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Episode 93: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT


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Poll: Episode 93: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (151 member(s) have cast votes)

Is THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT Canon?

  1. Yes! (123 votes [81.46%])

    Percentage of vote: 81.46%

  2. Josh? Josh! JOSH!!!! (28 votes [18.54%])

    Percentage of vote: 18.54%

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#1 devincf

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Posted 11 September 2016 - 10:05 PM

Simon Barrett, writer of the new THE BLAIR WITCH, nominates the 1999 found footage sensation that started it all, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Is it good enough for The Canon? It's up to you!

#2 Forest

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 12:40 AM

This one's a definite yes for me. I was in high school when The Blair Witch Project came out and it was all anyone seemed to be talking about for a while. There was the debate about whether or not the footage was authentic followed by arguments over whether or not the film itself was any good. I didn't see it until long after it had come out so I already knew that none of it was real, but I still found it to be one of the most terrifying films I had ever seen. The final shot in this film is right up there with the final shot in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as one of the most genuinely unsettling images to ever come from a horror film. What really makes it work for me though, isn't the possible supernatural elements. It's the psychological terror of just watching these characters slowly break down as they come closer and closer to the realization that they aren't getting out of these woods alive. I think that's why the woods have become such an iconic part of horror movie imagery. For most of human history, the woods were regarded with the utmost fear; the haven of monsters and other mysterious beings. To watch a group of people from the modern world succumb to that same primal fear is both fascinating and terrifying.

As for the found footage stuff? I think it works much better than just about any other found footage film in breaking down one of the barriers found in horror. Most everyone agrees that horror movies serve as a way to experience scary events in a safe environment. I think the camera itself acts as one of the safety nets to that experience. By having the characters be the ones holding the camera, I think it cuts that safety net, making the experience just a little more visceral and therefore, a little scarier. In other found footage horror movies, they lessen this by making the shots look too clean and too professional looking. In the Blair Witch Project, the camera is out of focus a lot of the time, the lens is sometimes fogged up or it has some dirt on it and it has some bad audio; something to remind people that the characters (and by extension, the audience) are the ones holding the camera. This is referenced in the film as the Heather character continues to shoot her documentary as a way of keeping some kind of emotional distance from what's happening onscreen. This is revealed in my favorite scene in the film when Josh interrogates Heather on why she's still shooting her film and Heather finally breaks down and screams "it's all I fucking have left!".

Which leads me to my last point: the incredible acting in the film. I know the scene of Heather crying in front of the camera has been parodied to death, but it really should be pointed out how rare it is to see actors break down so completely on film. The actors (especially Heather Donahue) do an amazing job going from joking, devil-may-care college students into a practically infantile state by the film's end. I know the hosts, Devin especially, have already complained about what a crock of shit the Razzie Awards are, but I'm going to join in as well. I will always despise the Razzies for giving Donahue a Worst Actress nomination.

So this is an obvious yes vote. I actually wrote all this before even listening to the episode. I just wanted to get my thoughts about this film out there right away. I think The Blair Witch Project should be mentioned along with Night of the Living Dead, Halloween and The Evil Dead as one of the best independent horror films ever made.

#3 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 01:28 AM

I was a relatively solid yes going in, but hearing how the film was actually directed turned me into a hard no-doubt-this-is-canon. I've always liked The Blair Witch Project, and liked it on subsequent viewings. It's effective and creepy--the latter of which I appreciate more and more. This is a terrific horror film. I think it gets a lot right. I think the ending is one of the best endings of any film ever, in terms of setups and payoffs.

In terms of the ending, I wish that had gotten more discussion, because Mike does hear Josh. That's who knocks Heather over, isn't it? Maybe I'll have to pull a Devin and re-listen, only to be totally unsatisfied by the second go-through.

Anyway, great film. Maybe not a huge favorite, but an astonishing achievement nonetheless.

#4 ElmsPlusPlus

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 01:51 AM

I think this might be the first time where I have voted because of a films historical context, when I really didn't like the film at all.

Blair Witch certainly has one of the best uses of found footage ever, but I just can't ever get interested in the characters, and none of the scares along the way I ever found to be particularly frightening, upon till ending, which is really great.

I did love the mention during the discussion of other found footage films of The Last Broadcast, which I think is a superior film to Blair Witch, and it might have my favourite found footage conceit.

#5 24 Hour Party Pizza

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 04:03 AM

I agree with everything here, and can especially relate to Devin's disliking of how the film actually worked on him, or how he liked how it functioned in spite of it. The style and characters are irritating to spend 90 minutes with but that's why it works, and it wouldn't otherwise.

I don't think you can dismiss the marketing as purely a gimmick or not part and parcel of the film -- it's inseparable from it, it's the supertext of The Blair Witch Project.

I understand people who hate it, but it's pop culture canon and absolutely part of this canon.

#6 MadScientist

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 04:48 AM

No matter how this vote goes, big thank you to Devin for actually saying the words, "nothing is ever actually going to happen in this movie".

