The Blair Witch Project

Here’s something out of the ordinary. A trio of filmmakers investigate a myth with the hopes of turning their footage into a documentary. The trio seek out the cast members of “The Facts of Life,” who has disappeared from the television landscape without a trace. They attempt to find out whether or not star Lisa Whelchel was like the character she played on the series.


The Blair Witch ProjectEven though “The Blair Bitch Project” is a product of my imagination, it definitely would be more interesting than “The Blair Witch Project,” the over-hyped student film that is getting a big push in local theaters. Written, edited and directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, “The Blair Witch Project” is supposedly based on the recovered footage of a trio of documentary filmmakers who disappeared while exploring a Maryland legend. After sitting through 88 minutes of this footage, you wish it would have stayed lost. “The Blair Witch Project” is going to irritate a lot of people, mostly horror fans who have been led to believe that this little film school exercise is actually the scariest thing since “The Exorcist.”

Well excuse me, but I know “The Exorcist,” and this film is no “Exorcist.” It’s not even scary. While the filmmaker’s manage to create a modicum of mood and atmosphere, they fail to generate suspense and tension. Instead of being creepy, most of the film is crappy. At one point in the film, when the characters stumble across the same rock they passed earlier in the day, their leader, Heather Donahue, breaks down and starts chanting “It’s the same rock.” It’s the same damn rock because everything in this film looks the same. Fifteen minutes into the film things start to become repetitious, and it’s all downhill from there. The filmmaker’s idea is a sound one, but their delivery is so artificial and improbable it’s impossible to give up the ghost.

That is what documentary filmmaker Donahue (the actors use their real names in the film) is looking for, the spirit of the Blair Witch. In her pursuit of the truth, Heather drags along cameraman Joshua Leonard and sound man Michael Williams deep into a Maryland forest. What was intended as a weekend shoot turns into a nightmare when the trio lose their way and become lost. Heather’s map doesn’t help much, and neither does the bickering that erupts between the hired help and Heather. It’s not long before things start going bump in the night, but thanks to the film’s cinema verite style, we never get to witness those events. Instead, we spend endless moments watching the characters pretending to be scared and confused, unlike the audience, which by this point feels betrayed and confused.

“The Blair Witch Project” isn’t so much a horror film as it is a study in psychology. Normally it would be interesting to watch three people fall apart, but Donahue, Leonard and Williams are so annoying, you just wish the witch would come and kill them. They argue, they fight, they cry, and towards the end, they go into hysterics. By that point you want to climb into the frame and slap them around. Only Donahue emerges from the pack with any credibility, and has one honest moment towards the end where she apologizes for everything. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t come across with the same intensity and emotion. Shot on an extremely low budget on 16mm film and a digital 8 camcorder, the film looks authentic. Directors Myrick and Sanchez overstay their welcome by about 30 minutes, and even then the film seems long and contrived.

“The Blair Witch Project” was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival, and an even bigger hit on the Internet, where the film’s web site has been attracting millions of hits. Even with all of the attention it has been receiving, the film is nothing more than a glorified art-house film. Audiences who believe that hype will more than likely be disappointed.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: Excellent
4.3 Full Screen
Dual Layer
Delivered in the film’s original aspect ratio of 4.3 to accommodate the numerous camcorder usage, the digital transfer perfectly captures the theatrical presentation. The combination of grainy black and white 16mm footage and color Hi8 camcorder tape looks as impressive as it did on the big screen. It is difficult to judge quality because of the nature of the beast. Some scenes are purposely grainy, and since the footage was supposed to have been lost in the woods for some time, there is appropriate age issues that look authentic. No visible compression artifacts, while the blacks are appropriately strong. Color is minimal, but it does look sharp and vivid. The grays and whites are decent in comparison.

HEARING: Excellent
2.0 Dolby Digital Surround
The DVD soundtrack replicates the theatrical presentation effectively. Accurate surround effects and a strong dialogue mix keep you right in the middle of the nightmare. The original soundtrack was sweetened before it’s theatrical release, and the clarity shows.

ORAL: Good
Closed captions in English for the Hard of Hearing.

COORDINATION: Excellent

  • In my opinion, the menus on the DVD are far more creepy than the actual film. They gave me the willies jumping from one menu to the next. The scene access menu is sparse but keeping within the theme of the film.
  • Feature-length audio commentary with the directors and producers, who revel in their good fortune and provide enough valuable insight into making the film to satisfy any fan.
  • A newly discovered scene in which the three filmmakers discuss theories involving what they have seen on their trip, and who may be behind it. Pretty much more of the same with a lot of “F” words being passed around.
  • The “Curse of the Blair Witch” Sci-Fi Channel documentary that is filmed like a documentary. I personally thought the documentary was more engaging than the actual film.
  • A “Blair Witch” time line that examines that curse and its effects on the local populace.
  • Short but specific cast & crew bios and filmographies.
  • Theatrical and teaser trailers, plus a trailer for the DVD 18 “The Stand”
  • DVD-ROM features that allow you to peak into the “Blair Witch” dossier, plus a map of the region and excerpts from the comic book.

PROGNOSIS: Excellent
So what if I didn’t like the movie? What fan of the film could turn down such an offering?

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
BIRTH DATE: 1999
HMO: Artisan Entertainment



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