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Episode 93: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

  

151 members have voted

  1. 1. Is THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT Canon?

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


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I am really on the fence with this one. I remember being sucked into the hype around it and there was one review quote that said it was the scariest movie since The Exorcist. That's the one that got me to the theater to see it. I remember liking it a lot the first time through but not living up to that line. I also recall walking through the crowd at the mutiplex and hearing raves about the other scary movie that was out at the same time - The Sixth Sense - and wishing I had gone to that instead. But I did buy the DVD and watched it a few more times like it but never loved it. But the discussion was compelling and it does have a place in film history. Right now I am voting no but I can see myself waffling on this one.

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A fairly easy yes. Cannibal Holocaust may have used the trick earlier, but neither I nor anybody I knew had even heard of that at the time. This movie was a huge phenomenon and is the more direct inspiration for the wave of found-footage horror. It was also quite effective as a viewing experience.

 

Dracula was an epistolary novel (a common form at the time), but the main cast survives the tell the tale even if one ignores their writings. Lovecraft's stories more often feature doomed protagonists, and a singular voice rather than exchange of letters (although Call of Cthulhu is the story of multiple characters, assembled together from research later).

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Really can't believe this looks like getting into the canon. The movie has no plot.

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This is a very easy yes from me. A few friendships were destroyed when I told my friends that the movie wasn't exactly a true story, but in the end it was worth it.

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Huge yes. I find this movie terrifying. I think the horror of the threat is brilliantly crafted. The early interviews introduce the threat as something known, concrete, or tangible (a serial killer, a hairy woman, some kind of demonic presence, a bunch of violent rednecks), but then the film constantly redefines and obscures the nature of the threat while simultaneously increasing the danger. Nothing scares me more than the unknown. The Blair Witch, whatever it is, is the perfect expression of that terror.

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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.

 

 

This pretty much sums up my feelings. In the Canon? Yes, of course. It was "viral" before there were the online mechanisms that makes things viral as we've come to know them. It really started the most recent wave of Found Footage films, for good or bad. It may not have resonated with me even after three viewings between first release and last weekend but it's impact can easily be felt in pop culture.

 

I may not like it or find it scary in the least, but it's significant.

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I've completely caught up to the episodes completely starting from the beginning and, I am stoked to actually get to vote!

 

So, my experience with Blair Witch as per most, left an impact on me. I saw it twice in theaters because I was captivated by it. At the time, Blair Witch and Jurassic Park were the only films I had seen twice on the big screen (a big deal at the time). I tricked my mind into seeing things that were never there, soon after getting caught up in the marketing. Even though I knew it was all fake. I'm from Indiana and Heather Donahue did commercials for Steak & Shake, a midwest late night staple. But, I digress, the first time I saw it correlated to happen days before my families yearly summer camping trip which made the whole experience all the more terrifying for my 12 year old mind. I was just getting into horror in a big way. Watching the Night of the Living Dead (1990 remake) on a loop. Wearing out my VHS of Scream & Scream 2.

 

The aforementioned S&S commercial

https://youtu.be/BSgaY-19YG0

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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.

 

 

 

I do think the Lovecraft parallels go beyond the method of delivery, which is why I'm led to believe that maybe there was a direct influence from him as opposed to the epistolary phenomenon as a whole. Though--has there been an 'epistolary film', so to speak? One that doesn't really have any one POV to lean on, but is composed entirely of snatches of footage from news, stock footage, photo diaries, coming from different people/perspectives etc? That sounds sort of insufferable, honestly, but it'd be interesting.

Incidentally, you can actually buy a reproduction of the box from "The Call of Cthulhu", the one the authorities would have found the story and all the papers/items it's cobbled together from in:http://www.cthulhulives.org/store/storeDetailPages/angellbox.html

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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.

 

 

 

I just think that a Canon would be incomplete without some representation of every aesthetic/movement, and found footage is undeniably one to have struck a big chord for the last decade or so (and I do not think Cannibal Holocaust counts). Though I do think it'd be interesting, if this were a "one-and-done" conversation, to pit Blair Witch against Paranormal Activity, which is the only plausible competition I can think of, in terms of a FF movie enough people would consider good or important enough to grant it entry. I would argue that Blair Witch has enough merit on its own, but that's subjective, and I suppose the premise of that portion of my comment was to look at Blair Witch as an objectively Canon-worthy film, apart from its artistic worth. This is one of those things where I feel that a line has to be drawn--like, I think it was correct for The Interview to be declined, as you don't need to watch the movie to understand its import as a global "moment", at all. But I do think, if this is viewed from the "objective" stance, that you'd still need to watch Blair Witch (or any submitted rival for the throne) to at least have a working grasp of the found footage phenomenon, even if you see said phenomemenon as artistically minor, so something, certainly, needs to get in.

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I got sucked into the hype and went to the Blair Witch movie with a bunch of friends -- a rare event movie for me. I thought it was disappointing. But I don't think any of us were meant to be in its target audience. If it hadn't been for all the hype, it's not the sort of movie we would have seen in a theater. I also don't remember feeling scared or unsettled afterwards. That rarely happens to me so it's memorable when it does.

