Rewatching 'The Blair Witch Project' 25 Years Later

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A summary of the missing people in Blair Witch Project

Now, I am sure you have all seen The Blair Witch Project, and either love or loathe it which seems the norm, it's a very marmite type film, and even though I haven't rewatched it since seeing it in 1999, I 100% fall into the love camp, and personally believe it is a cult classic, especially in the found footage genre, which it helped bring into the mainstream.

I remember when it first came out, with all the viral marketing around it. While the internet was in its infancy in 1999, the movie certainly made good use of the online world, many horror fans or fans of anything would still rely heavily on news and information from magazines, the internet then was obviously  nothing like it is today.

A website was created for the movie, which was taken down a while ago, but you can still see it using the archived version from the Wayback Machine, and the hype and excitement of this marketing was brilliant for its time, and many people thought the story was real, which only helped the movie garner attention. Quite frankly, it became a phenomenon.

The website featured flyers about the missing filmmakers, pictures of their left-behind stuff and visitors could download video and audio clips that claimed to have been found in the woods and like the movie itself, the website's low-budget look helped make it more believable, and even if you knew the three "filmmakers" were just actors, the website made it easy to believe in their disappearance.

Rumors and speculation spread both online and in the press about it all, fueled by the fact that the actors used their real names, adding to the film’s realism and mystique. Artisan, the company that acquired the film rights, allegedly spread false rumors about the actors’ fates and didn’t squash online speculation, much to the delight of their marketing department. 

Even the mother of one of the actresses Heather Donahue received multiple sympathy cards upon the release of the film, people genuinely thought the film was real and she was dead. It was marketed perfectly, and is probably the best marketing done for a movie ever.

It was a rare moment in cinematic history where an indie film destined for obscurity went global, earning over $248 million from a budget of just $60,000.

Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez made the most out of this modest budget, and the innovative shooting style allowed them to achieve a lot without the constraints of conventional filmmaking. The film was pieced together from 20 hours of raw footage shot over eight days in Maryland, with much of the dialogue improvised on the spot.

Even now, knowing that much of the hype was manufactured, the film remains impressive. The acting is superb, and there are some genuinely scary moments, and in case you’re not familiar with the premise, The Blair Witch Project tells the simple story of three student filmmakers who venture into the woods to investigate a local legend, where they all disappear, leaving behind nearly everything, and you then get to watch the found footage left behind to find out what happened to them.

The movie has no music or sound effects and the actors had a basic plot to follow, as said above, a lot was improvised, but their reactions to the scares were mostly real. Myrick and Sanchez set up hidden speakers in the woods without telling the actors, so when the actors heard snapping branches, running, or children playing, the reactions were genuine. 

Blair Witch Project missing poster

The movie can be divided into three parts really. The first part is a documentary about the fictional Blair Witch, getting you even more involved in the story. The 3 actors, Heather, Mike, and Josh start to interview people in Burkittsville, each telling different stories about the woods. These tales set the tone as they venture into the woods. 

The first part is the documentary  about the legend of the witch and the woods. Many people have apparently mysteriously died there, supposedly killed by the witch, but what does the Witch look like? This lack of a clear image fuels the fear of the unknown as we imagine our own version of the Blair Witch lurking in the woods, haunting the documentary crew.

The second part is the hopeless expedition, and shows the filmmakers getting lost and increasingly scared. This part succeeds largely because of the production decisions, and where the actors improvised a lot of their dialogue, who also apparently harassed them at night and deprived them of food. This created a real sense of fear and desperation, which makes their descent into madness and hopelessness very convincing.

The third part, confronting the witch, is the climax The filmmakers' growing panic, combined with the mysterious sounds and sights in the dark woods, leads to the terrifying confrontation. And while we as viewers do not see much, it is that sense of the unknown which made it work so well. I still enjoy the ending to the film, it was brilliantly done.

Maybe I have some nostalgia involved still, but for me the movie still holds up today, it was all just brilliantly done and came together so well, and while the follow up Book Of Shadows was one of the worse movies of all time, I didn't mind the 2016 version at all. And if you did not know, they are rebooting the series for a new Blair Witch movie in 2025.

What did you think of the movie? Do you remember all the marketing around it? Let me know your thoughts on the movie in the comments or connect with me on Twitter and Instagram or my Facebook page.

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