PFS Film Review
The Blair Witch Project


The tagline of The Blair Witch Project is "In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittesville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. One year later, their footage was found." Titles at the beginning of the film tell us about the three who set forth into the woods to do a documentary about a legendary witch but never returned. Filmviewers must surmise that the video film is recovered. The story begins as Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams and Heather Donohue (playing themselves), generation Xers about eighteen years of age, pack up for the expedition into the Black Hills Forest. Montgomery College film student Heather leads the trio. When they reach Burkittesville (formerly the town of Blair), they interview townspeople about the two-hundred-year-old legend. Some interviewees are skeptical, but others allege that in 1940 a hirsute witch was responsible for disemboweling seven children aged six in a now-abandoned house in the woods. Using a map of the area, the trio sets forth on foot to locate the house, the gravesites, and perhaps the witch herself. After a relatively inconsequential first day, they camp out, but during the night they hear strange sounds. When they wake up, there three gravesites, marked in stone, outside their tents; they infer that the witch was responsible and gave them a warning. On the second day, despite a dispute over the map between Heather and Mike, they locate the seven gravesites, also marked in stone. The same sounds bother them during the second night. On the third day, they decide to return to civilization, but Mike has secretly destroyed the map, which he believed to be worthless; after Heather vents anger over the loss of the map, she decides that the group should go south, using her compass. In the afternoon they locate a place where sticks have been tied together onto tree branches in the form of skeletons. At the end of the day, they have returned to where they started. Panic sets in, but they have to bed down for the night. After dark, they are attacked. When the attack ends, Mike and Heather that realize that Josh is missing. They hear his screams but cannot find him. When they awake the next morning, they find a bunch of sticks tied together with strips of Josh’s flannel shirt; inside the sticks is a fresh human heart. More panic. They decide to go east instead of south and soon discover the abandoned house; inside the house are screams. They try to locate the source of the screams, but the film ends before they can do so. Many filmviewers leave promptly when a film ends and do not stop to look at the credits; for those who stay, titles reveal that the film was fictional and followed a script, cowritten by directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. However, the filming and the dialog are so amateurish that audiences will find the plot to be entirely credible. As a horror film, The Blair Witch Project is a nailbiter for all except that who realize that videocam batteries would not have lasted more than a few hours on the first day. But of course the film only lasts eight-seven minutes, so batteries would have been adequate. One could stretch the story to serve as a paradigm for what happens when the naïve venture into the unknown, such as the decision to launch a nuclear bomb attack, but the film is really a character study of generation Xers who are terrified about their futures in a fast-paced world with neither the expectation that giant corporations will offer steady employment nor the security that government bureaucrats will care about them. MH

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