Goddamn it all! Those bastards stole my BRAIN! I don't
know if I'll even be able to finish this review! FUCKERS!
This is a goddamn scary movie. Not scary in a "watch out, that guy's got a
knife" scary way, but frightening in a deeply personal, utterly enfolding
manner. This is primal fear up on the screen and wafting out through the
audience, a sheet-clutching nightmare of a movie that will transport you back
to every irrational, paranoid thought you ever had in the dark and leave you,
as a gift, with a few new absurdly surreal and bizarre images burned into your
brainpan by the end of the thing.
Dig: I haven't been scared by ANY movie in years. That slasher stuff leaves me
cold, irritated by the insipid dialogue and retarded plot development and
hokifying "creepy" music that precedes and announces the "scary" parts. Freddy
Krueger is a comedian, Ernest Goes to Hell on a mescaline trip with claws, and
those "Scream" flicks mostly make me think about how much better this stuff was
done in other, older movies, including most of the "Hardy Boys Mysteries"
starring Shaun Cassidy from the 1970s. That said, "Blair Witch"
scared the bejesus out of me.
You probably know the deal by now, as the producers of "The Blair Witch
Project" have done an amazing job getting the word out on this film over the
Internet: three college kids go off to a little town in Maryland to film a
documentary on a local legend, the "Blair Witch" of the title, a myth that
locals have used for decades to scare their children with, and the three
students, after interviewing a few locals, set off to the woods to check out
the Haunts of the Witch.
Here comes the hook: a bunch of bad luck befalls them, and a bunch of downright
creepy stuff starts to occur to the three filmmakers. Weird noises wake them
up in the night, and they begin to stumble across various signs and portents of
ill omen as they trek in endless, hopelessly lost circles trying to get back to
their car. And then all hell breaks loose.
We know they all die going in, and it doesn't spoil the movie at all to know
this; in fact, it says so right in the advertising, right at the beginning of
the film before the title even appears: three filmmakers went into the woods,
none came back; we found their film a year later in a duffel bag in the middle
of the woods and edited it, and now you're watching it. The hoax element that
seems to upset some people after viewing this film is that none of it is real,
although co-directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick and the movie's
producers have kept an extremely straight face through all the months of
building hype over "Blair Witch," leading some people to believe this is an
actual documentary (all the film is shot on either 16mm or 8mm handheld cameras
by the principal actors.) It's not. The actors are all alive and well. There
is no Blair Witch. But in presenting a completely plausible story, by
utilizing actors who perform naturalistically and comfortably (and share their
real names with those of their characters,) and by letting the grim, often
grainy, always jerky film footage shot by the "student filmmakers" speak for
itself, it's easy to see why so many people have gone home thinking they just
witnessed something akin to a snuff film. It's that real. And it's just a
story, a made-up thing. It's a wonderful creation, tangible and real enough
that even a viewer hip to the fakeness of the enterprise going in can easily
fool him or herself into believing it actually happened.
And that is the amazing, gripping thing about "Blair Witch"; you want to
believe, even as you deny it with your mind. The "cinematography" is so deeply
personal that the viewer is sucked into the adventure, just another student
filmmaker out for a weekend lark when the terror starts to creep in.
The first half of the film is all set-up, absolutely necessary but pedestrian.
The second half is a vise grip on the heart. I couldn't take my eyes off the
screen even for a second. I saw things I couldn't believe I was seeing, things
I didn't WANT to see, but I couldn't help it. I had to look, because THEY were
filming. I won't mention specifics, because it's the little things that make
the movie so wrenching, the feeling of sadness and gloom and ultimate failure
that hangs over the proceedings like the heavy, ashen foliage of Maryland's
Black Hills Forest. And when you get to the end, the very last scene, you're
sucked back into the fears of the child you used to be, some fears you thought
you'd packed away and left behind.
So this is the hype and this is how it's featured: "Scariest Movie of All
Time." Is it? Probably not. But it's fear done the way fear should be done,
emotions and imagery and clutter in the backwoods of the mind, and the special
effects and the gore are shown politely to the closet and left there, where
they belong. You should see this movie, if only to remember what it's like to
be scared of something that, rationally, you should not be afraid of. Scared
witless. Go see "The Blair Witch Project" today. Bring a friend.