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Blair Witch Project, The

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at 800]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
What starts off as a deceptively simple little independent film slowly, carefully, turns into one of the most chilling, creepy films in memory. "The Blair Witch Project" has stormed the film industry in the past few months, scaring other studios whose giantically budgeted Summer films were running in fear from the tiny project. The biggest beast that this film has run over would definitely be Jan De Bont's horror update "The Haunting", a picture that's nowhere near as terrifying with it's 70 million in effects compared to this 60,000 dollar piece.

It all starts simply enough with three filmmakers getting together to make a short film about a local legend, the "Blair Witch". The group of filmmakers- Heather(cute looking, yet quite bossy and at times annoying, talking incessantly at the other characters). The other two are Mike and Josh, who take care of the sound and camerawork. They start off interviewing the townsfolk, who all play "local people" perfectly, talking about their opinions on the legacy of the local witch, not only entertaining, but they also give us something to go upon as the filmmakers begin their hike into the Maryland woods. If you've never read any other reviews, it's not likely that you've heard how the film begins. We are told at the begining of the picture that these people aren't going to make it out of the woods alive. Even so, when "The Blair Witch Project" really gets intense, we're no less terrified, even knowing that this ain't going to end well.

The filmmakers make their way into the woods and slowly, they begin to feel intensely creepy- the forest in autumn seems opressive and alive and the black and white footage are the biggest examples of where the film really begins to feel cold and chilling. After the filmmakers find their first location, they begin to head back, only to find out that they're not quite sure where back really is. What becomes possibly lost soon becomes most definitely lost as the crew camps out for the night. During the first night, the characters become aware of a presence in the woods, at first making slight sounds, but as the days and nights go on, making itself definitely more known. There's a terror in the simplicity of the night scenes as the characters race around, completely in total fear. If anything, I would have liked these scenes to go on longer, really wringing all of the fear out of the darkness. As is, they simply end a little too quickly as we're introduced again to another bleak, hopeless morning for the actors.

The first half of the forest scenes are wonderfully acted as the characters slowly lose it as food and supplies run low. Not only that, but a scene of figures made with sticks as well as a pile of stones for each of the characters waiting outside their tents makes it known that the days are no safer than the nights. The handheld camerawork by the 3 actors only puts us further into the reality that this film is presenting. We feel the frustration of these people as the woods seem to go on forever in all directions. The performances are also all fantastic. Where these characters start off as rather unlikable, the sheer fear, terror and sadness that they express as the film goes into it's last quarter makes the film not only chilling, but heartbreaking.

The film really creeps into your head as it goes further. The amount of tension that develops as all hope seems lost is 10 times more horrifying than any horror film of the past few years, maybe ever. "The Blair Witch Project" isn't a horror film, though. It's a solid mix of horror and psychological drama and once it gets going, the intensity with a film this small is breathtaking and almost unbearable as the desperation felt by these characters is greater as the nights fall once again.

Images from the "Blair Witch Project" still are crystal clear in my mind hours after watching the film and there are sequences in this film that I doubt I'll ever forget. The film may start off slowly, but these scenes aren't without their purpose and once the film gets going, I don't think there's been another film this year this thrilling or original. The performances are perfection getting us involved with these characters down to their last moments.

A really well-done film and in my opinion, it's one of the few films this year that's definitely a must see.

The DVD VIDEO: Artisan has presented "The Blair Witch Project" in about it's 1.33:1 original aspect ratio. It's a full-frame image, and it was shot that way. The image quality varies throughout the picture and it's an accurate representation of the image quality that I saw last Summer in the theater. Keeping in mind that this is a limited production, this is generally a good looking picture. The outdoor scenes are clear and crisp, with the details of the forest such as the trees remaining clear and not blurred. Colors look natural and accurate throughout the picture as the group wanders through the forest. I really enjoyed the black and white photography in the picture and it looks really quite good here as well.

