Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary… A year later, their footage was found. That’s it. That’s all you need to know. First of all, there isn’t much more of a plot anyway, and then it’s best to know the least possible about the film for it to be a memorable experience. I personally enjoyed “The Blair Witch Project”, though not half as much as most of the film community. This is the most over hyped picture since last year’s Saving Private Ryan. Both are near-brilliant technical achievements whose content don’t quite match. I still admire them, but not to the point of calling them the greatest war movie ever, or the new face of horror. I agree that it’s surprising how much filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick did with so little. They just hired three determined actors and sent them in the woods with little direction. They shot themselves the film with a black & white 16mm camera and a video camcorder, and everything we see is what their characters supposedly filmed. So it’s all shaky handheld camera and disjointed continuity, faulty sound and lack of focus. Yet it creates a realistic mood, so when things start going bump in the dark, it’s creepy. There’s moments where the screen is all black, and you’re not sure what you’re hearing but you know something’s happened. It didn’t scare me per se (I’m almost never scared at the movies), but it’s nonetheless gripping and involving.
The biggest strength of “The Blair Witch Project” has got to be the acting. Most of the dialogue is improvised, so the performances feel natural, which is essential for the film to works. Joshua Leonard is an easygoing slacker, while Michael Williams is a more impatient dude who loses his cool when things get out of hand. And then there’s Heather Donahue, who’s just amazing. She plays a wannabe filmmaker who almost never stops shooting everything around her. There’s an interesting point made in the film about how the camera is kind of like a filter between reality and you, so it seems less real and terrifying. Donahue is cute and fun, and then she has those wrenching scenes in which she’s as good (if not better) than any A-list actress. I liked how the film gradually builds up tension, as the three realize they’re lost, and cold, and hungry, and scared by what might be the work of the witch. Yet I have a few reserves which makes me unable to praise the film as much as Roger Ebert, Harry Knowles and others did. First, I felt that as ingenious as it is, it still could have went further. Then, you gotta admit it’s not that innovative. Faux verite has been done before, notably in the much more disturbing and effective “C’est Arrive Pres de Chez Vous” (released in English as “Man Bites Dog”), a 1992 Belgium masterpiece about a film crew that follows a guy who makes a living robbing and killing people. “The Blair Witch Project” remains a welcome change from studio blockbusters, as it’s more preoccupied with human behavior than with special effects.