Posts Tagged ‘The Blair Witch Project

01
Oct
12

Mutants, Monsters and Madmen-NOW AVAILABLE!

Last year, you guys may remember that I spent the entire month of October watching and talking about assorted scary movies, chronologically tracing the evolution of horror films from the 1920s up until the present day. I really enjoyed that little project and I think a lot of you did too. And now, as Halloween approaches again, I’m ready to launch the next stage of that project, my new eBook Reel to Reel: Mutants, Monsters and Madmen.

This eBook collects the 35 essays I wrote last year, plus five brand-new ones written just for this collection. Over the course of this book, I look at how the things that scare us have grown and evolved over the last century, dishing on some of the greatest, most influential and most memorable scary movies ever made. This eBook, available now for a mere $2.99, is hopefully going to be the first in a series, in which I’ll tackle different cinematic topics the same way.

If you read the essays last year, check this one out and enjoy the new ones. If you haven’t read any of them, dive in now for the first time. And tell all of your horror movie-loving friends about it as well! After all, the reason I decided to write this book in the first place is because I wanted to read a book like this one, but I just couldn’t find one. The market is out there, friends. Help us find each other.

(And lest I forget, thanks to Heather Petit Keller for the cover design!)

You can get the book now in the following online stores:

Amazon.com (for your Kindle or Kindle app)
Smashwords.com (for every other eBook reader)

And in case you’re wondering, the movies covered in this book include:

*The Golem (1920)
*Nosferatu (1922)
*The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
*Dracula (1931)
*Frankenstein (1931)
*The Mummy (1932)
*Freaks (1932)
*Cat People (1942)
*The Fly (1958)
*Peeping Tom (1960)
*Psycho (1960)
*Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Terror (1962-New in this edition!)
*Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
*The Haunting (1963)
*The Birds (1963-New in this edition!)
*Wait Until Dark (1967)
*Night of the Living Dead (1968)
*Last House on the Left (1972)
*The Exorcist (1973)
*The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
*Jaws (1975)
*Carrie (1976)
*Suspiria (1977)
*Halloween (1978)
*Alien (1979)
*The Shining (1980)
*Friday the 13th (1980)
*The Evil Dead (1981)
*Poltergeist (1982)
*The Thing (1982)
*A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
*Return of the Living Dead (1985)
*Hellraiser (1987-New to this edition!)
*Child’s Play (1988-New to this edition!)
*Misery (1990)
*Scream (1996)
*Ringu (1998)
*The Blair Witch Project (1999)
*Saw (2004)
*The Cabin in the Woods (2012-New to this edition!)

30
Oct
11

Story Structure Day 34: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Writer: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Plot: The movie opens up with a title card informing the viewer that three film students disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994, and that what we’re about to watch is their footage, which was found a year later. Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (using their real names) pack up their equipment and begin walking around town, asking locals questions about the mysterious legend of the Blair Witch. The locals of Burkittsville – formerly known as Blair — weave a story about a lunatic in the 1940s who kidnapped and murdered seven children, claiming to be compelled by the spirit of an 18th-century witch named Elly Kedward, who was hanged by the people of Blair. The three of them go into the woods to seek out Coffin Rock, supposedly a spot where five men were bound together and murdered over a century earlier. They make camp, and in the morning Josh reports waking up in the night and hearing some cackling sounds from the woods. Friction begins to grow between Mike and Heather – Mike insisting she keeps getting them lost – and Josh tries to play peacemaker. As they wander, they find stones and branches arranged in strange structures that seem to echo something told to them in town by a woman they dismissed as a lunatic. They hear more sounds in the night, and wake up to a rainfall and an angry Mike, who believes locals have followed them into the woods to toy with them. They try to walk back back to where they left their car, but are unable to find it before nightfall and finally make camp. That night, they hear more of the strange sounds outside the tent, and in the morning they find three piles of rocks that weren’t there before. Before they leave, Heather realizes she can’t find the map, and the three of them all begin suspecting each other of taking it. After some time, Mike laughs and confesses he threw the map into the creek, and Heather and Josh attack him in a rage.