 

I went to see American Movie with the same group of friends and we all loved that movie. I'll admit we were laughing more than the other people in the theater and that creates some of my favorite movie memories. ANYHOW, I always associate the two movies together and still have a fondness for American Movie. Though the Wisconsin connection helps. I used to work with people like them.

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I just think that a Canon would be incomplete without some representation of every aesthetic/movement

 

Does that mean we get to have a beach party movie and a Mexican wrestler movie too?

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Does that mean we get to have a beach party movie and a Mexican wrestler movie too?

I'm almost certain that there's an El Santo film that covers both genres.

 

With all the seriousness I can muster, I agree with the sentiment that an ideal canon should be as completely culturally representative as possible -- which includes everything from The Beatles to Last Temptation of Christ to Blair Witch, from John Waters to Chantal Akerman to Werner Herzog and beyond. Even bottom shelf genre junk, even pornography, because it's often the stuff at the fringes that is the most revealing and illuminating. Maybe this is an overly optimistic view of the medium, or maybe I'm doing away with the very point of having a canon in the first place.

 

At the end of the day, this isn't the Smithsonian and this canon seems to be "films that Amy and Devin like". Each week, there's discussion of how we should define the canon -- is it films that are artistically superior, technically masterful, culturally significant? Only one of those qualities, or all three? I don't think it was an oversight that Devin neglected to strictly define this for the listenership in the beginning.

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I can definitely see the arguments for the inclusion of The Blair Witch Project in the canon but I just have to vote no on a personal level because it made me so sick. I'm very prone to motion sickness in video games (I can't play 1st person games at all) but it doesn't happen much in the cinema. The Blair Witch Project is one of the few times where it has hit me in the cinema and it was so bad that I was actually physically sick in the screening. All I remember of the whole film is a few of the interviews at the start, having my eyes closed and struggling to not be sick for the majority of the rest of the film and then the guy facing the wall at the end.

 

I accept all the reasons for it's addition from the episode, and won't be bothered that it does make it into the canon, but it has to be a no from me.

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I just think that a Canon would be incomplete without some representation of every aesthetic/movement, and found footage is undeniably one to have struck a big chord for the last decade or so (and I do not think Cannibal Holocaust counts). Though I do think it'd be interesting, if this were a "one-and-done" conversation, to pit Blair Witch against Paranormal Activity, which is the only plausible competition I can think of, in terms of a FF movie enough people would consider good or important enough to grant it entry. I would argue that Blair Witch has enough merit on its own, but that's subjective, and I suppose the premise of that portion of my comment was to look at Blair Witch as an objectively Canon-worthy film, apart from its artistic worth. This is one of those things where I feel that a line has to be drawn--like, I think it was correct for The Interview to be declined, as you don't need to watch the movie to understand its import as a global "moment", at all. But I do think, if this is viewed from the "objective" stance, that you'd still need to watch Blair Witch (or any submitted rival for the throne) to at least have a working grasp of the found footage phenomenon, even if you see said phenomemenon as artistically minor, so something, certainly, needs to get in.

 

I mostly vote based on what I think are quality film experiences. If something doesn't hold up, but inspired a lot of other really amazing films then I might vote for that, but it's a tough decision. So I take more of a curator's approach to voting than a historian's.

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I'm almost certain that there's an El Santo film that covers both genres.

 

I grew up in Mexico City in the 1970's - Santo movies on a blurry television screen were my daily bread. We need the ultimate versus episode:

 

"Santo versus The Vampire Women" versus "Santo versus The Mummies of Guanajuato"

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Does that mean we get to have a beach party movie and a Mexican wrestler movie too?

 

 

 

No foolin'? I'd say yeah. One of my artistic maxims is that anything can be great. It just takes the right execution. I never say "oh that was good for a ___ movie". Quality is quality, far as I'm concerned. I'll take a well-executed B-movie over a failure of an art film, certainly. Granted, I do not have an intimate or even casual knowledge of either of those subgenres, though through osmosis i'd say the former is noteworthy enough from cultural impact for an entry to be worth a look, and the latter...I'll just put that maxim on the line and presume that somebody along the line produced a must-watch in that category.

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I didn't dislike the original but it bored me to the point I nearly fell asleep. On the other hand, the film had one of the most fascinating marketing campaign for a movie since it came out. I enjoyed the fake history doc more interesting and enjoyable then the film itself. Ultimately, I think The Blair Witch Project is an interesting cultural artifact but wasn'ta good enough film for the canon in my humble opinion.

 

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I didn't dislike the original but it bored me to the point I nearly fell asleep. On the other hand, the film had one of the most fascinating marketing campaign for a movie since it came out. I enjoyed the fake history doc more interesting and enjoyable then the film itself. Ultimately, I think The Blair Witch Project is an interesting cultural artifact but wasn'ta good enough film for the canon in my humble opinion.

 

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No foolin'? I'd say yeah. One of my artistic maxims is that anything can be great. It just takes the right execution.

