Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.
This is really a movie that has polarized a lot of people. Many love it and consider it the best thing since sliced bread, and plenty more absolutely hate it and call it tripe, drivel, awful, wretched, the worst ever, etc. (NOTE: as far as I'm concerned, the opinions of anyone calling any movie the best- or even more especially, the worst- movie ever are to be immediately disregarded.) Highly innovative in its way, it spawned many parodies and an interesting but inferior sort-of sequel. In the summer of Star Wars: Episode 1, this was the movie that originated several cultural symbols.
I saw this movie shortly after it opened in wide release. Sitting in a theater surrounded by my friends with popcorn in my lap and watching Mike and Heather run around some creepy old house, I felt for the first and last time in my adult life *real, creeping fear* when I myself was not in danger.
Many have complained about the shaky-cam, the cussing, how nothing 'really happens', and that it's not scary. By and large, the camera is not *that* shaky, at least to the point where you can't understand why- they're tromping through the woods and they're scared half to death. I must not get queasy very easily, as I had no problem with it. As for the cussing- the lines were ad-libbed, the actors are college-age, and all three sound exactly like every American college student I've ever known. So maybe people have a problem with young peoples' language, but what else is new? That's not a flaw of the movie- it's realism and part of why so many more young people found TBWP scary.
I think at least some of the dissention in opinions is caused by generational and cultural differences. My mother's friends told me it wasn't scary, but that 'Psycho' terrified them. 'Psycho', while interesting and a classic, is not the least bit scary to me. 'The Excorcist' has only a couple scenes that I find frightening, but my mom breaks out in goosebumps at the mere mention of it. The scariest thing I ever saw until I watched this movie was a reel in a collection of horror shorts: a woman walks into her house carrying groceries, drops her keys down her heating vent, bends down to try to get them, and something grabs her scarf. She struggles, but within a minute or two, she's drug down and strangled. The scarf goes slack, the woman is lying dead on her floor, and that's it.
TBWP is about what you *can't see*, about how your fear of the unknown is so much worse than what the unknown could probably ever be. The characters were not even necessarily likable, but they were *familiar*- Heather is the girl I sit next to in film class who thinks she has all the answers. Their mundane existence, captured in the beginning of the film, roots them in reality. What happens to them is terrifying because they are so every day, so interchangable with millions of other college kids. And, finally, you never know whether the Witch exists or not. Everything that happens can be explained away by coincidence, pranksters, bats, hunger, exhaustion and imaginations run wild with fear- or you can choose not to explain them away.
Young Americans are not scared of much- school shootings can roll off us like water, the evil human beings inflict on each other is run-of-the-mill 6 o'clock news, we are raised in a culture that claims to worship a vengeful, elitist god while almost everyone is hypocritical and uses the power of spirituality as a way to abuse others. We are in information overload from birth. What we fear is not knowing. And in the Black Hills Woods of Maryland, just beyond the flashlight's reach, something is making strange and terrible noises- but we don't know what it is.
- May 1, 2001