The film is intentionally gritty looking by design(and by budget). Some of the scenes as night falls and in the total darkness look grainy, but it looked the same way in theaters. There really isn't any problems with shimmering or pixelization that I saw. This may not be a picture with a "big budget" look to it, but I was really pleased how well Artisan has transfered this picture to DVD; it looks clean and really, exactly how it looked in theaters. I've been pleased with what I've seen from Artisan, whose "Joan Of Arc" disc from a couple of weeks ago was really excellent as well. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing future efforts from them.

SOUND: Again, this is a fairly basic production and sound is pretty limited. The scenes as the group gets lost in the woods generally do give the listener a good sense of space and of the forest noises as the actors run screaming through the woods. Dialogue sounds a little thin, but with the kind of budget this film has, it's to be expected. It may sound a little thin at times, but it's still always easily heard.

MENUS: Awesome work on the menus by Artisan. They're fully animated with clips from the film as well as audio from the movie. Totally great way to get into the sort of tone and mood of the picture.

Commentary: This is a commentary by directors Daniel Myrick, Ed Sanchez and producers Rob Cowie, Mike Monello and Greg Hale. This is a very fun commentary to listen to and even in the begining, the speakers state, "I hope you guys aren't expecting a serious commentary." The results are the kind of relaxed, fun group commentary that we've heard before on discs like "Cruel Intentions". The group talks quite a bit about the production, talking about the kind of equipment that they used to film the picture and what happened to the stuff they used(one camera was returned to Circuit City.)

The group also talks quite a bit about who shot the footage as well as who are some of the actors that were found for the picture. It's interesting to hear about how some of the "townspeople" were found for the film and some are actually actors who were given lines. The stories about where the "locals" were found are definitely fun to listen to.

Also fascinating is listening to how the characters were set up as well as the sort of concepts about how the characters were going to interact as the film goes on. Also talked about is the kind of work that the actors had to go through on their own for the picture and how they were controlled by the directors, which is one of the most interesting parts of the commentary, where we're told just what the actors had to go through during the filming of the movie. The group also talks about how they fooled with and scared the actors during the night in great detail. What the group has to say about the way the final scene was filmed was quite cool to listen to as well. This is definitely a fun commentary as the group throws in the occasional joke about the making of the picture. Not only is it really informative about how the picture was made, but it's a lot of fun to listen to.

"Newly Discovered Footage":: A scene that really goes deeper into the thoughts of the group about what the "Blair Witch" could be as well as what has gone on so far during their stay in the woods. It's a scene that provides some great dialogue, but at 5 minutes, this scene of the group talking in the tent was likely too long to be in the final film.

Curse Of The Blair Witch: This is the entire documentary of the history behind the movie. The opening menu screen for the documentary is quite cool, with audio in the background talking about the missing filmmakers and the curse of the Blair Witch. "Curse Of The Blair Witch" takes the viewer deeper into myth of the "Blair Witch", taking a look at the history behind it all.

This is sort of a "documentary inside a documentary", with interviews with people who knew the filmmakers. It's definitely cool idea and I really enjoyed these interviews, which were definitely fun to listen to, and I think that the story that is told here, the kind of background information, is really well written and the documentary as a whole is really well-done and very creative. There are also scenes from the film occasionally as the documentary goes on, as well as "newscast" footage talking about the missing filmmakers as well as historical documents taking a look at just what or who may have been the "Blair Witch".

As impressed as I was with the movie itself, I just as impressed with how really well-done this documentary is; it's just incredibly creative and inventive. Apparently, this documentary has aired before, but this is the first time I've seen it and I loved it. "Curse Of The Blair Witch" runs about 45 minutes.

Trailers:: 2 teaser trailers and the full trailer for "The Blair Witch Project" and a trailer for the DVD release of "The Stand". "The Stand" trailer is a very cool trailer promoting all of the features of the upcoming DVD. One note: to get to the trailers, click on the stick figure on the "special features" menu. It took me a while to figure out that was where the trailers were located.

DVD-ROM features: Access to the "Blair Witch" website, Map, Excerpts from the dossier and comic book.

Text Notes: 3 sections: Bios, "The Blair Witch Legacy" and film notes.







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