My god, I feel old.
A Special Place and Time
A lot of digital ink has already been spilt on the subject of one of the most influential and unexpected films in the last two decades. What I think one needs to keep in mind is how strange of a year 1999 was for film.
The Matrix came out and became and instant cult classic instantly influencing kungfu and sci-fi flicks in t he US up until present day. Episode I began a new chapter in the Star Wars universe and in the very early days of the internet revealed a patter of fandom love/hate that we still see with each newly released Star Wars entry where fans are quick to claim it’s either the best or the worst of the series. Also a movie with 1/100th of the other two’s budgets combined made a splash whose ripples are still being seen in horror today.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
It’s hard to imagine a movie coming along with the type of publicity this film had in 99 and take many audiences by complete surprise. Alas things change, but it certainly makes my experience with the movie along with others pretty unique for our first viewing.
For all the simple fears of this movie: getting lost in the woods, traveling with people you don’t know super well, I always found the most chills delivered from the very beginning and very end of the film. The movie setting up the lore of the witch via interviews and documentary segments of exposition set up around the town really sets the stage for a creature that has much influence of the local town.
Also it helps the films sense of verisimilitude with actually getting real people (not actors) to be interviewed for the first part of the film. These people don’t feel like characters, just normal humans who have heard some pretty weird stories. Putting together the supernatural and the mundane might not sound exciting, but TBWP certainly is an example of it done well.
While many have complained about the likability of the documentary crew, I think they’re the right blend of cocky, young, in over their heads that it makes everything that follows once they start having trouble in the woods feel authentic. This isn’t a story about friends doing a passion project together. These are just young semi-professionals working in increasingly weird conditions where tempers get heated when mysteries aren’t easily answered.
The term perfect might seem too elevating for almost any film, and yet to me that is what TBWP is: a perfect film. I use the criteria where a film should best be judged by what it tries to be about and how well it accomplishes that. Blair Witch Project is a story about a documentary project gone wrong when it gets too close to the mythos it is is exploring with the film crew eventually overcome by the force behind the mythos.
That sense of dread and inevitability is there early in the film and carries the narrative forward all the way to its perfect ending. Props to a film whose initial fame almost outshined the actual content; 20 years later and still one of the gold standards of the subgenre.