The Blair Witch Project 1999
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, the film centers around three friends attempting to make a documentary about the elusive legend of the Blair Witch, but end up getting lost in the Maryland woods. A traditional horror movie set up. Friends get lost in an unfamiliar territory and shit goes south. However, the film is not remembered for its superior acting or memorable script, but for popularizing ‘found-footage’ filmmaking in the United States.
The 90s were loaded with very good American horror flicks, stacked with some of Hollywood’s elite acting talents. Misery, Arachnophobia, The Silence of the Lambs, Seven, Interview with the Vampire and Cape Fear to name a handful. Don’t forget plenty of loveable cult classics like The Frighteners, Event Horizon, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Tremors. However, the decade became cluttered with far too many sequels to established brands: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Bride of Chucky, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and countless others. The Blair Witch Project brought a fresh spin and provided an effective, low budget approach to making a horror film. No elaborate special effects. No makeup. Nothing but a camera and a small group of unknown actors with a clear direction.
When it was released, I remember the movie was not well received. Stories of people leaving the the theater to vomit from motion sickness due to the shaky camera work. Other complaints about the film’s lack of gore. An unseen antagonist. All true observations, but the strength of the film lies in its simplicity. It was so simple, that audiences didn’t quite know what they had seen. I remember not liking it when it hit theaters. It was only after watching it at home that its strengths became apparent to me. The Blair Witch Project wasn’t just the title, it was literally a project akin to a student film. Testing the audience’s acceptance of a new format for horror movies, rich in anticipation without any pay off we are accustomed to.
It wasn’t the first film to use found footage as a major narrative technique. That honor goes to 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust by Ruggero Deodato. It pioneered the use of found footage as flashback sequences. The Blair Witch Project ,as far as I can tell, was the first full length feature film to incorporate the technique throughout the entirety of the film. Obviously Myrick and Sanchez were onto something big. The movie’s success spawned an untapped style of filmmaking and paved the way for other horror films like, REC, V/H/S and the wildly successful Paranormal Activity franchise. The direct sequel, Blair Witch is set to release next weekend on September 16th (you can check out the trailer below).
Make sure to check back over the next eight days to see what other 90s films made the cut.