch Project looks lovely, but always somehow dangerous and that is a feat. Some of it is disorientating and panicked, like an idiot with a witch after them filmed it. How the film makers (the actors filmed it and directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrik harassed them relentlessly) manage to make the great outdoors, the woods and wilderness claustrophobic is genius.
Even now The Blair Witch Project retains tension, terror and dread as the hapless and helpless trio of Heather, Josh and Mike descend into the horror of the myth they were there to report on sceptically.
On that; Mike might be one of the most annoying characters ever in a film. I’m yet to compose a proper list but he’s first on it. Given the situation you can understand why he’s a little tense, but he burns through sympathy so fast that by the middle you’re hoping the other two eat him- forget waiting around for this witch. I am convinced this is why with COVID-19 you can only go out for walks in twos, because Mike might be your third man and he’s both a liability and a dick.
Don’t expect a gore fest, but do expect to slowly feel the utter helplessness of the situation, and then the creeping fear of the unknown.
Put The Blair Witch Project on in the dark, turn off your phone and give it the respect it deserves. 9/10
*Look at me, I done like almost two years of a film degree in Derby. I didn’t go to lectures much. That probably shows.