Sunday, October 5, 2014

Film Review: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (Review)
United States/1999
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...the characters are poison for this film."

A group of film students set out to document the legend of the Blair Witch.

The Blair Witch Project follows film students Heather, Mike, and Josh as they produce their documentary. I genuinely enjoy the first act of the film – or, day 1 of their shoot. This segment gives us the spooky details behind the haunting Blair Witch legend, and I loved it. Eventually, this group enters the woods to document evidence of the Blair Witch and get lost. They hear things at night and are chased by things, too – I say things because, well, you can't actually see what is in the woods. I liked it ,though, it creates some truly terrifying moments, especially if you allow your imagination to run wild. Anyway, the middle of the film has a little too much bickering and inconsistency for my taste. The climax is a bit more redeeming, though, and I enjoyed the ending.

The Blair Witch Project, for those who don't know, is a found-footage horror film. It's one of the original films in the sub-genre, although I suppose you can argue Cannibal Holocaust is more of the pioneer. Anyway, what I'm saying is: The Blair Witch Project features many elements that have become cliché today, particularly due to the massive output of found-footage films nowadays. So, The Blair Witch Project would be original and groundbreaking if you had watched this before 2009; if you are watching it today for the first time, this might be a bit too familiar and would be considered generic by most standards. (can the original truly become generic due to the aftermath?) This is simply a fair warning, though, I didn't mind most of its now-considered cliches.

No, the worst part of this film is its bad characters. To be blunt, I was completely put off by their ignorance, arrogance, and annoyance. Particularly, I strongly disliked Heather's character. When she's not failing miserably at being funny (she sounds like a douchebag most of the time), she's lying or being a hypocrite. She's the character that has to record everything, but cries when she's recorded. The character that takes responsibility for the directions, but lies about being lost. The character that wants everyone to wait for her while she records, but nags everyone into moving when they're trying to relax and collect their thoughts. I think she's one of the most annoying characters in horror film history. Mike is also annoying with his constant shouting and bickering – he also makes one of the stupidest choices I've seen in film. Josh was the most tolerable. Anyway, the characters are poison for this film.

The acting, however, is surprisingly decent. Yes, it is occasionally overacted, but I did feel a sense of fear, panic and urgency in the cast. I didn't like their characters, but I think the cast played them well. Otherwise, the film is a basic found-footage film. The cameras, which I assume were commercial cameras purchased at a local Wal-mart, are outdated; the picture quality is blurry, but I think this added to the authentic vibe of the film – clearly the film is a work of fiction, but for a second, you can kind of pretend like it's real. Most of the camerawork is okay, although there is some shaky cam here and there. Directors Daniel Myrick, who also directs The Objective, and Eduardo Sanchez do well with “the less you see, the scarier” and they also craft some nail-biting suspense here and there; the characters were almost intolerable, though, and definitely hurt the overall entertainment and replay value of the film.

Overall, I like The Blair Witch Project. I think the first act is excellent, especially for fans of folklore and urban legends like myself, and there are some great scenes of suspense and terror. The film works off of your imagination, though, so if you don't immerse yourself in the film, it may be a complete dud. The characters are very, very bad, though. I could never get over them, they put me off every time I watch this film. Every. Time.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: It is not a visually scary or graphic film. There is some excessive language, though.

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