The Blair Witch Project
Having hit the 15 year milestone in the last few days, The Blair Witch Project remains a curious bit of pioneering cinema responsible for kicking off the modern found footage craze.
“In October 1994, three students disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary… A year later, their footage was found.” A couple of 16mm cameras and some willing young actors, and you’ve got yourself a flash in the pan cultural phenomenon.
The film also was pioneering for its use of the world wide web as a marketing force the further create backstory and mythology in advance of its commercial release. The hype and conjecture swirling around the film in the spring and summer of 1999 was directly responsible for priming massive public awareness which went on to make it a huge hit.
Does it have rewatch value? The last few minutes of the film are absolutely riveting stuff, but it takes a long, often uneven, stretch of film to get there. The found footage genre is so ubiquitous, that it mainly induces yawns and eye-rolls at this point, but there are some genuine chills and thrills smattered about The Blair Witch Project to make the film not only of its time and place, but also kind of timeless. If nothing else, it speaks, on the edge of the 21st century of hubris, when the three students find themselves surprisingly lost in the woods with the assumption: Because this is America! We’ve exhausted all of our natural resources! Occult or no occult goings on, nature herself is scary and unforgiving enough.