This film review will focus on the film 'The Blair Witch Project (1999)', the story is about a bunch of teenage students who launch a research program in a legend called the Blair Witch. The Blair Witch is a myth that has been around the 1700's, which speaks of a woman who lured children into her home and drew blood from them. Accused of witchcraft the woman was banished because of he actions, it was also a very harsh winter so she was presumed dead. After a long time people began to report sighting of a pale woman in the forest, but no solid evidence was found. That is when the story takes place, and it shows the terrifying demise of all three students, because of the Blair Witch.
The film was released in 1999 and was directed by Daniel Myrick, produced by Gregg Hale, Neal Fredericks did the cinematography and the music was done by Antonio Cora. The film was based off the urban legend 'The Blair Witch' and the whole film is filmed off only two cameras and when is was released to the public some people believed that this was an actual event that took place.
'The Blair Witch Project (1999)' is a film that is mostly a visual statement more than anything else, being made as if it was done by someone who had never made a film before, really sells the realism for this film. Having personalities that we can all relate too and associate ourselves with can really sell the immersion of the film. Also the fact that the film is shot on a hand held really sells the immersion for the film, giving a literal perspective on what is happening.
The film is terrifying for only one reason, making out for there to be a threat when there is not threat visible but still something there. The fact the film was made to be as real as possible seriously immerses you, "The movie is like a celebration of rock-bottom production values--of how it doesn't take bells and whistles to scare us. It's presented in the form of a documentary. We learn from the opening titles that in 1994 three young filmmakers went into a wooded area in search of a legendary witch: "A year later, their footage was found." The film's style and even its production strategy enhance the illusion that it's a real documentary." (R Ebert. 1999)
Figure 2: Josh
The first way to open up some of the though processes into this film is to admire some of the design choices made for this film to sell the realism, the biggest decision being how it was filmed. There are two cameras in the film, one being a professional film camera used to shoot the documentary and the other being a little cam-corder, like a personal video logging camera. The film starts out with mostly the monochromatic camera being used to shoot the documentary but then as the film begins to progress we begin to see more of the hand held camera.
One very notable change in the uses of the cameras is that it almost turns from video documentary into crime scene investigation, the most recognizable instance of this is when the team stumble across the odd wooden statues. Immediately the team pulls out their cameras and begin recording, notice how they do note get any kind of voice over for these recordings, like some sort of crime scene.
Now the way that the film is recorded or 'Camera Acted' is very interesting, to increase immersion the hand held camera is used for most of the film, so when the teams tent is invade by 'Something?' they grab the camera and immediately run. The violent shaking of the camera and the dwindling white color of one of the boys really sell that these guys are running fast from 'Something', they can't see what it is but its something.
Also the cast for the film were really pushed to their limits for this film, in order to immerse their cast they actually took the actors out into the woods and began to give them less food and less sleep, making their improvisations even more realistic "Though the story was plotted very carefully, the dialogue was improvised. The raw, amateurish-seeming scenes that result, with their repetitiveness and lack of focus, only pull us deeper into the film's illusion that what we're seeing really happened. The actors, who actually spent several days in the woods, eating less and less and never quite sure what was going on, come apart harrowingly. Its ghost story aside, the movie is a nerve-racking account of a group of people going to pieces under stress." (L Rose. 1999)
Figure 3: Stick Objects
Now there is one very strong design choice when this film was made and that was the night time filming scenes. The camera cannot see through the pitch black apart from a couple flickers of white and grey, so when we are introduced to something that is following there are two things that are strongly emphasized. The first is seeing what is not actually there, this being a horror film we expect some sort of jumpscare but we never really get one, instead we are only left to assume, squinting into the dark colors to try and make something out but all we see are broken twigs and tall grass.
This film set an example for a large majority of fear driven media to come, films like 'Unfriended (2014)' or 'Paranormal Activity (2007)', would have taken a large chunk of inspiration from this film. To make the audience feel real fear the film can try and immerse you by giving you a perspective whilst the action takes place, you can see it happening and you are hopeless to help any of them.
This film is a must watch for anyone who wants to analyze horror films, the atmosphere, the darkness, the story, it all works really well. The design choices of only using two cameras, filming before the expedition starts and the slow mental degradation of our cast really sells this film. A minor thing to be mentioned which sold the film which was an accident, as the teens interview people around asking about the Blair Witch, one woman they interview is holding a child that can barely speak however when this topic is started the child keeps putting its hand over the mothers mouth saying "No!", this was clearly an accident but a spooky one to say the least. "I will say only that, the first time I saw it, I found myself for the final five minutes gripping the seat in front of me and actually beginning to rise saucer-eyed from my seat. But you must judge for yourself." (P Bradshaw. 1999) Bibliography L Rose
Company, T.W.P. (1999) '‘The Blair witch project’ (R)' In: Washington Post 16 July 1999