|The Blair Witch Project
Anyone who has even the slightest trouble with insomnia after seeing a horror movie should stay away from The Blair Witch Project--this film will creep under your skin and stay there for days. Credit for the effectiveness of this mock documentary goes to filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who armed three actors (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Josh Leonard) with video equipment, camping supplies, and rough plot outlines. They then let the trio loose into the Maryland woods to improvise and shoot the entire film themselves as the filmmakers attempted to scare the crap out of them. Gimmicky, yes, but it worked--to the wildly successful tune of $130 million at the box office upon its initial release (the budget was a mere $40,000).
For those of you who were under a rock when it first hit the theaters, The Blair Witch Project tracks the doomed quest of three film students shooting a documentary on the Burkittsville, Maryland, legend of the Blair Witch. After filming some local yokels (and providing only scant background on the witch herself), the three, led by Heather (something of a witch herself), head into the woods for some on-location shooting. They're never seen again. What we see is a reconstruction of their "found" footage, edited to make a barely coherent narrative. After losing their way in the forest, whining soon gives way to real terror as the three find themselves stalked by unknown forces that leave piles of rocks outside their campsite and stick-figure art projects in the woods. (As Michael succinctly puts it, "No redneck is this clever!") The masterstroke of the film is that you never actually see what's menacing them; everything is implied, and there's no terror worse than that of the unknown. If you can wade through the tedious arguing--and the shaky, motion-sickness-inducing camerawork--you'll be rewarded with an oppressively sinister atmosphere and one of the most frightening denouements in horror-film history. Even after you take away the monstrous hype, The Blair Witch Project remains a genuine, effective original. --Mark Englehart
Curse of the Blair Witch
Are you wondering just exactly who the Blair Witch was? What the Burkittsville, Maryland, legend was all about? Or what exactly fascinated student filmmaker Heather and what possibly took her, Mike, and Josh from this earth? Get all your background questions answered by Curse of the Blair Witch, a one-stop-shopping "documentary" originally produced for the Sci-Fi Channel as a tie-in marketing tool. Entirely fictionalized, Curse of the Blair Witch focuses both on the past and the present, with copious info on the Blair Witch myth as well as on the disappearance of Heather, Josh, and Mike. As it turns out, the original witch was one Elly Kedward, who was accused in 1785 of taking blood from several children; she was subsequently banished to the harsh winter woods and left for dead. Her grisly and bloody legacy involves missing children, polluted water, disemboweled men, and a serial killer of children who claims to have been haunted by "an old woman ghost." Aside from some ineffective "newsreel" footage of the serial killer, all this intriguing information is presented convincingly and chillingly. Curse may in fact freak you out more than the movie, and it evokes the great, pulpy In Search Of series of the '70s, one of the prime inspirations for filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. News clips of the search for Heather, Josh, and Mike lend a vérité atmosphere to the proceedings, but shed little light on their mysterious disappearance or their characters. Basically, it's a tease to go see the movie. Still, The Blair Witch Project provided only ever-so-slight information on the legend that haunted the forest, so you'll want this cleverly constructed mock documentary to supplement your knowledge of the film. --Mark Englehart