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.
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!