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          The Blair Witch Project follows a trio of filmmakers on what should have been a simple walk in the woods... but quickly becomes an excursion into heart-stopping terror. As the three become inexplicably lost, moral deteriorates. Hunger sets in. Accusations fly. By night, unseen evil stirs beyond their campfire's light. By day, chilling ritualistic figures are discovered nearby. As the end of their journey approaches, they realize that what they are filming now is not a legend... but their own decent into unimaginable horror.

"Witches in days gone by were roasted just like my Vienna sausage."
                    - Heather Donahue

          This film is not a feature film. For a start, it is not feature length, also, it is not shot on film. More importantly, it does not have what feature films have these days: star actors, special effects, exotic locations, explosions. Instead, seeing The Blair Witch Project is seeing something else that a cinema can be: a place where people can share an intimate experience created by a few people on a tight budget. I would be glad of its success if only for that reason.
          The first section of the film appears at first to be amateurish and slow. In fact, it is very deft, and very efficient at what it does. It tells the audience everything it needs to know about the characters and situation, and nothing more. Also, it gets the audience into the habit of viewing the film's format: alternating between black and white (very grainy and poorly focussed) film, and the washed out colours of shaky pixilated video. The film makers managed to set up a rationale for why the film is so cheaply made. Three people hike into the woods for a few days to shoot a documentary, with borrowed equipment, and are in the habit of videoing everything for the hell of it. They cannot carry tripods, steadicams, dollies, large lighting rigs, or the like, so everything we see is lit either by raw daylight, or by a single light fixed to the camera, which illuminates just what is within a few feet of the lens. The film creates its own excuse to be cheap. This is intelligent.
          The acting and script are both excellent. The well-cast actors are presumably playing pretty-much themselves, and are convincingly naturalistic, and neither too likeable or too dislikeable. The slow route into hysteria is well documented. Rather than simply having a character say "We're lost!", we see many scenes which show the trio getting more and more hopelessly lost, and more annoyed with each other for this. By the time they are thoroughly lost, the audience shares the despair.
          The jerky, badly-framed camerawork is hard on the eye and stomach, but I applaud the director for its uncompromising use. Similarly, no compromise is made with the dialogue. Some of it is very quiet and must be listened for, some is technical jargon, which is left realisticly unexplained.
          One of the great strengths and weaknesses of the film is the editing. It is good in that it does much to heighten the tension, with many key moments lasting just a little too long for comfort. Each time the characters find something nasty, the viewer is made to want the editor to cut soon to the next scene, and the fact that he doesn't adds to the sense of being trapped, as the characters are. The problem with this, though, is that one is left wondering about the motives of the fictional editor. In truth, of course, the film is edited to create these effects, and to entertain, but the film's rationale is that these are the rushes of a documentary put together posthumously by someone other than the film's original creator. Why, then, would an editor piecing together such footage, edit for dramatic effect rather than for clarity? Why would he keep cutting back and forth from the video footage to the film footage, when neither shows any more information than the other?
          The film is stark. After one simple caption at the start, all that follows is the "rushes". I wonder if the film might not have been improved with an introductory section which documented how the rushes were found and edited. A programme was made for television which did this. Perhaps a portion of this might have been added to the film, making it more complete, and more believable (and proper feature length).
          While I applaud the fact that young original film-makers have managed to create a mainstream hit out of a simple idea, well-handled. I dread the possible avalanche of inferior copies which may come.
          Most horror films these days are created not for the audience, but for the makers. The departments of special effects, make-up, model-making, animation and so forth all try hard to show potential future employers what they can do. The result is that nothing is left for the audience to do, since everything can be seen and heard, and the viewer's imagination can be switched off. Today, it is possible to see pigs fly on the screen, and so film-makers show off and show us a formation of Tamworths, which is something which will look impressive in the trailer. To show us less is to make our minds fill in the gaps. This way, we create our own terrors, perfectly fitted to ourselves. The ghastly face I see in my head, is the ghastly head which I find scary. The ghastly face I am shown may be one I can cope with quite easily. If I see a believable character screaming in hysterical fear at something I cannot see, my own brain creates demons for my night's dreams, demons far more mighty than anything CGI graphics or a latex mask could portray.

