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Blair Witch: 90’s horror classic

Sh-Ron Almedia

Anchor Alumnus

Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, “The Blair Witch Project” tells the story of three student filmmakers, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, who disappeared in the Black Hills forest of Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 while making a documentary about the titular local legend. Their footage was found a year later. In fact, it is this film that coined the term “found footage.”

The world of horror movies in the 1990s was very different compared to today. Slashers and slasher parodies like “Scream” dominated. Directors Myrick and Sanchez were frustrated, feeling like horror films had forgotten to be scary and were determined to make something in the spirit of classic horror films like “The Exorcist” and “The Shining.” What they came up with was a movie unlike any other made at the time.

In this movie, the three students interview community members about a local legend. The stories they heard dated back to the late 1700s. One story told of local women who were hunted as witches and banished into the forest. Another story featured young children who went missing and were found dead the next day in creeks. Others told of an old hermit living in the woods who killed seven of the town’s children in his basement.

Image via IMDb

After gathering all the information, the trio hike into the woods to explore the sites related to the legend. However, it’s clear that something sinister lives in the forest and that they have become hopelessly lost. By night, they hear strange sounds outside their tent. By day, they find piles of rocks and strange voodoo dolls hanging from trees. Tensions rise. Accusations fly. As desperation settles in and sanity frays, they realize they’re not filming a legend, but something very real.

It’s been almost 25 years since this movie came out and it’s impressive how well the original film holds up, especially compared to modern horror. There are no jump scares. No comic relief. No ugly looking special effects. Instead, what you get in this film is pure psychological horror. There are supernatural elements, but we are never shown the titular witch or given answers as to what happened. This is the core reason why this film is so scary: not being shown everything lets the audience’s minds fill in the blanks. Of course, it’s not without a few shortcomings. People who haven’t seen it before and those who were exposed to other modern horror today might not find this film scary. Understandably so, considering there is an abundance of shaky camera movement that would even make any experienced moviegoer severely disoriented. Many would be forgiven for thinking the movie ran a little too long, especially during the forest segments.

Regardless of whether you think “The Blair Witch Project” is scary or not, it’s impossible to overstate its influence on the world of horror and cinema at large. It was the first film to go viral, before going viral was even a term. It popularized found footage as a technique, for better or for worse. Without “Blair Witch,” there would be no “Paranormal Activity.” There would be no “Cloverfield.” There would be no analog horror.

“The Blair Witch Project” is a classic, iconic horror film that showed up at the right time. Every horror fan should watch it and any aspiring horror filmmaker should study it.



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