Later, calmer, they find figures made from sticks dangling from the trees, and eventually, they decide to make camp and not light a fire, terrified that someone is tracking them through the woods. In the night, there are more strange sounds and the tent begins to quake, driving them out. When they return, their belongings have been rifled through, and Josh’s recording equipment has been damaged. The next day, despite keeping a southern course for 15 hours, the find themselves back at a log crossing a creek they’d already passed, and their frustration and desperation increases. The next morning, Heather and Mike cannot find Josh, and eventually are forced to go on without him. That night they think they hear him in the woods, and in the morning Heather finds a bundle of twigs wrapped in the bloody tatters of Josh’s shirt. She freaks out, but hides her discovery from Mike. That night, alone, she records herself apologizing to her parents and those of her crew, and takes the blame for everything that has happened, certain she and Mike will die in the woods. They hear Josh again and follow his cries to a house in the middle of the woods. As they search, Mike thinks he hears Josh downstairs and runs there with a camera, finding odd writing on the walls. As he walks, there’s a thumping sound and the camera falls. The footage begins again, Heather screaming, until we see Mike standing with his face against the wall. There is another scream. The camera falls to the floor. And the screen goes black.

Thoughts: The filming of The Blair Witch Project has become something of a moviemaking legend. With a mere $20,000, Myrick and Sanchez took three unknown actors into the woods and made a movie that was largely improvised, giving them notes about what to feel or how to behave rather than being strict about the lines they spoke, and often not even telling the actors what they were going to do to scare them, trying to capture a realistic feeling to their reactions. The resulting film made nearly $250 million, making it by far one of the most profitable movies of all time. The film is also notable for being one of the first – if not the first – movie marketed heavily on the Internet. A web page was established that went viral on the conceit that the film was real, with lots of articles, videos and photographs presented to support the film’s premise.

You can really track the legacy of this movie in two ways, neither of them having anything to do with the weak sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Although the film did not create the “found footage” genre – the idea that you’re watching a movie constructed of footage filmed by the characters themselves – it sure as hell made it popular. As is always the case, some of the movies that have used this concept in the years since have been critical successes, some have been commercial successes, and some have been outright flops. But unlike most other films that spawn a rash of imitators, only Blair Witch can lay claim to creating a subgenre that is immediately repulsive to anybody who gets seasick easily.

The second – and, to my way of thinking, more important – legacy of this movie the way it change how movies are marketed. In 1999, the Internet was still relatively new to most people, and nobody quite understood yet the power it would one day have. The Blair Witch website, combined with a few other tie-ins like a Sci-Fi Channel special and a comic book from Oni Press, turned a movie made on a microscopic budget into an international sensation. Now, it would be insane to make a movie that doesn’t have a website, it would be ludicrous to not create viral content that fans can find, enjoy, and share with other people in the hopes of generating new fans. If you were on Facebook earlier today, watching the trailers for The Muppets, try to wrap your brain around the fact that such a presentation has its origin in The Blair Witch Project.

In terms of what actually makes it scary, I don’t think it’s the supernatural elements that do the trick. Yeah, the piles of rocks, the little twig-construction stick figures and the other weird things they find in the woods all help contribute to a culture of fear that exists in the film. What makes it work, though, is the way the characters slowly break down. When the movie begins they’re lively and enthusiastic about making their movie. As the film progresses, they get antsy, they get belligerent, and they begin to turn on each other. The suspicion that infects them, the way their little society completely falls apart after a while is pretty scary by itself, because that could happen to anybody. Strip away the witch, take away the manufactured scares, and look at it just as a story about people crumbling just because they’re lost and scared. And it works. Heather’s breakdown near the end has joined the ranks of iconic horror movie scenes for very good reason.

The Blair Witch Project gets a lot of crap today. Like many things which reach enormous popularity very quickly, there was a backlash afterwards by those who feel like it’s uncool to like anything mainstream, and a bit more by those who didn’t care for the style of filmmaking. (Out of the two, the second is by far the more legitimate complaint.) People complain that they feel like they’re watching somebody’s home movies – which, of course, is part of the point. My favorite argument, though, is those who were angry that we never see the witch. My response to this is simple: what could they possibly have shown you that would be scary enough to match what you built up in your own mind?

And of course, there are also many people who react because the whole “found footage” thing has been overdone. Again, this is legitimate – the third Paranormal Activity movie using the same concept just hit theaters as I write this, and frankly I haven’t found them to be remotely frightening – but I think it’s unfair to put the blame for that on Blair Witch. It’s not the fault of this movie that others copied it badly, and as far as this one goes, I think it does what it does very well. I watch this today and get the creeps just as easily as I did back in college. And to me, that’s what makes a movie memorable.