#7 mak

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 06:21 AM

Yes for me. I love this movie so much. It's a true testament to the horror you can create when you play with the imagination of your audience. I love the character of Heather and the dynamic of the three is both interesting and irritating. I do think part of her shrillness has to do with her trying to over-assert herself as in charge but the movie also lets her be fun and dimensional and not just a power driven monster. I love how the characters individually break down and take control. This movie definitely has enough merit to back up a cultural/historical argument but enough legs to get in on its own as well.

I'm really excited for the sequel.I've been trying to avoid the trailer so I can go in blind.

#8 Patrick Gaertner

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 07:07 AM

Hard No for me.

This was the first time I've ever actually seen this movie, after decades of hearing about it, and I just don't see the appeal. To each their own obviously, but this movie was aggressively insufferable to me. I didn't feel it was scary or entertaining. I didn't see any suspense, or dread in this supposed horror movie. It's just three annoying people wandering around and ensuring us that something scary is totally happening just off camera. Which can work if done right. Movies like Jaws that use their monster sparingly and let our imagination make it worse can really become terrifying, but there was something about the way they did this that didn't work for me. It felt less like they were letting us come up with what was out there, and more like they didn't have any ideas. I get what they were saying in the episode that these were good performances, but good performances of unlikable and annoying characters isn't that impressive to me, because I just couldn't wait for this movie to be over. The only notable aspects of this movie to me are the found-footage foundation and the annoying gimmicky marketing, which I don't think makes it Canon worthy. I've bought the "Historical Context" arguments in the past, but I don't see it for this movie. To me, this is a terrible movie, and all it did historically was make more annoying found-footage movies and creating some aggressive marketing, which I don't see as a good thing, nor really relevant to if this is a good film or not. I'm sure people will hate this opinion, and more power to you if you like this movie, but I personally can't stand it.
As always, I'm just some geek on the internet and it's all my personal opinion.

#9 TKFopp

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 07:51 AM

Easy yes for me, was pleasantly surprised how well it held up on the rewatch. I was afraid that my memory mixed it and the Curse mockumentary, but they kept everything you needed in it (background wise) for it to work on its own. (though honestly the creepiest thing for me is still that hand draw/wood craving depiction of the Blair Witch, and that's only on the Curse special.) Interesting stuff on how the film & special were originally meant to be mixed together in a more traditional documentary format, ala The Last Broadcast. (A really interesting film that kinda misfires in its closing minutes).

Not something I feel the need to watch every year or few years, but it holds up. And the impact it had still remains, in a lot of aspects of the film business.

#10 nickperkins

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 08:34 AM

I'm pretty indifferent on this. I saw it for the first time a few months ago, and wish I'd seen it in the theater back when it was new and still fascinating. It just didn't work nearly as well for me in 2016 in my living room. I just know my response to the film is my issue, not the movie's.

#11 alexlove

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:07 AM

I've seen this movie twice; once in 2012 at around 2 in the morning in my dorm room alone, and once in 2013 at midnight in a theater. The first time, it terrified me. The second time, I found it tragic, if not especially scary. Both times, at the movie's ending, I turned cold as death. I walked out of the theater shivering and stunned. I could barely speak. It was like I'd seen a ghost. My comment was that there was something powerful and evil in The Blair Witch Project, something uncanny.

Hard yes for the canon; this is a film with some sort of power over me, years divorced from zeitgeist and meta-campaigns. Heather is fantastic. How about the editing?

...I'm kind of due for a rewatch this October, but I think I'm gonna put it off a year.

#12 Nathan Roberson

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:09 AM

This is a tough one, but I think I'm going to ultimately vote no. I remember the marketing and the hype. My friend had The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier book and let me read it before I even saw the film in '99. I was all aboard. The movie, to my knowledge, didn't play at any of my nearby theaters, so I saw this months later for the first time on VHS. I remember being a little underwhelmed, but also intrigued. The mythology was captivating. I loved pausing the film to find little things alluded to in the companion book, such as the hand prints on the walls at the end.

Yet upon re-watching--for maybe the first time since '99 or 2000--the feeling of being underwhelmed is magnified. I'm bored when the screen is nothing but blackness and shouting, when it's just on a closeup of a shoe.

Were this film's techniques (both in film making and marketing) an innovative gamble? Absolutely. They paid off in spades. But they don't withstand the test of time. Removed from the hype and the marketing the film falls flat, and is kind of boring and at times downright annoying. I think films in a canon should be able to stand on their own, which is why a lot of us chose Star Wars over The Empire Strikes Back. I think the same logic applies here. The Blair Witch Project needs supplemental material to shine, and therefore it should not be in the canon of all-time greats. Worthy of study? Yes. Worthy of enshrinement? Maybe not.
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#13 Cronopio

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:16 AM

When Devin said that in 1999 everybody walked out of that film feeling scared, I feel he is exaggerating. I almost walked out of the theater feeling bored, about 30 minutes into it, and everybody I knew talked about how the marketing duped us into shelling out our hard-earned to go see something mediocre. So, the marketing is definitely canon. The film, I'm not so sure. I"m not going to vote either way because I tried watching it again and this time I did stop so I can't give it a fair shake. It seems like it's going to sail into the canon on the strength of it's cultural impact, and I guess that's fine.

