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Blair Witch Project

USA 1999
produced by
Haxan
directed by Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick
starring Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard
written by Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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To uncover the story of the Blair Witch, which they think to be some kind of urban (or rural) myth, 3 students, Heather (Donahue), Mikey (Michael Williams) & Josh (Joshua Leonard) with their cameras & equipment head for Burkittsville, Maryland, a small village where in the 40's a bunch of kids have disappeared & were - allegedly found dead in a house in the woods, facing the wall with their heads knocked in ...

The interviews with a few locals prove promising enough for our 3 filmmakers, as the Burkittsville townfolks have some creepy stories to tell, but once the trio is off into the woods, things start to go haywire: First it's only Heather losing her way (despite having map & compass), then the 3 of them find weird, macabre bundles of wood & stone piles that show them they aren't alone, even though there is not a soul around for miles ... & finally they hear spooky noises at night. When the map suddenly goes missing, & there's even less chance to find their way again, tensions in the group mount, not at all helped when Mikey confesses he has thrown the map away ...

The next night, in their tent, they hear crying children from just about everywhere, & when  their tent seems to be physically attacked, they just run ... & upon returning to the tent the next morning they find their things in a terrible mess. after another day of walking that leads them nowhere, Josh disappears the next night, & in the morning, Heather & Mikey find another bundle of wood in front of their tent, & in it Josh's shirt, full of blood, & his cut off fingers ...

Finally, following Josh's cries for help they hear from afar, they find a run-down, uninhabited house in the middle of the woods, & Josh's cries for help indicate he's in there ... but when Mikey & Heather  descend to the cellar, they are turned facing the wall, & bumped over the head ...

 

At its release, Blair Witch Project, a very cheaply, independently produced  film, caused a stir as it hit just the right nerve with many audiences, delivering just the right blend of urban myth, mystery & conspiracy to compete (& win out over) the many faceless blockbusters the major studios tried to feed the world with. That this movie was one of the very first to use the internet not solely as a rack to put on poster ads but as a tie-in contributing to the movie's mysterious goings-on didn't hurt either - & as a result many viewers took the movie for a real documentary.

Stylistically, the movie tried an unusual way of storytelling in telling the story from first person point of view & making it look like just the stuff the protagonists have filmed - a method that might have been novel for Hollywood-audiences, but in fact it was lifted (as were many story elements) directly from Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust from 1979, which despite its exploitative subject matter was way more critical about sensation-hungry media & documentary filmmaking as such than Blair Witch Project. The other major influence of the film was obviously 1972's Deliverance, that also had a bunch of city slickers thrown into a world they don't understand, & where also much of the horror is just in the protagonists (& the audience's) imagination.

Taken by its own merits though, Blair Witch Project is a genuinely spooky movie, the (mock-)documentary style of which - & with it the immediate first person point of view, contribute to the horror, making up for the absence of any actual horrific images (besides from Josh's cut off fingers) or the actual absence of any kind of villain, monster or .. witch.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD