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The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Movie Review


Written and Directed by: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard

My Advice: Don’t Miss It.

In October of 1994, three student filmmakers hiked into the woods in Maryland to film a documentary for Heather Donahue’s senior project. It was to be about the local legend of the Blair Witch, a strange spectral visitor who had apparently haunted the area for decades. The three students were never seen again. A year later, their footage and gear were found buried under the foundation of a hundred-year-old cabin. Seeking answers, their families turned over the film to Haxan Films’ Myrick and Sanchez, who tried to piece together the events that led up to the three students’ assumed demise.

[ad#longpost]One of the most impressive films I’ve seen in a long time, in any genre, it is most assuredly the first horror film in a long time to completely deliver on its latent potential. I won’t go into gory details (and neither did the filmmakers, gods be praised) about the making of this particular gem, since it has been hashed and rehashed all over the place. But let me say that the concept of the film is brilliant, with Myrick and Sanchez providing what is essentially the Anti-Scream. No more winking at the horror of the situation, no more neat paint-by-numbers endings, forget it. This film managed to take the most implausible part of itself (that characters would literally film their descent into hell–the whole damnable way down) and make it an advantage. It’s first person, and it’s happening now and to you, the filmgoer. I personally have been disturbed by films, even made sleepless by them. This is the first film to literally and inexorably horrify me. I can’t gush too much here for fear of spoiling the experience for others. Still, I must say that in a world where trailers for a film are expected to deliver us a Cliff Notes version of the entire plot, the idea that someone would put out a film that had something ambiguous about it, which viewers could debate amongst themselves and try to resolve–that’s ballsy filmmaking.

As for the actors themselves, they had to about kill themselves to deliver such powerful, gutwrenching and completely improvised performances. Let me go on record here for saying that Heather Donahue will probably be the one I’m pissed off about next year since there’s no way she’ll get the Oscar nom she so rightly deserves. I never felt at any time during the film that these were actors I was watching. They were real people, and they get major points for being able to deliver reality on a plate like that.

There are some things to bear in mind–the film is very jumpy in places, and some people have complained of being literally sick to their stomachs because of all the motion. However, take some Dramamine if you’re susceptible to that kind of thing, and then go see the horror genre get the boot to the head it so badly needs. Highly, highly recommended.

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