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The Blair Witch Project

Review by Jason Morrison

I've heard this called the second most hyped movie this year. I'm going to assume Star Wars was the first most hyped, mainly because I'm drinking from an Anakin Taco Bell cup, wearing Darth Maul Boxers and typing this all on my Yoda-colored iMac. But for number two, I would have guessed Wild Wild West, or even Eyes Wide Shut. Both of those movies were falsely promoted, too-- Eyes Wide Shut is not an erotic thriller, and Wild Wild West is not even a movie.

But Blair Witch is number two in terms of the unpaid, conversational hype that can bring a small-time movie into the limelight. It was filmed for less than $250,000 by young filmmakers, the actors weren't given a script to follow but had to react, etc., all in all a very interesting story. One you've probably heard, so I'll leave it at that.

But I will say one thing you've probably heard already, and that's that the movie is well worth going to see. Not only is it extremely unconventional, but it's extremely effective, which means it's pretty scary.

The plot is quite interesting in and of itself. Three film students go to Burkittesville, Maryland, home of the Blair Witch legend, to film a documentary. This movie is a documentary made about their subsequent disappearance made from the footage they shot and left behind.

The three students, Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard (which are the actors real names), start by talking to people in town, some of whom have lived there all their lives, about the legend. Some are skeptical, some true believers. A few different versions of the legend pop up, and the group gets ready to trek into the woods to film the old cemetery from the legend.

But strange things start happening. Noises come out of the woods at night, they get lost and lose their map, and soon the three are starving and cold and bickering through the forest, video taping and filming all the way.

The movie's strength is realism. The students are all likable and unlikable in different ways, with Heather leading the way with a false confidence and Michael doing more than one really stupid thing along the way. The film portions are in black and white and on cheap stock and the video portions are pretty close to what you see on those old tapes of the family reunion-- so it's not to hard to imagine yourself there. The jerky hand-held motion during most of the filming really draws you into the movie, too.

There's even a little bit to think about after you leave the theater, other than locking your doors and staying out of the woods for a while. Heather holds on to her camera because by looking through it she can keep reality at arm's length. Mike destroys what he doesn't understand. And all three have a very false confidence.

And as for creepiness, this is probably the best "scary movie" since Scream and for a long time before that. This is not, however, a slasher film. It's much more creepy than startling, and does not always follow the rules of narrative. The fact that it doesn't have a conventional plot shape makes it seem all the more real.


(Out of five)

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