Well. That was interesting. I just re-watched “The Blair Witch Project” on IFC out of sheer curiosity if it would hold up to the experience I had in the theater back in 1999. As my friend I saw the film with would attest, I spent most of the movie curled up in my seat with my eyes squeezed shut, mumbling “Nope nope nope nope” as the revolutionary (at the time) “found footage” movie unfurled. I was TERRIFIED. At any given moment, something horrific could have popped out in front of the camera. It never did, of course, but it COULD HAVE. And I have to say that after watching it in 2014?
It doesn’t hold up. But we shouldn’t judge it on that.
In 1999, viral campaigns didn’t exist. Hell, the internet was still dial-up. The marketing campaign for Blair Witch was ingenious. There was nothing at all in the marketing of the movie that said “wink wink, this is totes fake, we’re just shilling a movie.” There was a website back when our eyes were still bleeding from GeoCities and AOL sites that today would be laughable at best now. There was lore. There was a freaking BOOK. The filmmakers were clearly ahead of their time. People firmly believed this was a true story, and those behind the film ran with that. We had never before seen a “found footage” horror movie, and we were TERRIFIED about what was coming around the corner. And at the end of the film wherein Mike is against the wall and Heather is shrieking and the sound is distorted and everything goes black? I nearly shat my pants. It was perfectly terrifying.
Sadly, once you’ve seen it once, there’s no going back. The magic is gone. Of course it was all a fake. Hell, I was in a friend’s wedding with Josh. He was very much alive, and had all his teeth. It’s sad, really, that something that was so visceral and scary when you’re 21 and the internet was in it’s infancy is so….irritating now. I’m lucky that I live alone, because I was yelling quite loudly at the television, shrieking “just follow the stream! Just walk along the stream, it’ll empty out somewhere, and there will be people there!” Of course, logic like that doesn’t help a horror movie, and I guess that’s what happens when you’re 36 years old and your main problem is that the shaky cam is making you seasick.
But seriously, this movie will ALWAYS be in the history books. It birthed the shaky-cam. It birthed the viral campaign. And therefore it will always, ALWAYS be a historic horror movie. Even though we roll our eyes at it now, the scene of Heather apologizing to all their moms, and the last scene with Mike against the wall? Well done, movie. Well done.
Let “Blair Witch” live down in history. Don’t re-watch it. Just remember that there was a time in 1999 wherein you were so fucking scared of the woods that you never looked at a bundle of sticks the same way again. Don’t be that asshole who says “oh that movie sucked” because there was a time that it scared the ever loving shit out of you. Let it be that. Don’t be cynical.
But don’t re-watch it.