“The Blair Witch Project” was written, edited and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. The film stars Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard. The cast use their real names to keep the illusions of a real life documentary that goes horribly wrong. While this film didn’t start the whole found footage genre, it did revive and popularized it for films to come.
In 1994, 3 film students set out to make a documentary about a mysterious urban legend in Maryland known as the Blair Witch. Heather, Josh and Mike interview the locals and see if they believe in this fabled myth. As they gather information, the 3 begin a hike into the woods in search of any signs of the Blair Witch. On the second day in the woods, they come across a small cemetery with 7 cairns. The next morning, they decide to head back to the car but soon realize that they are lost. Mike throws the map away out of frustration which only infuriates Josh and Heather. Using a compass, they try to find their way but come across strange voodoo stick figures hanging in the trees. That night, they begin to hear sounds coming from all different directions and are attacked by an unseen force. With no where to run, Heather, Mike and Josh become terrified as they things get worse as the days go by and can’t shake the feeling of being watched.
This was a surprisingly solid movie. It doesn’t have the same tropes of a typical horror movie but the idea of a “found footage” storyline was relatively new at the time and gave the film a much more realistic feel thus making much more creepy. It hard to judge the performances cause you don’t see acting, you see mainly reacting to the woods and events taking place but nonetheless its a solid performance. The fact that this film was made for $35,000 and went on to gross over $250 Million at the box office goes to show that less is more. While you really don’t see anything at all in the film, its the reactions of the characters that carry the movie.
After the moderate success of this film, a while new sub genre was introduced to the horror genre, the found footage film. Movies came out the woodwork following this film such as, REC, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, Diary of the Dead among others would all utilize the same technique. In 2000, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” was released and destroyed by critics and fans of the first film after it completely changed the integrity of the film by going the supernatural route. In 2016, “Blair Witch” serves as a direct sequel to the original film, ignoring the events of the second. In “Blair Witch”, 20 years after the first film, a YouTuber sets out to find his sister, Heather, in the same woods where she disappeared from. “The Blair Witch Project” remains as one of the pioneers in the found footage genre and holds a legacy that changes the way we make horror films today.