Real Time Review: Happy 15th Birthday, 'The Blair Witch Project'!
That’s right! It has been 15 years since the film some might consider the grandmother of documentary horror was released. I remember going to a late showing at The Neon in Dayton to see The Blair Witch Project when it was released. The whole notion of using the internet to make people believe that we were watching actual footage and that the people in it were actually missing was such a new thing at that time. The use of the camera by the actors was something new to horror at the time as well.
I remember being let down by the ending that first viewing. We were prepped for something more bombastic or gory, I think. It wasn’t until watching the film again that I was able to appreciate what Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez had created with Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams.
01:15 - We open with shaky titles and the now familiar proclamation that footage was recovered from the camera of the missing students.
01:17 - OH MY GOD, 90S FASHION. Heather also begins her reign of annoyance.
01:53 - The sound quality on this is shit, you guys.
02:29 - Mike enters the car and I realize my television sound was on music and not cinema. I’m already scared stupid.
04:24 - Heather is seriously annoying. She’s that girl that takes everything seriously and comes off condescending and snooty to everyone. Her bra makes her boobs look weird too. So there’s that.
05:15 - The townspeople begin to weave a story about the Blair Witch to set the creepy scene for us.
06:05 - THIS KID YELLING NO AND PICKING HER NOSE, AND WITH A DIRTY FACE? SHE’S A TEEN NOW. Maybe even a couple years past that. We’re old.
08:35 - I could do without this close up of Mary Brown’s face. It makes me sad and terrified at the same time. Then she starts describing the witch’s body hair and I love her again.
10:27 - So far the most frightening thing is the paneling in this hotel room.
12:59 - FUN FACT: This charming duo of fishermen are actually father-in-law and son-in-law. EVEN MORE FUN FACT: I think the son-in-law probably decorated the hotel room.
14:40 - We have officially left the car behind and the trio of Heather, Mike, and Josh are entering the woods. I am officially feeling warm and tingly, thanks to the wine I’m chugging.
16:57 - It is raining and Mike has fashioned his shirt into a Bungholio costume. His stick-leaning skills are unparalleled to this day.
17:11 - TENT FARTS. “I never gave Mike any fart allowance.”
17:29 - Josh reveals that he heard voices in the night. IT BEGINS.
17:42 - I can’t read this map that they have. I would be lost in a parking lot if I only had a map to go by.
18:12 - Heather is so super annoying. “He’s a very spirited young man.” Ugh.
20:00 - The trio are now arguing about how full of shit Heather is and how her sense of direction is as keen as Kim Kardashian’s fashion sense.
21:37 - It’s the log crossing scene, featuring Heather cheering them across just by being herself and the boys wanting to get as far from her as possible.
22:39 - “You guys excited?”
22:54 - Creepy rock formations have appeared. The camera continues to swerve around like a starlet after last call.
24:50 - More rock shots. The tension is mounting. Will the rocks speak and burst into song? Will one fall from its perch to crush Heather?
25:33 - Noises outside of the tent! Heather takes the camera to investigate. We see the butt of her Mom Jeans as she crawls toward the noise.
30:16 - They’ve been lost in the woods for hours now and Josh is worried about returning the camera and his shift at work. When I get lost for a few minutes when driving someplace unfamiliar, I begin to worry about who I will kill and eat first.
30:59 - More noises! Slamming rock noises! Yelling “Hello?” is the best way to approach this sort of thing.
31:29 - I can’t help but think that this movie would be much more terrifying if one were to watch it while in a remote cabin or actually camping.
32:46 - The noises continue with the helpful commentary of the trio. “Fuck!” “Gah! Fuck!” “What the fuck?” No wonder this brain trust is lost.
33:00 - The screen is helpfully black, adding to the terror of the nothingness. Or the annoyance of the not terror.
33:39 - Piles of rocks were left by the noise-making…deer? There are three piles of rocks. One pile for each. FORESHADOWING?
34:48 - “I’m just fucking done, man. I’m fucking done.” I hear ya, Josh. I’m done going easy on the wine.
34:55 - The super helpful map is gone and Heather’s paisley shirt is upset. She should have kept the map in the pocket of her backpack and trained it to appear when she sang an annoying song. I’m keeping my eyes open for Swiper in the woods.