Tomorrow the first stage of Story Structure (yes, first stage) reaches its conclusion with the most recent film to change the way horror movies are made… so far. We’re going to take a look at Saw.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

03
Feb
11

What I’m Watching in 2011

Okay, we’re over a month into the year, it’s time for me to begin my running tally of movies I’ve watched in 2011. Those of you who see this list when it’s first posted will notice a definite trend towards 2010 films. If you’ve read this post, that makes a lot more sense. At any rate, this is where I’m keeping my annual running tally of the movies I see this year, and my quick rating of them. And if I review a movie at any of the many websites where I turn out such content, I’ll throw up a link.

What I’m Watching in 2011

  1. How to Train Your Dragon (2010), B+
  2. Infestation (2009), B+
  3. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), A
  4. True Grit (2010), A+
  5. Shutter Island (2010), B-
  6. Robin Hood (2010), C
  7. Easy A (2010), A-
  8. Splice (2009), D-
  9. Dinner For Schmucks (2010), B-
  10. Buried (2010), B+
  11. The Social Network (2010), A
  12. Repo Men (2010), C
  13. Logan’s Run (1976), B
  14. Exam (2008), A
  15. The Town (2010), A
  16. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010), B
  17. Fame (2009), B-
  18. Back to the Future (1985), A+
  19. Superman (1978), A+
  20. Cop Out (2010), D
  21. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010), C
  22. All-Star Superman (2011), A
  23. The Crucible (1996), A
  24. Unknown (2011), C+
  25. Legion (2010), C-
  26. The Book of Eli (2010), C+
  27. Mulholland Drive (2001), B
  28. A Bug’s Life (1998), B
  29. Battle: Los Angeles (2011), B
  30. RED (2010), B+
  31. Frozen (2010), B
  32. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (2011), B+
  33. A Beautiful Mind (2002), A
  34. Machete (2010), D
  35. Monsters (2010), C
  36. Let Me In (2010), B
  37. Limitless (2011), B+
  38. Devil (2010), C+
  39. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010), C-
  40. Scream (1996), A
  41. Scream 2 (1997), B
  42. Scream 3 (2000), B-
  43. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A+
  44. Love and Other Drugs (2010), B+
  45. Moon (2009), A
  46. Fight Club (1999), B
  47. Megamind (2010), B
  48. Scream 4 (2011), B+
  49. The Experiment (2010), B
  50. It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010), A-
  51. The King’s Speech (2010), A
  52. Lottery Ticket (2010), C
  53. Mary Poppins (1964), A
  54. Ghostbusters 2 (1989), B+
  55. Wall•E (2008), A
  56. The Other Guys (2010), D
  57. Akira (1988), B
  58. The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story (2009), A
  59. The Phantom Tollbooth (1970), A
  60. The Last Unicorn (1982), B+
  61. Chicken Little (2005), B
  62. The Fighter (2010), B
  63. Saw: The Final Chapter (2010), B-
  64. Memento (2000), A
  65. The Untouchables (1987), A
  66. Thor (2011), A
  67. Firebreather (2010), B-
  68. Bookwars (2000), B-
  69. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010), A
  70. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), C
  71. Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy) (2010), B+
  72. Die Hard (1988), A
  73. The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), B+
  74. The Princess Bride (1987), A+
  75. Holes (2003), B+
  76. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), B+
  77. Skyline (2010), D
  78. The Last Airbender (2010), C-
  79. The Last Starfighter (1984), A
  80. Duck Soup (1933), A+
  81. The Hangover Part II (2011), B
  82. Piranha (2010), C+
  83. UHF (1989), B
  84. Spaceballs (1987), B
  85. The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920), B+
  86. Labyrinth (1986), A
  87. The Green Hornet (2011), D+
  88. Series 7: The Contenders (2001), B+
  89. 127 Hours (2010), B+
  90. Saludos Amigos (1942), B
  91. The Three Caballeros (1944), B+
  92. X-Men: First Class (2011), A-
  93. The Last Man on Earth (1964), B
  94. The Vampire’s Night Orgy (1973), F
  95. Chloe (2009), B
  96. Nosferatu (1922), A
  97. The Virginity Hit (2010), B
  98. The Color of Magic (2008), B
  99. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011), B+
  100. Vanishing on 7th Street (2010), C+
  101. Green Lantern: First Flight (2009), A-
  102. Rubber (2010), C+
  103. Walt and El Grupo (2008), B
  104. Super 8 (2011), A
  105. Big Fish (2003), A+
  106. Black Death (2010), B
  107. Battle Royale (2001), B+
  108. The Faculty (1998), B-
  109. Green Lantern (2011), B-
  110. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), B-
  111. Synecdoche, New York (2008), C
  112. The Phantom of the Opera (1925), A
  113. Fright Night (1985), B
  114. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), A
  115. The Fugitive (1993), A
  116. Cars (2006), B+
  117. Cars 2 (2011), B+
  118. After.Life (2009), C
  119. Zapped! (1982), D
  120. James and the Giant Peach (1996), B
  121. Young Frankenstein (1974), A