 

I totally agree with you. I think my post about wrestler movies and beach party movies is being misinterpreted as deriding both genres, whereas I am a fan of both.

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I definitely agree anything can be great. I just think in a general sense found footage isn't there yet. In my personal life I'm not a snob, but I do have a higher standard for canon picks.

 

Like BLADE for instance. I kind of like this movie, and it has influenced every comic book movie for the last two decades. Try watching it. It's not a canon movie.

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I particularly enjoyed the hilarious burn that Simon dropped on Amy when she compared Don't Breathe to The Odyssey. Sometimes ya gotta get called out.

 

Regarding TBWP, I'm still haunted by that last shot of the last character standing in the corner. Surefire Canon material.

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I definitely agree anything can be great. I just think in a general sense found footage isn't there yet.

I actually am on board with this sentiment, though I've been pretty vocal about rooting for Blair Witch Project. I want to see the canon-worthy movie built off Labyrinth (though the Canon audience determined that was Pan's Labyrinth some time ago!) but simply accepting a movie is the best of the style, theme, or content so far isn't enough to guarantee canon-worthiness. If that style's all the way dead, that's one thing, but I wouldn't count any genre or style out for long.

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I definitely agree anything can be great. I just think in a general sense found footage isn't there yet. In my personal life I'm not a snob, but I do have a higher standard for canon picks.

 

Like BLADE for instance. I kind of like this movie, and it has influenced every comic book movie for the last two decades. Try watching it. It's not a canon movie.

 

I feel like Blade is more the Paranormal Activity of superhero movies. Maybe even the Cloverfield. But I get your point. See, I just...seems people either love, hate, or are completely indifferent to BWP. I'm obviously in the love category. But if you ask most anyone what the seminal horror films of the 90s are, Blair Witch will almost always get thrown out in the top five or so, along with the likes of Scream and Ringu and whatnot. I think a large contingent of film and especially genre buffs are going to gawk at any self-professed cinema enthusiast who doesn't have a familiarity with Blair Witch. I mean, here's the thing: if you're a film neophyte, if you've read up a bit on film history, I think you're gonna absorb Blair Witch as a must-see before too long. It isn't even a second-tier genre deeper-cut like Re-Animator, that you have to get told to watch by a fan. The Blair Witch Project finds you, its import is too self-evident to ignore. I'd put it up there with Halloween as a signpost, a moment, a game-changer. You can argue about stuff like Black Christmas or The Last Broadcast, in terms of pure seniority, but the ones that made an undeniable impact have already been etched in history.

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Yeah I feel very differently. I feel like The Blair Witch Project is a big gimmick and a fad, and as the decades go by it will work for fewer and fewer people and seem less and less important. That doesn't mean people shouldn't experience it for themselves, but it does mean, for my money, it's not a canon movie. I feel similarly about Forest Gump, Shawshank Redemption, and The Sound of Music (though I wouldn't call them gimmicks). Those movies are important to a lot of people, and anyone that's read up on a bit of film history should see them for themselves, but they didn't make it into the canon, and I think it's perfectly justifiable.

 

This is an interesting case I think, because I can tell that my experience with The Blair Witch Project was dramatically different from the people that love it. But I guarantee if they experienced the movie the way I did there would be no question this movie doesn't belong here. It's just a curiosity to me, not a great film, not even a scary film, and often pretty irritating.

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Yeah I feel very differently. I feel like The Blair Witch Project is a big gimmick and a fad, and as the decades go by it will work for fewer and fewer people and seem less and less important. That doesn't mean people shouldn't experience it for themselves, but it does mean, for my money, it's not a canon movie. I feel similarly about Forest Gump, Shawshank Redemption, and The Sound of Music (though I wouldn't call them gimmicks). Those movies are important to a lot of people, and anyone that's read up on a bit of film history should see them for themselves, but they didn't make it into the canon, and I think it's perfectly justifiable.

 

 

 

Now we're getting into the nitty gritty of what it means to be Canon-worthy. Which has probably already been hashed out 70 times before on these here forums. I think there are a few different things that could qualify a film for The Canon, and if I had to pick one I'd stake it on Blair Witch being essential viewing to understand a lot of 21st century horror, and to help inform an understanding of culture in general. I mean, it's more correlative than causative, surely, but it still encapsulates and predicts a lot of the way people interact with media nowadays, in film, news, social media, etc. Everybody's got a doohicky to point, and everybody's an artist. Very debatable as to whether that's a *good* thing, but it's certainly a thing, and a big one at that. More pertinently, in terms of film, the influence of the found footage phenomenon goes without saying. But I think it goes beyond that. It seems like, as audiences have gotten more cynical and savvy, most horror films have to have a "hook", some gotcha to pull you in, and I think Blair Witch has a lot to do with that. I feel like this is becoming a back-and-forth about abstracts of historical import vs the stressing of subjective considerations of quality, so I think that's about my final word.

Incidentally, I caught the new Blair Witch and it wasn't exactly a packed theater. Wonder if it'll take a shit at the box office, and if that'll signal the final decline of found footage as a mainstream subgenre.

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