Before I begin, I'd like to say that I'm not a huge fan of the horror genre; but not because I don't like being scarred, but because I am very rarely frightened by movies. The key appeal of a horror movie to most people is it's ability to get them on the edge of their seat, and it very rarely does that for me. There are a couple that have rattled me (The Exorcist, Seven) and some I enjoy for their plots or directing (The Shining, Alien, Day of the Dead), but on a whole I don't get the genre, whether the film happens to be a teen slasher flick of the 1990's, a gore feast of yesteryear or even the classic Monster pictures of old Hollywood.
That said, "The Blair Witch Project" was an hour and a half of sheer boredom and sloppy camera-work. For those who haven't seen it, it revolves around a group of three film students who set out to make a documentary on the Blair Witch, a legendary figure supposedly living in the woods of Maryland. Seen from a hand-held camera, it shows the group as they go from being enthusiastic about what they think is going to be a two day camping trip to slightly distressed about being lost to utterly terrified at being pursued by what we are led to assume is the Blair witch. The film is careful to never actually show the witch. The "scares" come from the students terrified reactions to their increasingly dire predicament. As the become more and more lost, they begin seeing signs of the witch and of course begin to hear odd noises in the night. Some would argue that the film is scary because of what you don't see; I find that little is given to make us believe that their truly is something evil stalking the students. In order to make the terror seem real, the film mostly relies on one thing: screaming. There is rarely a minute in the "Blair Witch" where one of the kids isn't screaming their lungs out over something. Would real people react the same way in the same situation? Probably, but this doesn't make it interesting. The simple fact is that the movie lacks almost any tension what-so-ever, and rarely manages to surprise (the reasonably well scripted ending being the exception).
To its credit, the acting does lends to the documentary feel of the film well. Since the students aren't actually shooting their documentary most of the time, we see them acting like fairly normal college students, which means crude jokes, pot smoking and an abundance of profanity. The acting, while certainly not interesting by any means, is effecting in creating the illusion that these were real events. The characters seem like a trio of goof balls on a camping trip, and their reactions to their growing troubles are believable. The "real" acting can't change the fact that never once are we intrigued by a character's reaction to the horrors around them, as the reaction is almost always the same: running, screaming and talking about how scared they are into the camera.
I've got to hand it to the people who masterminded the "Blair Witch", because they certainly managed to do well; making well over $200 million dollars from a movie that cost just over twenty grand to produce. While arguably one of the biggest phenomena of 1999, "The Blair Witch Project" hasn't become the classic many people said it would become. This is all well with me, because despite the fact that it scarred a whole lot of people, the "Blair Witch" is a movie without a hint of substance, even by horror standards. I can remember very few other films that managed to bore me as much as this simple minded scream-fest. Perhapse I just don't get it, and I'm sure most people would be frightened by some of the film. Either way, I'm taking comfort in the fact that we probably will never see a movie like this again.