Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
devincf

Episode 93: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

  

151 members have voted

  1. 1. Is THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT Canon?

    • Yes!
      123
    • Josh? Josh! JOSH!!!!
      28


Recommended Posts

 

 

Yeah but that's what I'm saying. There are plenty of horror movies that don't scare me that I still enjoy. Maybe there's a story there, maybe there are some character arcs, maybe it's just fun. To me, if you watch Blair Witch and it's not scary, then it's just someone's crummy home movies cut together. I'm only being reductive because I don't think there's much content outside of a conceit that I just couldn't buy into.

 

I'm not trying to be a snob here, I'm just being honest about my experience. A gimmick in a movie is fine, but if that's all it has to offer me then is it really a great canon-worthy film? I kind of don't think so.

But that's the thing, the structure of the lore, the camerawork, the performances (especially by Heather and the townspeople,) and all the things discussed in the episode are other things the film offers than "a gimmick" and "scares." You can say none of it works for you - that's fine, I feel the same way about A Clockwork Orange and American Beauty - but there are too many elements to this film that have been laid out both in the episode and the thread to reduce it to a gimmick.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

But that's the thing, the structure of the lore, the camerawork, the performances (especially by Heather and the townspeople,) and all the things discussed in the episode are other things the film offers than "a gimmick" and "scares." You can say none of it works for you - that's fine, I feel the same way about A Clockwork Orange and American Beauty - but there are too many elements to this film that have been laid out both in the episode and the thread to reduce it to a gimmick.

 

None of that really adds up to much for me. I haven't seen any of the supplemental stuff, and the mythology in the film is totally disjointed. The performances would be fine if the conceit was working for me, but by themselves they are a little "improvy" like Devin said. I could see that the actors were trying their best to work in the plot point they were given for that day. The whole thing is sloppy and loose because they're trying to create a sense of reality. I do understand that. But that reality doesn't come through for me, so all I'm left with is manufactured "sloppy and loose".

Share this post


Link to post

But that's the thing, the structure of the lore, the camerawork, the performances (especially by Heather and the townspeople,) and all the things discussed in the episode are other things the film offers than "a gimmick" and "scares." You can say none of it works for you - that's fine, I feel the same way about A Clockwork Orange and American Beauty - but there are too many elements to this film that have been laid out both in the episode and the thread to reduce it to a gimmick.

 

Maybe this gets into what they also discussed on the podcast: it's an experimental film. It's not making any concessions towards being "audience friendly." It's actively trying to remove any sense that you're just watching a movie.

 

For something like A Clockwork Orange or American Beauty there is probably a certain level of technical accomplishment or aesthetic beauty that can be appreciated even if the film isn't "working" for you. With The Blair Witch Project they have (by design) removed those kinds of aesthetics. I can see how that creates a more polarized reaction.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I frigging hate this movie. Never saw it in the movie, so maybe it was a different experience (although, watching it on DVD or VHS, I forget which, in the dark works to it's advantage, too), but this movie didn't do anything for me. The only part I ever enjoyed was the end, with Mike looking in the corner.

 

That said, this is totally a Canon movie.

Share this post


Link to post

Haven't listened to this yet, but gonna voice some thoughts here anyway: A lot of classic horror films don't have a ton happening until their last 20-ish minutes so it never really bothered me with this one. I was too young to be cognizant of its marketing at the time of its release and this wasn't even the first found footage film I had seen by the time I got around to it, but I still liked it then and like it now.

 

It's a film very of its time in a lot of respects-it's probably one of the last classic modern horror films to not have to worry about hand-waving cell phone usage out of the plot, and characters running around being terrified about being cut off from the rest of society and modern conveniences is a really apt story to tell when so much anxiety around Y2K still existed. But I think its central use of being stuck somewhere with something out to get you is a really timeless premise. The smaller scares that Elly inflicts upon the crew are also way scarier to me than her jumping out of some bushes to scream at them-they basically just mean she's fucking with them until she gets bored and kills them for kicks. Definite yes for me, it's a cool little movie that's still better than the legions of films it inspired.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

This is one of the things I really like about this podcast format - much like the film Sully there was no drama in the ending (I was always going to vote yes), but I'm surprised how ferociously yes I became after listening to Simon. He has to be the most thoughtful and articulate guest you guys have ever had on. He went on a tear about the originality of the small connective myths that fed into the larger Blair Witch mythology and I realized he's absolutely correct - this movie got something right multiple times that other horror FRANCHISES sometimes never get right once. But even outside the horror genre, this movie is the product of smart, talented artists who paid close attention to the path they were walking towards their own creation and you can feel it in a palpable way that very few movies (Hara Kiri?) could hope to duplicate.

Share this post


Link to post

I just want to say I find the argument that, due to a revolutionary ad campaign that future generations will never actually see, we're supposed to treat a film with no real cinematographic artistry, no script and improv based acting driven by starvation and emulated army training like it deserves canonization? As Amy always comes back to: What IS the Canon, if that's the criteria?

