THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

One of the things that makes The Blair Witch Project so great is the fact that it’s sort of two horror stories in one that eventually come together. On the one hand, it’s a realistic scary story of three people getting lost in the woods. On the other hand, it’s a supernatural scary story about three people getting hunted by some kind of spirit. By the end, I think it’s implied that the reason they’re staying lost is because of the spirit, which is just a great way for everything to come together.

What also makes The Blair Witch Project so great is that the filmmakers resist actually showing anything: we never see what’s hunting/attacking them at all. We never even see anyone die. It seems like so many horror movies, especially in that found film genre, the filmmakers just can’t help but showing the monster or killer or whatever, even if it’s in the last few moments (I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity).

I know The Blair Witch Project is sort of groundbreaking in a lot of ways, particularly the way it was marketed, but it’s real strength is its ability to maintain and build tension and stress. We’re told in the beginning that three filmmakers went missing and we’re about to watch their footage that was found a year later, so even if you somehow missed knowing what The Blair Witch Project was about as a viewer, they tell us. So everything leading up to them going into the woods is stressful, because we know what’s going to happen. And once they’re lost, it gets more stressful because we know the end is coming.

The last 10 minutes or so are pretty famous, and for good reason. I know the scene of Heather (Heather Donahue) speaking directly into the camera has been parodied a lot, and out of context I guess it is sort of goofy, but in the movie it is so scary and stressful. Heather is apologizing to everyone’s mom for getting them in this situation because she knows they’re going to die. It’s really sad and the fact that it seems so realistic makes it even scarier. And of course, the very last scene of Heather and Mike (Michael C. Williams) searching for Josh (Joshua Leonard) after hearing his screams from an abandoned house has got to be one of the scariest endings of any movie, and one of the best in general. Fucking. scary.

Christopher

I purposefully went out of my way to never see this movie. I thought it would scare the shit out of me and I was absolutely correct. It’s also one of those movies that has been parodied so many times it feels like it wouldn’t have the same impact as if I didn’t know anything about it. Luckily this was not the case. I’m glad I did not watch this alone. Even with Elizabeth there it was a pretty high stress movie. I’m sure I am the last person to see this so I can’t really recommend anyone to see it but I will say, whenever we can nominate films to be placed on the National Film Registry, this will be one of them!

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BANANAS (1971)

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Christopher

This movie was insanely dark. Elizabeth and I recently got our library cards and have gone crazy checking movies out. Bananas was something that we wanted to see for a while, mostly cause we want to watch more Woody Allen movies. And I am very happy that Elizabeth decided to get this so close to us watching The Act of Killing. It’s basically the comedy version! Which makes so many scenes intensely scary.

I absolutely loved this film. The structure of the film is great, just a bunch of scenes, and most of the jokes are pretty funny. I also really liked Woody Allen’s character in this, basically himself just not very smart.

Go see The Act of Killing and then immediately go watch Bananas.

Elizabeth

I’ve seen some pretty dark comedies, but Bananas has to be one of the darkest I’ve ever seen. I really didn’t know what to expect at all, and it’s pretty crazy.

I guess the easiest way to talk about the tone of Bananas is to say that the movie shows executions, and it’s still part of the comedy. It’s funny but you’re not sure why. It just sort of adds to highlighted the absurdity of politics. The most interesting aspect of watching Bananas was watching it so closely to The Act of KillingThe Act of Killing is, in a lot of ways, about the same thing as Bananas, and after watching such a scary documentary about that time period, it made Bananas much darker and scarier.

While I don’t think Bananas has a ton of laugh-out-loud humor, there’s a pretty great courtroom scene in which J. Edgar Hoover is put on the stand, but Hoover is played by a large black woman, as Hoover is in disguise. I don’t know what about that is so funny, but it definitely got to me.