Episode 93: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
Posted 12 September 2016 - 12:40 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 01:28 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 01:51 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 04:03 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 06:21 AM
I'm really excited for the sequel.I've been trying to avoid the trailer so I can go in blind.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 07:07 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 07:51 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 08:34 AM
Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:07 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:09 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 09:16 AM
Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:16 AM
Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:16 AM
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.)
Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:24 AM
Posted 12 September 2016 - 10:38 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 11:04 AM
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.
Posted 12 September 2016 - 11:23 AM