The Blair Bitch 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 had 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.

Even 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 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 bewildered.

“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.



Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams in a film directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. Rated R. 88 Minutes.


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