Rate/Comment on The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Discussion in 'Reader Polls' started by Ash28M, Sep 2, 2004.

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Rate/Comment on The Blair Witch Project (1999)

  1. 10

    15.7%
  2. 9.5

    4.3%
  3. 9

    10.0%
  4. 8.5

    2.9%
  5. 8

    5.7%
  6. 7.5

    12.9%
  7. 7

    5.7%
  8. 6.5

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. 6

    2.9%
  10. 5.5

    1.4%
  11. 5

    4.3%
  12. 4.5

    1.4%
  13. 4

    4.3%
  14. 3.5

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  15. 3

    2.9%
  16. 2.5

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  17. 2

    4.3%
  18. 1.5

    1.4%
  19. 1

    20.0%
  20. 0

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    For one it was able to scare me by not only refusing to give me a money shot. It refused to give me anything but a black screen for stretches. Relying only on sound and my imagination. That's something I can't remember any horror film doing before. It took it's budgetary restraints and used it as as a positive like no film I've ever seen.
     
  2. DVD-fanatic-9

    DVD-fanatic-9 And the Next Morning, When the Campers Woke Up...

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    That's not smart. That's cheap.

    Okay, okay. I get what you mean. But still - anyone could do that. I'm holding the laws of craftsmanship against these filmmakers and I still say if the viewer is annoyed by the characters, they won't give a crap what happens to them.

    Therefore, the imagination goes more into thinking about anything to get us through the experience of sitting in front of this stupid movie. And it is stupid. You're basically saying - you're smart. So the movie must be smart too.

    Original? Maybe. Innovative? For some people, okay. Smart? Hell no.
     
  3. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Your response is only based on whether or not you thought the characters were annoying. I thought there performance was extremely believable and authentic. As a comparison if you watch Cloverfield, no one in their right mind would believe that was really happening based on the characters and acting. Many people thought Blair Witch was real and some still do!
     
  4. DVD-fanatic-9

    DVD-fanatic-9 And the Next Morning, When the Campers Woke Up...

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    Oh, so did I. That's why I wanted them to die so violently. Were you able to imagine that one? I came up blank.


    What has that got to do with this? So a lot of people are gullible. That's not new.
     
  5. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Fine but I don't know anyone who came away from Cloverfield, [Rec] , Diary of the Dead, Cannibal Haulocast, The Last Broadcast or any of the other "lost Footage" thinking it really happened.

    I have shown The Blair Witch Project to more then a few people telling them this was actual real footage and every one of them either bought into completely or were undecided until I told them otherwise. If it ever stumbles in it's authenticity and never drops the ball.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  6. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Well, to be fair, Cloverfield is a sodden piece of moldy wood.

    And not in a good way. :lol:

    BWP is great because it's great.

    I wrote about it recently - I think it's time I annoyed you with it here. (Or maybe I already posted it at this site.... damned if I can remember). :lol:
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  7. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    It goes without saying that The Blair Witch Project will be a hotly debated topic for evermore on message boards such as this. It’s not that some people like it and others don’t, but rather that some people like it and others hate it with a passion. It’s not enough to simply say it doesn’t float your boat, it’s got to be ripped into with vitriol and extreme prejudice, as though the film is an insult to cinema. All very odd.

    Reading thread after thread on this film, and not just on this site, a few things seem obvious to me. Firstly there’s a good bit of smugness around some of the criticism. The similarities between the execution of this film and Cannibal Holocaust are well documented, and horror fans seem to enjoy branding it as little more than a rip-off. Forget everything else it does, forget that CH was made decades ago, forget that horror films constantly recycle tips and tricks from earlier in the genre, in this case something is different. It’s like horror fans, those knowledgeable about CH, feel superior over a mainstream audience being unknowingly suckered into being scared by something of a retread – that pointing out it’s similar to CH makes you sound smarter than the average punter.

    There is also a small group of people who wallow in the “I could have made that” attitude. Like seeing a piece of modern art which to some is simply a bunch of paint thrown at a canvas, there’s a small group of horror fans who really think they could make the films we all love to watch if only they were given the chance. And here is a film that surely anyone could make? It can’t be any good, because it’s one attribute is something that makes would-be filmmakers apparently shake with anger because they didn’t get there first: simplicity.