 

This isn't a great film, it's a great psychological experiment and one that had its moment-- a moment that passed 15 years ago (hence why the sequel didn't recapture it).

 

Hard no.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Yes. I haven't watched this since it came out in the theater and it was a pleasure to revisit. I remember that my major complaint, being from Alaska, was that once you find a river, follow it downstream. That lead to the thought that these kids were idiots. Perhaps it's growing up in a remote place and having to always deal with the possibility of getting lost. But hearing the arguments about how we all deal with extreme pressure swayed me from thinking the film was okay, coupled with the re-watch, in light of its historical significance, to thinking the film really works. And in comparison to the myriad of crappy found footage films that don't work or barely work (looking at you Cloverfield), The Blair Witch Project is really well done.

 

I have been listening to the podcast since it started and I think this may be one of the best episodes yet. Thanks gang!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I'd like to refute the argument that you had to be there when this came out to appreciate the film. I saw the film over a decade after it was released, largely ignorant of just how much of a phenomenon this was. This has always been a movie to me. I like that there are no jump scares. I like the slow deterioration of everyone. I've always loved the ending. As a film experience, I think it holds up. I think I've seen it mostly on laptops, and it still frightens me. In fact, most people my age who have seen The Blair Witch Project, who never got to see it in the theaters, still really enjoy it. Point being, no one can definitively say that the film only works in the moment it was released when people are discovering it today and being affected by it.

Share this post


Link to post

So stoked you had Simon Barrett on for this episode. YOU'RE NEXT is one of the best horror films in recent years. On the fence about Blair Witch. Hated it in the theater and as an adult, I thought they were a buncha dickheads constantly arguing. That said, the end is terrifying.

 

 

It's rad that they brought up Man Bites Dog, and they may be right that it's the first found footage movie

Man-Bites-Dog.jpg

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

Man Bites Dog is a very good film, one of the darkest comedies ever, and weirdly underrated these days.

 

Sadly, the director committed suicide ten years ago. I keep meaning to pick up the Criterion DVD (or a Blu-ray, should they ever release one).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

It's really more of a gimmick than a film, because if the gimmick doesn't work on someone then there's really not much else to appreciate. Right?

 

I was thinking that, reading some of the comments from people on this thread who are seeing the film for the first time. Considering how Devin had posted articles dismissing 3-D as a gimmick (I don't disagree), I think a discussion on how the marketing of the film at the time possibly having an effect on audience reception that can't be replicated in the future is a valid discussion point. And is it is worth pondering that if a film event was truly only of that moment would preclude it from being canon worthy or does the film surpass the "gimmick" and stand the test of time and/or history.

 

In the podcast discussion we only got the perspective of three people who had seen the film on its initial run. So they all have the memories of the experience of seeing this film the first time around, and can't really remove themselves from that. Honestly, I'm finding it difficult myself. I haven't seen the movie since its theatrical release, and really don't want to re-watch it because of those memories that I have (but I have made it a point not to vote on a thread unless I've seen the film within a month of the podcast).

 

From the discussion, I did enjoy the nuanced perspective that the somewhat grating characters are what add to the experience rather than distract from it. And agreed, it's very frustrating when people conflate purposefully "annoying character" with "bad acting". In horror especially, there is a fine line between annoying and idiotic/unrealistic (a good reference is Franklin in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", as a perfectly annoying character. Just give your sister the damned flashlight! Yet he's still sympathetic, especially after the hitchhiker cuts him).

 

When I re-watch, I'm curious to see how I react to Heather's clumsy camera work. Two things that frustrate me the most with "found footage" movies are a) the unrealistic camera work (TJ MIller in "Cloverfield", a person would NOT be holding a camera like that!) especially in scenes where a person would not have a camera turned on in the first place and b ) the unrealistic "real" dialog (again, TJ MIller in "Cloverfield" or pretty much all of "Chronicle"). George Romero's "Diary of the Dead" is full of endearing flaws, but it's really one of the only movies after "Blair Witch" that I think used found footage in an interesting way.

Share this post


Link to post

Restraining from voting this episode but I do agree with Devin that some of improv that's meant to be authentic is just way too planned. We have amateur documentarians in real life and we know that even the worst of them know how to point a camera. And I don't buy the "realistic" dialogue where one character repeats someone's name over and over again. Look at reality show competitions like the Amazing Race, people are more eloquent than you think even in pressure situations.

Share this post


Link to post

Look at reality show competitions like the Amazing Race, people are more eloquent than you think even in pressure situations.

If you think that's actual reality, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Share this post


Link to post

If you think that's actual reality, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

 

The people aren't reciting written dialogue and are speaking live in the moment, which is my point.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

It's rad that they brought up Man Bites Dog, and they may be right that it's the first found footage movie

 

I hope I won't sound like THAT nerd, but there's a few found footage/mockumentary horror movies before Man Bites Dog. They're worth looking into! Cannibal Holocaust is the first one I can think of from the 70s, (but there may be one even before that), but it's about a man that goes to the Amazon to find out what happened to a film crew and he brings back their footage and half the movie is that. (Warning, though, if you watch the unedited version there is live animal deaths that is pretty brutal.) There's interesting stories to go along with the film, like the stars were paid to basically go into hiding to make it seem like the footage was real and the director was put on trial under suspicion of creating a snuff film.

