I vividly remember the first time I saw The Blair Witch Project, I was visiting the cinema with friends watching a double bill of South Park: Bigger, longer & uncut and Blair Witch, a new horror film that had been released with quite some fanfare. Praised for it’s originality, released under the pretence of the film being ‘found footage’ and supposedly adding to the air of realism. It didn’t disappoint.
Written & directed by Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez on a shoestring budget of $60,000 with a cast of unknown actors, the main focus just being on 3 of them, the documentarians who have travelled into the Black Hills of Burkittsville, Maryland in search of the local legend know as the Blair Witch.
The actors were given very little in the way of direction and were openly asked to improvise, directed to each location with a basic outline on what they needed to do via messages in milk crates located via GPS. Each actor had their own individual instructions so as to keep their actions a surprise to even their co-stars. By the time filming had been completed, the actors had recorded between them a startling 19 hours of footage.
The Blair Witch Project can boast itself as a true trailblazer in cinematic technique and marketing. The first ‘found footage’ film to achieve widespread success, people were enamoured by the format. Today it is a style that is used prolifically. It is also considered to be the first film to be promoted widely by use of the Internet. The films website was filled with fake police reports and interviews to perpetuate the suggestion that the content of the film was real, it was a truly effective and original way to promote and generate buzz for a film.
The film was a worldwide success story, praised by critics and cinema goers alike. It made $248 million worldwide, a gigantic return on its tiny budget, prompting an ill conceived sequel, spin off video games and various other cynical cash ins.
Now, some 17 years later, seemingly out of the blue, a new Blair Witch movie is about to be released. It is unlikely to capture the same feelings we felt watching Blair Witch Project for the first time but advance word of mouth is promising. I for one am quite eager to return to the black hills and hopefully relive what I felt in the cinema that day nearly 2 decades ago.