    Then there are those that watch it who complain about “screaming Americans”. Like it or not, the characters in this film, the settings and circumstances, are very much a picture of parts of modern day America. It’s not better or worse than some of the yobbery seen on British streets – but let’s not forget Blair Witch is a fiction capturing college life in parts of the US. The people portrayed aren’t extraordinary, quite the opposite. They don’t stand out, they fail to impress – by design.

    Whatever reason is offered up, the fact is The Blair Witch Project was a hugely successful film, and its title has entered into the lexicon of horror cinema. Few people out there, mainstream or horror fans, won’t have heard of it. The phenomenal success could have been applauded by horror fans that constantly have to make excuses for enjoying the cinema they do, but instead equal numbers applauded while others chastised. Since mainstream audiences welcomed Blair Witch into their minds and hearts, so it was apparently no longer cool to like it as a horror fan. Anything your neighbor has seen just isn’t right somehow.

    Which is a shame, because The Blair Witch Project has a lot going for it. I think its number one attribute is the aforementioned simplicity. It’s a group of “actors” playing “non-actors”, or is that “non-actors” playing themselves? Either way, it’s the authenticity that strikes you (or insults you, depending on your point of view). It’s amply illustrated within the film itself when Heather Donahue (all the actors use their real names) is shown early on narrating into the camera for the first scenes of her documentary. The “I am an actor!” tone in her voice gives way, during times when she’s not narrating, into a more normal tone of voice. It’s subtle, but draws a line between an “acting voice”, and a “normal voice”.

    The simplicity extends to all aspects of the film. The plot itself is simple enough; a group of three people go into the woods to make a documentary about the legend of a witch. They get lost, stalked, and finally something happens. Along with this we have the simplest trinkets turned into something menacing: Piles of rocks, stick figures, a map, a log, teeth in a rag. There are few signs of FX work in Blair Witch, and it’s these minor articles that are used to ratchet up the tension. Yet surely they’re bits of something and nothing? Huh, that’s the entire point!

    Along with non-actors playing actors, we also have film making – feature film making – reduced to the quality of home video. It’s anti-film, breaking down the barrier between the audience and the film itself by giving us the impression that we’re watching our own vacation shoot. Who hasn’t shot footage like this? In times when everyone seems to carry a camera around with them (albeit doubling as a phone, or vice-versa), who hasn’t taken footage as jerky, at times mundane, and even crazy like this? This really could be a film any one of us shot – but the thing is, we didn’t.

    The whole question of, “is this a film or real home footage” is even discussed within the film itself. At one point a character says: “I see why you like this video camera so much, it’s not quite reality. It’s totally like a filtered reality, it’s like you can pretend everything is not quite like it is.” It’s as though the makers of The Blair Witch Project, having sucked their audience into believing what is before their eyes, are now taunting them to see how deeply they’ve fallen under the movies spell.

    There are two scenes that are probably the most talked about, the climatic vision in the basement – which seems to have caused lots of questioning at the time, but if you listen at the start of the film it’s pretty much explained – and the “girl with snot on her face” rant. The latter is actually extraordinary. It’s the one time during the “documentary” sequences when the film crosses the line between “real” and “acting” and it totally works. The actress sounds absolutely terrified, and her words are poignant and desperate, so it’s clearly a performance. Yet at the same time, in the context of the film, very much a reality. Perfectly done, then.

    But what are we to make of all this simplicity? Was it a lack of budget, a lack of skills, a lack of imagination? Actually, for me, without the simplicity The Blair Witch Project couldn’t have existed. The fears it taps into are primal – abandonment, taunting, the darkness, isolation, being prey, the unknown and so on. The hand camera work makes things more urgent, and brings us closer to the action, we could be holding the camera, we could be in those woods. The simplicity pervades everything about the film, and keeps things stripped down to the bare essentials. One gets the impression that anything surplus to requirement was simply cut and ignored, few films are pared down as much.

    When discussing this film we can’t simply ignore the marketing campaign either. The fact is this was the first film to use the Internet as a viral sales tool. Whether we want to sit back in smugness now, the fact is people truly were sucked into this movie at the time of its release. It’s all a wonderful fiction, but in Internet space it doesn’t take much to create a virtual reality. The marketing alone is a fascinating study and was surely the envy of Hollywood bigwigs who spend as much on marketing as they do on making the movies themselves.

