The Blair Witch Project Review
I’ll try and post another day about horror in other media - video games, literature, television, etc. - but for today’s post, I’ll stick with movies. The whole reason I’m writing about scary movies is because of an incident that occurred a couple of months ago.
My brother and I are often up late and talk - it’s usually dumb stuff - whatever questions come to mind. A few months ago I asked: “What’s the scariest movie ever made?” We tried to think of one… and as it turns out - we couldn’t. We settled on Pyscho, but we both agreed that it wasn’t exactly scary. It was just a good movie. I tried to argue The Ring, which yes, I still do find scary. My brother disagrees.
This led me to rent The Blair Witch Project. It’s one of the only horror movies I hadn’t seen, so I thought, “why not?” Noticing it was only 86 minutes long, I made the mistake of starting it at 1am.
I was alone. In my room. In the dark.
That leads to my first thought on what scares us: being alone. If I’d seen The Blair Witch Project with a bunch of friends in a movie theatre, I probably would have walked out, making some joke, like “Where the hell was the witch?” I don’t know, maybe that’s a defensive mechanism… But if you see the movie alone at night, it’s a really eerie experience.
For some reason, in my mind, The Blair Witch Project had some really horrible connotations. I always dismissed it as a cheesy, gimmicky movie before having seen it. It’s not. It’s one of - actually, it is the - best made horror movie to date. I have no problems saying that. It’s simply terrifying.
Because like The Ring, The Blair Witch Project leaves so much to the imagination. Things simply happen and they don’t need to be explained or given some profound meaning. Watching The Blair Witch Project helped me discover what scares me. I’m not saying this is true for everyone. Some people are scared by jumpy moments like the shower scene in Psycho. Others are scared by violence and gore, like in Hostel. That’s fine, if that’s what scares you.
What scares me is when things don’t make sense. Our world is so ordered - especially when you look at entertainment. Things always work out in the end - every character gets used, every subplot gets resolved - even if it means a character dying. Yes, it might be scary, but it still makes sense within the confines of the movie. It’s when things don’t get resolved - when they don’t make sense - that I grow tense.
The Blair Witch Project nails this fear. First of all, the movie and its characters are very believable. If someone told me this tape was found in the woods, I could easily believe it. They sound just like college students. Mix in those unexplainable events: the random piles of rocks, the wooden stick figures, the noises in the woods, the pile of twigs and twine outside the tent. None of it makes sense… and it doesn’t need to. To me, it felt incredibly realistic. I couldn’t help but think if a witch wanted to kill you, this is how it would happen. She wouldn’t appear and yell “BOO!” It would be a series of random, frightening events that don’t make any sense. If a movie is about something paranormal it should be just that - something that isn’t normal.
The other common fear that The Blair Witch Project employs is the idea of being lost in the woods. This is such a terrifying concept. It reminds me of being on a cruise and that lingering thought of “what if I fell overboard?” By being lost in the woods, these three college students know they’re in trouble and watching them slowly lose all hope is very unsettling. It takes the idea of claustrophobia - or being buried alive - and explodes it in the other direction: being stuck in a vast open environment with limited food and water.
When this notion of being lost in the woods is mixed with being hunted by some paranormal entity that has no rhyme or reason… the result is the most unsettling horror movie in recent memory. While I said The Ring scares me, I can go back and watch that at any time and enjoy it - it’s well made. The Blair Witch Project is well made, too, but I wouldn’t go back and re-watch it. Believe it or not, it’s just too creepy.
That’s about all I have to say on The Blair Witch Project and what scares me. If you haven’t seen it, I swear, it’s not the gimmicky movie you might think. It’s seriously the scariest movie I’ve seen and it stays with you long after the credits. Just don’t blame me if you can’t sleep after the final scene.