Cast & Crew   |   Pictures  |   Coroner Report
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          - The three principal actors, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams, shot nearly all of the completed film.

          - The actors were requested to interview the townspeople, who often, unbeknownst to the actors, were planted by the directors. As a result, the expressions on the actors' faces were unrehearsed.

          - The working title was "The Black Hills Project."

          - The actors were given no more than a 35-page outline of the mythology behind the plot before shooting began. All lines were improvised and nearly all the events in the film were unknown to the three actors beforehand, and were often on-camera surprises to them all.

          - Some theatergoers experienced nausea from the handheld camera movements and actually had to leave to vomit. In some Toronto theatres, ushers asked patrons who where prone to motion sickness to sit in the aisle seat and to try not to "throw up on other people."

          - The production company Haxan Films borrowed its named from Benjamin Christensen's witchcraft documentary, Häxan from 1922, a source of inspiration for the film.

          - The house that Heather is in during the opening shot is owned by Lonnie Glerum, the film's key production assistant. He is also operating the camera during the opening shot.

          - When promoting the film, the producers claimed it was real footage. Some people still believe it.

          - Before the film was released, the three main actors were listed as "missing, presumed dead" on the IMDb.

          - One of the video cameras used by the actors was bought at Circuit City. After filming was completed, the producers returned the camera for a refund, making their budget money go even further.

          - When Joshua Leonard and Heather Donahue pick up Michael C. Williams, they were originally listening to the song "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by The Animals on the radio. However, Haxan Films couldn't get the rights to keep it in the film.

          - In the supermarket scene near the start of the film, you hear in the background, the line "You're Rick Derris?". This is taken from Kevin Smith's 1994 film Clerks.

          - Heather Donahue's discovery of Joshua Leonard's (presumed) tongue and teeth wrapped in his handkerchief bears a striking similarity to Washington Irving's story "The Devil and Tom Walker". Tom's wife goes to find the devil in the swamp, and never returns home. When Tom goes to find her, he discovers her apron with her heart and liver inside.

          - The 16-millimeter camera was broken during filming; Joshua Leonard (who had the camera in his pack) rolled down a hill, causing the lens to pop off the camera.

          - This film was in the Guinness Book Of World Records for "Top Budget: Box Office Ratio" (for a mainstream feature film). The film cost $22,000 to make and made back $240.5 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made.

          - The sign for Burkitsville at the beginning of the movie has been stolen three times, and was stolen opening night of the movie.

          - The waitress asking about Blair High School is played by Sandra Sánchez, the sister of director Eduardo Sánchez.

          - The three leads believed the Blair Witch was a real legend during filming, though of course they knew the film was going to be fake. Only after the film's release did they discover that the entire mythology was made up by the film's creators.

          - Held the record for the highest-grossing independent movie of all time until October 2002, when it was surpassed by My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

          - This film uses the word "fuck" 133 times.

          - The filmmakers placed flyers around Cannes for the film festival that were "Missing" posters, stating that the cast was missing. All the flyers were taken down by the next day. It turns out that a television executive had been kidnapped just prior, and they were taken down out of respect. The executive was since recovered safely.

          - It took a mere 8 days to shoot this film.

          - Apparently, Heather Donahue brought a knife into the forest while filming was taking place because she didn't like the idea of sleeping with two guys.

          - To promote discord between actors, the directors deliberately gave them less food each day of shooting.

          - In a scene where the main actors are sleeping in a tent at night, the tent suddenly shakes violently and they all get scared. This was unscripted and the director shook the tent; they were really scared.

          - The first cut of the movie to be screened was 2.5 hours in length.

          - Other endings shot in post-production that were scrapped included Mike being hanged, another had him bound to the wall with twigs in the manner of a stick figure. Stick figures themselves were experimented with as decorations in the final scene.

          - Heather had to be directed to open the twig "package" after throwing it aside. The package contains blood, teeth, and clumps of hair... no tongue.




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