    So what are we to make of the love/hate thing? Is it just smugness? Is it jealousy? Is it frustration of some kind? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that – but it’s a pity, because The Blair Witch Project allowed us one of the few opportunities to watch a horror film with a mainstream audience ready to be knocked back into their seats, rather than with fellow fans who are somewhat jaded. If a film is good, it’s good, and it doesn’t matter if your mother likes it too.

    I’ll also say that, like many other films, this film is somewhat robbed of its power by subsequent viewings. It can still be enjoyed, and watching it time and again you’ll notice little things you missed before, and pick up on a surprising number of nuances in the performances, but the fact is, you’re well prepared for the punch line. No matter, it’s pretty much the same for all film – when watching a second or third time you have to be seeking something slightly different.

    That the filmmakers have not gone on to further success isn’t really that important. One good film is more than I’ll ever make – and man did this ever make an impression. But there are those, especially in the horror community, who like to go into film challenging it to offend or shock them. The fact is, The Blair Witch Project isn’t that kind of film. It’s simple, rudimentary even, and yes – even you could have made it. But you didn’t. And it’s okay.

    Blair Witch is a modern day classic, and no amount of booing and moaning will change that. And horror is better for it. Stop fighting the film and its success, and let it in. Because all good films start with this simplicity, however complicated things get in their execution. If you’re a would-be filmmaker, this should be a huge inspiration. And if you’re just looking for a scare or two, you’ll likely find one here as well. There’s nothing sissy about being frightened by nothing. In fact, nothing and nowhere is one of the scariest places any one of us could be. Honest.
     
  8. DVD-fanatic-9

    DVD-fanatic-9 And the Next Morning, When the Campers Woke Up...

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    Well, I'll speak for myself I guess:

    I don't resent it's simplicity. Because I don't believe it would work on people who weren't easy to coerce into believing...well, things of a supernatural, extra-terrestrial, or spiritual nature anyway.

    And it's not because I expected the movie to be "scarier" or because I had heard too much of the hype. That's a very basic way of saying I didn't care for the movie. When it was a lot more than that that I have a problem with.

    If this movie were really about simplicity, the characters would not be pushing this into extreme territory by making themselves into such complete morons. Because we don't see anything attacking them, a common-sense oriented person such as myself has to believe they doomed themselves by throwing the map away and wasting time because they're idiots.

    I can't watch these people lost in the woods for an hour if they spend more time lamenting the fact that they can't find their way out of the woods than they do walking out of the woods. If this is a film about these people being terrorized, I can't watch them spending more time swearing about "what the fuck is going on?" than they do actually seeking out the things they're supposedly hearing in their tent and sleeping bags. (And you know what? I didn't even hear anything)

    This is not a movie where we are right with these characters, hearing and seeing everything they do. We're just getting their reactions. That's it. Maybe you saw a different movie than I do, but if at least the movie had shown more of what they were being terrorized by than it did just them yelling at each other and going - "what the fuck is that? Josh what the fuck is that?! Heather, what the fuck is that?!" (they sure heard and saw a lot more than I did) - there might be some horror in this movie. And then I could give you that.


    We see nothing in the movie. We hear nothing in the movie. Nothing happened.

    So, sorry, but don't give me this "it makes you use your imagination" garbage (I am sorry I promise).

    I could sit anywhere and close my eyes and use my imagination to create horror. Why would I want to do it for an entire film? There is a thing we all know about in horror called "suspension of disbelief." I don't know anyone who can suspend disbelief for an entire movie. We just do it for certain pieces. And it works better for surreal films than it does for what you're claiming is a film depicting realistic situations.

    And then, of course- what about entertainment value? And I mean, legitimate entertainment value? Why does this film which didn't spend any time and effort crafting a great film get to compete with other masterpieces in the genre which worked their butt off to create a real story and a film with real images?


    I get that this film was made so some people could have a different experience. Well, this is just way too different to - in my opinion - count in the same genre. It doesn't belong next to great films that earn their 8's, 9's, and 10's. Because (among other things) they relied on filmmakers to create them. Not the audience.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  9. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Nice Review dwatts. I enjoyed reading that.
     
  10. DVD-fanatic-9

    DVD-fanatic-9 And the Next Morning, When the Campers Woke Up...