  122. The Addams Family (1991), B+
  123. The Great Muppet Caper (1981), B
  124. A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner (2011), D
  125. Dracula (1931), B
  126. Death Note (2006), B
  127. Tales From the Script (2009), B+
  128. Unthinkable (2010), B+
  129. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007), A-
  130. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), B
  131. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), B-
  132. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), B+
  133. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), B+
  134. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2008), B-
  135. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), B+
  136. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010), A
  137. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011), A
  138. Frankenstein (1931), A
  139. The Mummy (1932), B
  140. Be Kind, Rewind (2008), B
  141. 25th Hour (2002), B
  142. The Incredibles (2004), A+
  143. Zodiac (2007), A
  144. Rec (2007), B+
  145. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), A
  146. Miller’s Tale (2011), B+
  147. Freaks (1932), B
  148. Red Riding Hood (2011), D
  149. Battle Royale II (2003), C
  150. Cowboys and Aliens (2011), C+
  151. Ernest Goes to Camp (1987), B
  152. Ernest Goes to Jail (1990), C+
  153. The Beginning of the End (1957), F; MST3K Riff, B
  154. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), F; MST3K Riff, B+
  155. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011), A-
  156. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), A
  157. Cat People (1942), B
  158. Curse of the Cat People (1944), C-
  159. Sucker Punch (2011), D
  160. The Fly (1958), A
  161. Peeping Tom (1960), B
  162. Best Worst Movie (2009), A
  163. Troll 2 (1990), F
  164. Psycho (1960), A
  165. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), A
  166. Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011), B
  167. Super (2010), B+
  168. The Haunting (1963), B
  169. Night of the Living Dead (1968), A
  170. The Last House on the Left (1972), C-
  171. Suicide Girls Must Die (2011), C-
  172. Wait Until Dark (1967), A
  173. The Exorcist (1973), A
  174. Gamera (1965), C; MST3K Riff, A
  175. Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  176. Gamera Vs. Gaos (1967), D; MST3K Riff, B
  177. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), C+
  178. Jaws (1975), A
  179. Carrie (1976), B+
  180. Suspiria (1977), D+
  181. Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  182. Contagion (2011), C+
  183. Halloween (1978), A
  184. Alien (1979), A
  185. The Shining (1980), C+
  186. Friday the 13th (1980), B
  187. The Evil Dead (1981), B+
  188. The Thing (1982), A
  189. Poltergeist (1982), B+
  190. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), B
  191. Return of the Living Dead (1985), C-
  192. Misery (1990), A
  193. Ringu (1998), B+
  194. The Blair Witch Project (1999), B
  195. Saw (2004), A
  196. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), B+
  197. The Creeping Terror (1964), F; MST3K riff, B+
  198. Mad Monster Party (1967), B
  199. Zombiemania (2008), B
  200. Tower Heist (2011), B-
  201. Scream: The Inside Story (2011), B
  202. Still Screaming (2011), A
  203. Your Highness (2011), D
  204. Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008), B-
  205. The Cannonball Run (1981), B
  206. Batman: Year One (2011), A-
  207. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), A-
  208. Up (2009), A+
  209. The Muppets (2011), A
  210. Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas (2011), B
  211. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), F; Cinematic Titanic Riff, B
  212. Christmas and A Christmas Carol (2009), D
  213. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F; RiffTrax, A
  214. The Great Gatsby (1974), A
  215. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), B+
  216. Tom and Huck (1995), Bl
  217. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), A
  218. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999), B
  219. Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (2005), A
  220. Scrooged (1988), A-
  221. The Magic Christmas Tree (1964), F; RiffTrax B+
  222. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), B
  223. The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), B
  224. Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A+
  225. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A+
  226. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), A
  227. A Christmas Story (1983), A
  228. Love, Actually (2002), A
  229. Source Code, (2011), B+
  230. Paul, (2011), C+
  231. Tron: Legacy (2010), B+
  232. Attack the Block (2011), B+l
  233. The Captains (2011), A
  234. Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), B
  235. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011), C

Last Updated on January 1, 2012.




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