Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Blair Witch Project

Three film students set off in search of The Blair Witch legend. The students begin in interviewing the town members about their stories of the Blair Witch then enter the Black Hills Forest armed with a 16mm camera, a Hi8 video camera, and a DAT recorder in order to capture every movement and sound. After a few hours of wandering the forest Heather, Josh and Mike realise that they have become lost. They take shelter in their tent at night but are terrorised as they try to sleep by strange noises and the sounds of others around the area. As they continue on wandering the forest they lose their map and become more and more lost, causing them to turn on each other. 

The reason why The Blair Witch Project is so engaging for the audience is that the characters are truly believable in their situation. The actors within The Blair Witch Project were given very little instruction by their directors and also had a diminishing food supply. The actors were terrorised by crew members in order to create genuine fear reactions and it immerses the audience in to the documentary as they can empathise with the cast. The film being shot with a handicam was essential for budget purposes but also gives the film its impact. The 16mm camera definitely has the documentary feel while the handicam is there to document the ever growing gap between the cast members as they collapse into madness. The technique is taken from Cinéma vérité heavily used in documentary filming over the years and does so much to invade the imagination and let loose horrors even though the audience is never actually shown anything. In Lozito’s review he writes With no special effects budget, it was up to the filmmakers… to create not only suspense, but terror, the old fashioned way - relying completely on the imagination. They succeed… The first third of the film plays like a campfire ghost story and the attitude on screen is understandably light. However, as it becomes clear that something may in fact be out in the woods, just beyond the safety of their tiny tent, their terror becomes palpable. The approach of each night becomes more foreboding than the last as the film builds to its near-perfect climax.’ (Lozito, 2007)

Gore writes about the characters performance in his review ‘Donahue is quite convincing as the leader of the film project. In fact, her performance (along with the performances of her two co-stars) are so good, it's virtually impossible to tell they aren't really three filmmakers who disappeared’ (Gore, 2008).Donahue really holds up well as the lead of the film, showing genuine denial about being lost then leading up to her apologetic speech as she realises her ignorance and arrogance has caused them to be stuck in the situation. Most of the film dialogue is completely improvised that including the camera shots which in turn makes it seem that these three actors actually disappeared within Black Hills Forest. The two supporting actors should merit a mention as well as they exhibit believable reactions to their situation, Josh breaking down and confronting Donahue with the truth of her character and Mike who firstly falls into a breakdown but ends in being one of the stronger minded characters.

A reason for the overall hype of The Blair Witch Project was the way that the film was advertised. The creators used a technique called viral advertising where clips were posted on the internet leading to many speculations as to whether what the viewers were watching was real or not. A teaser poster was used in an attempt to reinforce the documentary style of the film and that three teenagers were actually missing, presumed dead. There was also a fake documentary aired on the Sci fi channel to do with the legend with interviews with friends and family of the missing teenagers, historians and paranormal experts (all fake). The use of viral marketing was extremely clever and by the time the film had come out most of the public were already talking about it.

The Blair Witch Project was a breakthrough in the use of a Cinéma vérité which was able to create such hype in use of viral advertising to fool the public into thinking that it was genuine footage. Both techniques have been used in many recent films for example Cloverfield which used teasing virals to advertise which led cinema audiences to investigate on the internet into trying to find out what Cloverfield was.

Bibliography –

Joe Lozito, 14th July 2007, The Blair Witch Project Review,  accessed on 23/2/2011

Lucius Gore, 4th August 2008, The Blair Witch Project Review, accessed on 23/2/2011

Advertising: Its business, Culture and Careers, Andy Tibbs, Trevor Beattie,, page 68-69, accessed on 23/2/2011


Movie Poster - accessed on 23/2/2011

Donahue - accessed on 23/2/2011

Donahue - accessed on 23/2/2011

Missing Poster - accessed on 23/2/2011

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