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    What'd you think of my review? :D
     
  11. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    See that is what is great about the film. If you don't believe in the supernatural it works on that level showing you nothing that isn't plausible. If you do believe in the supernatural it has more then enough to get your imagination kicking into high gear

    See I have been in that circumstance walking home through even familiar woods in a pitch black moonless night thinking it would be a shortcut. Let me tell you your mind plays some wicked tricks on you, every sound is amplified. Yes you know there is nothing to worry about but there is also that small part of you that is thinking "what the fuck was that".

    Again your mind plays tricks and your not even sure you want to know were that sound is coming from. Like Mike said in the film if it's a wild animal I don't want to mess with it and if it's not I don't want to mess with that either.

    Also if you didn't hear anything you need to raise the volume.

    The film does allow you to get into the characters are experiencing. It makes you concentrate on your hearing and visuals. Raising your senses to a level not usually experienced in a film. This puts you on constant edge and makes you see and hear things your not sure you actually saw or heard.

    I beg to differ. So much happens, you just need to be open to it.

    Not every film would work this way but this one does. It's an amazing vehicle to transport you into your worst fears. Isn't that what a horror film is suppose to do?

    See I think it works amazingly as a horror film, I have never been so entertained at the theatres as I was with this. I do put it up there with the greats and I think it's the best horror film in about 30 years.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  12. DVD-fanatic-9

    DVD-fanatic-9 And the Next Morning, When the Campers Woke Up...

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    You sound like a member of a cult.

    I like your explanations. But they're all about the viewer. I don't think they have anything to do with the movie. Which is of course why so many people hate the movie. I don't know if they're artistically minded or what.



    Oh, come on. Be realistic now. Sure - that would be nice. But how often does that happen while watching a movie? If you're praising the movie because it's one of the only ones to give you that feeling, okay. But I've seen a lot of horror films. Almost all of them tried to make a movie that looks and feels like a movie. That's why I said this works for some people but not everyone. I think this film really forces viewers to pick a side. If anyone appreciates this movie, they can only appreciate it for 1 reason. That's manipulative. And not in a way I appreciate.

    I don't feel cheated that I didn't have the same experience watching this movie that you did. I feel cheated that people do... then call this a horror film. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Just wondering. How many times and when was the last time you've seen the film? I'm just asking because their must be some part of you thinking you wish you could experience what some of us see in it. Maybe you haven't scene it in the right circumstances?

    I would recommend doing the following.

    1. Wait until late at night but not too late that you will be tired.
    2. Turn off all the lights so the only illumination is coming from the screen.
    3. Turn up the volume to you can hear every cracked twig.
    4. Allow yourself to be engulfed in the proceeding.

    If you try that and still don't see any redeeming qualities then hey you gave it a fair shake.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  14. DVD-fanatic-9

    DVD-fanatic-9 And the Next Morning, When the Campers Woke Up...

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    I've seen the film at least 3 times all the way through, maybe 4. I last saw it last October and I first saw it in 2000. So I watch it at least once every 3 years. Out of respect to people like you who love the movie. Unfortunately, the movie never gets any better.



    I will admit, most of the times I've watched it, it was during the day.


    I only have the VHS and all my VCR's are mono.


    Hmmm...
     
  15. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Also make sure you watch it by yourself. I find it doesnt work the same as other people in the room can be a distraction.

    I guess watching it 3-4 times is fair enough but I would still recommend one more viewing. Pay careful attention to the sounds as I think it's the most effect aspect. If the screen goes black you can even look away and just concentrate on the different noises coming from the woods. Basicly pretend you are there along with them. Most importantly allow yourself to be creeped out! Some people are too on the defensive when it comes to opening themselves up to that.

    Sometimes you just need to know how to watch a particular film to experience it fully. You may just not of found that yet with this one.

    Give it one more try and see how it goes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  16. Paff

    Paff Super Moderator

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    As a huge BWP lover, I'm gonna have to disagree here. What makes the movie work is the "unknown" feeling, and you really only get that the first time through. Oh, I still watch it every year at Halloween, and I still enjoy it, but the only time I really felt fear was on the first viewing.

    If you didn't appreciate it the first time, you never will.
     
  17. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    You may be right as I don't think I have ever encountered someone who used to hate it and now loves it.

    I have though had some pretty good goose bump filled experiences on rewatching. I just need to be in the right mood.