 

But if people don't want to count that movie as found footage since that stuff is only half the movie, in '89 there was a movie called UFO Abduction, or also known as The McPherson Tape, which is about a man filming his niece's birthday one night and they get attacked by aliens. To this day there are people that think it's real footage (hilariously enough) like Blair Witch.

 

A year before Man Bites Dog was released there was a British TV movie called Ghostwatch that was a mockumentary rather than found footage, but it's about a BBC special that's investigating a haunted home that goes awry and it's filmed live. And people also thought that this was real when it was aired.

Share this post


Link to post

On the subject of gimmicks, I think it's fair to criticize a film for being gimmicky when it doesn't transcend the gimmick by offering something beyond the stunt - whether its through its visual style, its thematic approach, the performances, the narrative structure. Obviously in the case of The Blair Witch, the gimmick is very up-front and central to the entire film, as it affects both form and content. Some feel it transcends it through the background mythology, the performances, and the ending. Some don't. I'm in the latter camp, but as I said in an earlier comment, I was so turned off by the film on my first viewing in 1999, that don't think I can give it a fair shake.

 

In my opinion, the best found-footage horror film is [Rec]. The question is, would [Rec] have existed without Blair Witch? Hard to say. It seems like in the digital era, somebody was inevitably bound to stumble upon the concept. (And The Last Broadcast did it first)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Sweet, thanks, I'm super new so I haven't gone through them all yet. It'll be interesting to hear their take.

 

You can probably guess. ;)

Share this post


Link to post

This is one of those movies where I genuinely can't even fathom an argument against its canonocity. Even if you find it unbearable, the influence of its marketing campaign and cultural impacts are undeniable. But I think the movie holds up extremely well, too, better than almost any found footage holds up even five minutes after watching it. I may be slightly biased because my favorite horror setting is in the woods, but man, this thing gets under the skin. I think it's unfair to say the characters are grating, they're acting how anyone would in this situation, and that's what makes the film work, its verisimilitude. You can picture any three people you knew in college in this exact same position, the stark, discomfiting reality of it makes it deeply unsettling. And it's a special movie that always makes you stare into the darkness of the frames looking for horrors even if you know they're never going to show. I think it builds tension excellently, and thus the breakdown of each character is terrifyingly convincing. And I have to give kudos to the actors, they really seem exactly like people lost in the woods. There's no hint of artificiality. The Blair Witch Project really gets to the heart, the core of horror, like very few films even attempt. I agree with Devin about the almost Lovecraftian vibe of it, I've always looked at it sort of a Lovecraftian thing, where unknowable terrors lurk and impinge on the normality of a hiking expedition, after all, one of HPL's central tenets was that horror can only work on a primal level if weirdness or outsideness is contrasted with the prosaic and familiar. (incidentally, isn't Lovecraft sort of a precursor to the found footage aesthetic? "Found among the papers of the late Francis Wayland Thurston", and all that). So yeah, no-brainer here, a total classic that's never quite gotten its due recognition, it being easy for the film to be smothered in the hype.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
(incidentally, isn't Lovecraft sort of a precursor to the found footage aesthetic? "Found among the papers of the late Francis Wayland Thurston", and all that).

There's a long tradition of the epistolary novel -- Dracula being the most relevant example, and a couple decades before Lovecraft. People forget that it's not a traditional narrative but instead composed of personal letters, shipping logs, newspaper articles, etc. It's an interesting parallel to found footage films that I hadn't thought of before.

Share this post


Link to post

This is one of those movies where I genuinely can't even fathom an argument against its canonocity. Even if you find it unbearable, the influence of its marketing campaign and cultural impacts are undeniable.

 

I'm not going to vote for anything based on it's marketing campaign.

 

As for the found footage genre there are some that I like more than TBWP, but I don't think I've ever seen one that got more than a lukewarm reaction out of me. But admittedly I'm only casually interested in horror.

 

I think found footage is just a cheap way to make a movie, and for me it's usually a pretty cheap experience. So no vote from me based on cultural impact.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

I don't understand the Cloverfield hate in the thread so far. As far as marketing campaigns, Cloverfield's is one of the best (albeit a bit different than Blair, since it's played up the "is this real?" aspect of the film). One of the best part's of Cloverfield is something mentioned in the episode as a plus of Blair: we're clued in only briefly and tangentially of the mythology and what's really going on in the film, because we only have their perspective. Cloverfield wasn't a monster movie as much as it was a disaster movie with a monster as the MacGuffin.

 

(Slightly related: 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best of the year so far, and I'd say possibly even better than Cloverfield proper. They're different things, but 10 is amazing. Hopefully Blair Witch can also succeed.)

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×