38:24 - Mike is laughing maniacally as they attempt to cross another stream. I envy his ability to find humor in this situation. His pack looks like a butt.
39:54 - Mike admitted that he kicked the map into the creek. I imagine it looked a lot like this:
40:23 - LOUD NOISES! WE ARE ANGRY WITH YOU FOR LOSING THE TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP OF THE AREA!
42:40 - They’ve found some stuff! What kind of stuff? I hope it’s the Blair Witch’s gingerbread house. Or her underpants hanging on a line!
42:51 - Oh. It’s just those stick men hanging in trees. I guess that’s scary too.
42:59 - Heather just said “SCREECH SCREECH HARPY HARPY NOISES SCREEECH!”
43:34 - One of the stick men is twirling slowly in the breeze. My brain immediately begins singing “Tiny Dancer”.
43:54 - ...you had a busy day today…
44:48 - Heather finally admits that they are lost. She’s a genius.
45:33 - Children’s voices? That’s unsettling.
46:23 - SOMETHING IS SLAPPING THE TENT. THAT IS NOT COOL, GHOST KIDS. NOT COOL.
46:50 - Heather screeches at something she sees but neither of the cameras catches it. I bet it was really frightening. Damn it.
47:46 - You know what isn’t scary? A black screen and annoying people whispering about the noises they just heard.
49:12 - FUN FACT: The “slime” on Josh’s water canteen (or whatever) was KY Jelly. Unused, I think.
51:57 - It was smart of the filmmakers to break up the terrifying unexplained noises and events with the bickering of three assholes. Otherwise I may not have been able to check Facebook.
54:48 - Why is Heather wearing a baby sling? Is that what that is? Maybe it’s her sash for Miss Asshole America and I can’t see the writing.
57:57 - They brought a sewing kit but no cell phone and didn’t tell anyone exactly where they would be?
58:41 - Josh is the first one missing. He probably slept with the Blair Witch’s hairy ass just to get away from Heather and Mike.
1:02:56 - Josh is yelling in the dark and Mike and Heather are yelling back. In the dark. Pffft.
1:03:38 - They’re still just standing and crying and yelling. My God, 1999 was a simpler time full of simpler scares and fears.
1:05:02 - Oh! A stick bundle! Some forest hipster has crafted them a gift to help…why is Heather tossing it away??
1:06:24 - Heather is unwrapping the organic bundle. Let’s see…It’s a repurposed flannel filled with teeth and tongue. Goop tells me it’s the hottest new accessory for the eco-minded gal!
1:10:01 - Now we get shots of the sun through leaves and trees and Mike yelling while Heather slowly loses her shit. I’m not scared. I’m annoyed.
1:10:17 - It’s the infamous, often parodied, close up snot shot of Heather apologizing to every one on the planet.
1:13:10 - We’ve got more noises and Mike and Heather venture into the woods with the cameras. Everyone knows witches won’t sign waivers to appear in documentaries, though, so I doubt we’ll see the Blair Witch in this cut.
1:13:58 - An abandoned, creepy house in the woods that looks half collapsed. WHat could go wrong? Let’s look for out pal inside!
1:14:37 - Mike has the color camera and Heather the black and white. Neither knows how to hold shit still.
1:15:32 - JOSH?? JOSH IS THAT YOU IN THIS CRAPHOLE???
1:15:54 - The kid hand prints on the walls are a nice touch. Not nice enough to help the rest of this movie, but still kind of creepy.
1:16:26 - Mike left Heather screeching as he rushed downstairs to find Josh in the cellar. Mike got knocked the fuck out.
1:17:19 - Heather, much like Banshee, rides her screeching all the way to the cellar, finding Mike in the corner. Just like the townspeople said. The witch would put one kid in the corner while she…
1:17:25 - …either killed the other kid or knocked their camera to the ground. It depends on her mood I guess.
The end. No. The Blair Witch Project does not hold up after 15 years. The suspense is too widely spaced, the characters are all too annoying and unfamiliar, and the camera work is far too unfocused and shaky. While I salute the impact the film had on the horror genre and film-making as a whole, it just isn’t scary. If you’ll excuse me, I have to handcraft some tongues and teeth wrapped in recycled flannel for gifts and finish my wine.