    Hey if you are huge BWP fan why did you only give it a 7.5?
     
  18. Paff

    Paff Super Moderator

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    Oh, and I really like Dwatts' comments too. He brings up a lot of the things that I always mention. The "I could have made this" mentality is quite correct, and that's precisely the reason it worked for so many of us. Look how many movies have used the infamous tagline "Keep repeating to yourself, it's only a movie, it's only a movie", when BWP tried to do the exact opposite: convincing the audience that this was real, and using a cinematic style that supports the argument.

    Also agree 100% on the "annoying characters" comment. A lot of people don't like the trio, and you're not supposed to. I've said it a million times before on this board, anyone who's been to college and done a group project as worked with one or more people who behave exactly the same way as the BWP people. Hell, I can name several.

    Finally, I never had a problem with the discarding of the map. Again, based on several real life aquaintances who can't stand maps, and can't read one. These are the cretins who, when you ask how to get to their home or to a certain place, will start giving these convoluted directions. You're telling them, "Just give me the address, dumbass, and I'll Mapquest it". They come back with, "OK, you're gonna come to a stop light. Go through that. Then like three or four lights later...you go through that one again. Make a right at that place....that place....you know, the one that sells chili. We're like the sixth or seventh house on the left. There's a Toyota in the driveway, you can't miss it".

    c'mon....you HAVE met people like this, haven't you?
     
  19. Ash28M

    Ash28M Active Member

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    Actually if you listen to the commentary they say that loosing the map wasn't scripted. Mike actually got pissed off and threw away the map, so stupid or not. It happened and isn't a valid argument.
     
  20. Anaestheus

    Anaestheus Well-Known Member

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    First off, I am enjoying the thread. I've said this in the past, but it's always worth mentioning, that this is one of my favorite forums because (usually) when people argue, they do so with interesting and valid points and not just name calling.

    As I mentioned earlier, I saw this opening day, literally knowing nothing about the movie. I hadn't even been aware of the internet campaign or the running of "Curse of Blair Witch" on cable. And as far as I can tell, the majority of the audience (a full theater in Chicago) was shaken by the film. Of the group I was with, only one person thought it was crap, and that's only because he was an avid camper and found the idea of them being lost in the woods unbelievable because he said he could tell that they weren't in that deep.

    However, one thing that I did notice during the film's theatrical run, was that it seemed that the later people saw the movie, the less likely they were to like it. I always felt that if you had expectations going into the theater, most likely, you'd respond negatively to the film. In fact, I always felt pretty lucky that I had the experience that I did. And, yes, I am a seasoned and jaded horror film enthusiast. But, still, I bought into the story, I found the characters reactions to be understandable (except for the map bit) and in the end, at the age of 30, the stupid thing scared me. And that was definitely more than any of the other recent horror films were managing to do at the time.

    As to the "craft" of the film, it is definitely there. As commented on earler, the use of sound is fantastic and that really is where most of the "horror" comes from here. And, if you can't hear the sounds that coming from the woods, then you are missing a lot of what made this effective.

    And, the other thing that I think this film manages to pull off is that elusive "atmosphere." A lot of the banter here reminds me of the arguments about Fulci. Most people think his stuff is crap. I mean, the spiders in "Beyond"? Who the hell is scared of some wind-up dolls? I used to think that Fulci was a hack. But, I've got to admit that I am slowly begining to get it. When he's on, he does make an incredible atmosphere.

    And that's one thing that I do think BWP does fantastically and stands as another aspect of the films "craft." It does a great job of setting up little incidents that just increase in weirdness with no explanation. Yeah, it leaves a lot of things unanswered. That's the point, it's the mystery. Yes, the filmmakers are trying to force you to use your imagination, but I feel that they are giving you enough information to give your imagination a pretty hearty meal.

    Finally, while I side with Dwatts and do think this was an excellent film, I do understand DVD-fanatic's reaction. And, I do think DVD-fanatic has given it a good effort to try to like the film, I don't think s/he (no offence meant, I really don't know) has watched it in the optimal conditions and that may be hindering the experience. But, I doubt that further viewings will improve the reaction to the film. BWP does not really stand up to multiple viewings. There is not a lot of depth here. It is a one-trick pony. But, I think that it's a great trick.
     

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