The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project is a very, very scary movie that knows how to use its semi-gimmicky (and incredibly innovative at the time) “found-footage” format to good use. Peering through the video’s viewfinder puts us in the direct perspective of Heather, Josh and Mike as they find themselves lost in the Maryland woods, possibly in the realm of an ancient, evil witch that wants their souls.
Unlike many of the imitators that followed in the years since Blair Witch‘s release, it’s a movie that knows fundamentally what is scary. It knows how to manipulate an audience without ever having to give away any easy answers. Even though it’s popular to dismiss, it’s an incredibly effective, mysterious work that knows how to get under your skin.
The Blair Witch Project is the first movie I can recall in my life that was immensely popular and, as a result, became very popular to hate. The reasons were usually sort of samey: The camera shakes too much, it made the viewer feel nauseous, nothing happens, it’s boring, it’s this, it’s that, it’s whatever. Most of all, the people who hated it just didn’t think it was scary.
What people find scary is going to vary from person to person, so if The Blair Witch Project doesn’t do it for you, it’s not going to do it for you. But for those who enjoy the movie as much as I do, there’s a lot there for the viewer. It’s a real treat. It’s a real rarity in the world of films that it was such a huge, just phenomenal success at the box office and immediately became a piece of our pop culture fabric.