The Blair Witch Project – A Review

I almost feel like an infidel to the cause, but I have to confess something here. This was probably the movie I wanted to see more than any other this summer. Yes, I do mean more than the Big Movie of the Summer.

It was subtle how it revealed itself. A simple poster I saw on the way out of a movie that for the life of me I can’t remember. The poster was black and white, a haunting grid of forboding trees with something about three film students investigating a local legend. Then came the punchline:

“A year later, their footage was found.”

“Coffin Rock”

I was caught.

My confession is that I had more hopes for the success of The Blair Witch Project than I ever did for Star Wars: Episode One. The success of Star Wars was a given after all. 200 million Anakin fans cannot be wrong. But Blair Witch was such an original idea, such a renegade in the world of film, it was the underdog to cheer for in this race.

The movie itself was psychologically draining in its reality. The fear and loneliness is evident in the actor’s faces and their behavior is perfectly representative of human suffering against the un-understandable. There have been complaints aimed at the profanity that peppers the dialogue of this film, but what makes this different is that the language is inspired by fear, by that base emotion that does indeed make a pious man swear and curse. This is not like Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs (two exceptionally good films also marked with profanity), films where cursing serves a rhythmic function, but a film where the dialogue comes out of a character’s need to vent.

That the filmmakers (the real ones) were able to create such an atmosphere of terror and dread with the simplest of props and no computer-generated effects is a mark of no small measure of talent. The movie progresses like an existential play of three characters becoming swallowed up by forces they never could have hoped to control. The antagonist in this drama has no face, but is a more undeniable presence than any Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. The slasher flicks from which these icons herald always give the viewer the impression that their victims might have survived if only they weren’t so naive, or weren’t so slow, or weren’t so pretty.

But Blair Witch gives you no lumbering creature with a machete steadily gaining on the wide eyed sorority girl. There is no escape from an evil that controls your reality.

If you allow yourself to accept the reality given to you so believably by The Blair Witch Project, you will find that it takes residence at the back of your mind, at least for awhile, and makes you wonder…

And one further thing. The general Atlanta/Tara Cinemas opening night reaction to The Blair Witch Project was strangely southern. As Terri and I walked away from the theatre we heard the statement:

“You know, if it would have been me, I would’ve brought a gun!”

Yeah. Shoot the Witch. Like you wouldn’t be in enough trouble already….

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