Friday, 19 November 2010

The wicked witch of the west was the bad one

I wrote before that I'm easily impressed by found-footage horror, so it's about time I watched The Blair Witch Project. You've probably seen it already. In fact, you probably saw it when it came out ten years ago. But I saw it last night. I like to stay up to date. Three film students go out into the woods to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, a nasty-sounding ghost that haunts the place. They stock up on cereal and battery packs and set off for some camping. For a film of just eighty-six minutes, there's a good chunk of set-up before things start getting spooky. It's a nice walk in the forest until a bit of arguing, and a bit of map losing, makes the situation a lot worse. But how scary is it? Suggestion is a powerful tool but, perhaps unusually, it wasn't really working for me. There's shouting in the night and a lot of arts and crafts in the woods -mostly a bit too subtle, a bit too far away to count as horror. Maybe I didn't have my imagination switched on in the right places, but the piles of rocks weren't spooky. I could have done with a little bit more. A more concrete suggestion of something solid, ugly, and scary. Especially at the end, where something definitely needed to present itself. It is an effective film though, because without all these scares you're left with a drama about people going mad in the woods. The film crew really were harassing them and leaving suggestions for improvisation. Eventually they just start rocking back and forth. Importantly, the camera is a comfort to whoever is holding it. It's a disconnection from reality, 'a filtered reality', and makes them braver. They can only go out into the night if they're seeing it through a lens - it means it's not really happening.

I know that these characters aren't enjoying it, I'm just not feeling the same thing. One says that she's 'too scared to close her eyes and too scared to open them'. I believe her, I just need to be shown why. I'm usually a fan of this sort of horror, but finding scary things isn't the same as experiencing it. A bit more, that's all that's needed, just a little bit. So it may not have been the scary treat I was hoping for, but it's an interesting (and probably by now 'classic') part of the found-footage genre.


  1. I think it was considered remarkable in its day as a very low-budget film.

  2. Indeed. I thought it was quite a decent movie which dared to do something different. It's a quirky experiment - not quite as revolutionary as it could have been, yet not a complete failure either.

  3. I was impressed with it - I loved the mad woman in the trailer/bungalow at the start (yes, I saw it ten years ago) and the growing insanity of the arguments.
    The boy stood in the corner at the end did scare the shit out of me. A dark image that has stayed.

    I have to say that on walking out of the cinema, my husband did say, "What happened at the end?".
    But that's not actually unusual.

  4. I rewatched the end with director's commentary - the benefit of watching it ten years late. Scary houses in the woods are always fun.