The Blair Witch Project is a great example of the differences between the casual moviegoers and the movie lovers. The casual moviegoers just weren't ready for.......well......something different from the usual by-the-numbers, cookie-cutter movies spoon-fed to them on a Friday or Saturday night. I can recall all the casual moviegoers complaints about TBWP: "They didn't show the witch!" (WHO said there was a witch?) "Why couldn't they find their way out of the woods?" (Maybe supernatural tampering with the landscape...or a group lapse into self-defeatism.) "The ending was stupid! I didn't get it! Why was he standing there, facing the wall?" (Please train yourself to devote your full attention to the entire film.....and not tune out the opening with cell phone calls and goober breaks. )
I don't blame the modern casual moviegoers for their habits.....as they have only been trained to watch movies that way in the mind-numbing cycle of "Blockbuster" releases. Nowadays, the attention spans are so short, the level of interpretation so shallow, that the casual movie moviegoer doesn't really "tune-in" to what is going on in a movie UNTIL the first CGI effect or explosion occurs. And in a film like TBWP, here would be a typical "reaction-line" from the casual moviegoer:
"OK...They're getting ready to go in the woods, got it! (brain goes on cruise) "Why is the film quality so lackluster and the camera so shaky? OK....they are interviewing people....that's not scary....when will the witch show up? I wonder if the witch will look real enough. ...........They are in the woods......no witch yet...probably when it turns dark, then the witch will attack them......why is the camera so shaky?.....hmmmmmm........just noises? Where is the witch? Why don't they show the witch? The title is The Blair Witch Project right? So there must be a witch! I don't get it...just three campers bickering......WHERE is the witch? Maybe they couldn't afford to show a witch..(brain cruises through character development passages).......OK...one of the guys is missing...but they cheesed out and didn't show the witch get him....LAME! Why is she crying? Nothing happened! No witch yet...this is almost over..........they have to show the witch soon...........(brain cruises).....ohhhh...they found a witch house.....I bet the witch is in there waiting for them! Finally!! She is racing into the basement. Why is he standing like that? Where's the witch? (credits roll) That sucked!!"
Movie Lovers, on the other ticket, have been self-trained to go into each film with no expectations. Movie Lovers have been through many films and they have movie generalities swimming through their head too....but they have also learned to judge each film on its own merits in story-telling. A Movie Lover seems to have a longer attention span and a greater patience to see a film all the way through, reflect on the film's strengths and weaknesses, and THEN rate the effectiveness of the film.
I think a great example of the two classes of the movie-going public can be seen by reading the professional critics. There is no doubt that the Roger Eberts of the world (both the local and national reviewers) are Movie Lovers.....they have to be to sit through all those really bad films year in and year out (how those poor guys made it through the 80's with ALL those Police Academy movies and Friday the 13th clones is nothing short of incredible!) These professional critics usually agree, for the most part, with their peers....all Movie Lovers. It is where the movie-going public is usually divided (I believe it is about a 50/50 split....half Casual....half Movie Lovers). Whereas most critics agree that films like TBWP and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are great, well-made films.....only half the public (also Movie Lovers) would agree. There are definitely two schools of thought when it comes to watching, evaluating, and appreciating movies.
....and get some water for billy!"