#14 JJ95

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:09 AM

Hard no. Why? NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS "MOVIE"!

#15 Judas Priestly

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:16 AM

Even though I haven't seen this for about fifteen years, I feel like I HAVE to vote 'yes' for all the reasons outlined in the episode. It scared the hell out of me when I saw it in the theater, and I felt freaked out for weeks afterward. The townie interview toward the beginning (the woman and her baby), seems SO real. The baby getting scared and the woman saying "It's just a story, honey." And ends the interview by smiling and saying "WE don't go out there, so..." MAN, that stuff was effective.
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#16 mrm1138

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:16 AM

Absolute yes for me! I can remember seeing this at an arthouse theater in Royal Oak, Michigan, my friends and I having made the trek from Bowling Green, Ohio, where we were going to college at the time. (I was still living there during the summer, and the movie hadn't received its wide release just yet.) I'd been following the early hype on Ain't It Cool News, so I knew going into it that it was fictional, but that didn't make it any less effective.

I was glad to hear the unexpected shout-out to Alien Raiders. It's a movie I've told people about several times, but it unfortunately remains unseen for the most part. After I tell them what a nifty little genre piece it is, they ask if it's streaming on Netflix, and when I say that it's unfortunately not available for streaming, I can tell that they're not going to make any effort to seek it out.

And since both Cannibal Holocaust and Don't Breathe were mentioned in this episode, I figured I'd mention that I find it odd that Devin thinks the former is a great movie worthy of inclusion in The Canon but made the rapey elements of the latter film a focus of his review. It's not like the rape in Cannibal Holocaust has any greater significance seeing as how the only reason the movie has the contrived, heavy-handed message forced into it is just a poor attempt to disguise the fact that it's exploitation garbage. (I sincerely hope episode 100 sees it ejected.)

#17 beezyharps

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:24 AM

I was allowed to watch pretty much every "classic horror movie" when I was way too young and none of them freaked me the f*ck out like this one did. My parents could not convince me it was fake for months, I was just too young to wrap my mind around it. I hadn't watched it since, but then I rewatched a few years ago and I think this is a no-brainer for the Canon. So influential, so well made (this episode provided a ton of great insight), and still pretty tense and scary in a unique, interesting way. Let the snobs mock this movie for having nothing happen, but this is Canon-worthy.

#18 Galactiac

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:38 AM

I remember the hype about this movie very clearly, but never bothered watching it until recently. Back in '99 I remember watching a Daily Show interview where the directors gave a detailed description of how this movie was made (really clever btw, and the actors did a fairly decent job). I'd also heard people talk about the end of this movie, and I think I'd even seen a clip of it, so I knew quite a lot before I ever sat down.

With that said, I found the movie didn't work for me at all. I saw what felt like an 80 minute Live Leak video of three really stressed out, grating people lost in the woods. Someone was playing a prank on them by piling up rocks and making noises outside their tent. At the end one of them stands in a corner while the other drops the camera. In the age of YouTube hoaxes, and doofuses jumping at their own shadow on cable Bigfoot shows I don't think something like The Blair Witch Project feels like reality in the way that it's supposed to. Perhaps it did in '99, but I saw it in 2016.

It absolutely had a cultural impact, and started a whole new genre of horror films, but the end result was so profoundly unscary and unremarkable to me that it's a very easy "no". Not to be an ass about this, but it really felt like an overlong episode of Ghost Hunters or something. Cool approach to making a movie, but nope.

#19 sycasey

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 11:04 AM

I posted general thoughts about this film in the homework thread (link), and nothing said in the podcast changed my mind. Mostly the hosts confirmed my original impression of it.

Yes for the Canon, definitely. It was very effective at scaring me (one of the few horror films that has managed to do so on a deeper level than "Boo!" jump scares), and its cultural and artistic influence is obvious.

#20 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 11:23 AM

This is a rare Canon consideration that I didn't revisit before voting. I haven't seen THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT since the summer of its release, and part of the reason for that is that I've always been afraid to. My fear is that it might not actually be a good movie. The initial fear I felt in the theater may be undercut now with the knowing that nothing is ever going to happen. The shaky cam I'm guessing doesn't look great on the home screen, and the dialogue of map discussion and Josh yelling might get old. But I absolutely have to vote YES because this was one of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life. I saw it opening night, and while I was certain it was a fake movie, everyone in that theater wanted to pretend otherwise. I ended up walking home after the movie, at about midnight amidst trees, and I'll never be able to recapture my fear and joy from that night. This movie may have spawned a lot of unfortunate clones, and the film itself might not hold up on subsequent viewings, but it was a seminal moment in marketing and audience enthusiasm. I hope the new sequel is a blast, though I, like Amy, can't stand cheap jump scares. I hope I can get through it.