With the release of the new sequel/reboot of the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project, I decided to launch a new feature that I have been kicking around for some time. Before You Go… will be an article that highlights some “required reading” of sorts necessary to view before going to the cinema for a new release. This can be anything from the original film a movie may be based on, a comic book storyline, or another entry in a director’s filmography. This week: Blair Witch
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Directed by: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez
Anyone that has any interest in seeing the new Blair Witch will have surely at least heard of the original film, which was an absolute cultural phenomenon. The Blair Witch Project is one of the first “found footage” movies and completely revolutionized a genre. Sure, Cannibal Holocaust and The Last Broadcast may have come first, but The Blair Witch Project brought this aesthetic to the mainstream.
The film follows three student filmmakers, as they investigate the local legend of the Blair Witch. What unfolds is 90 or so minutes of Heather, Josh, and Mike walking in the woods, reacting to the supernatural sounds and the elements they encounter. It’s a polarizing movie, to say the least: some consider this one of the greatest triumphs of the genre in the past two decades, while others criticize it for being nothing more than a few people in the woods.
One thing to remember about The Blair Witch Project is that in revolutionized viral marketing in the early days of the Internet. A full website about the disappearance of the three main characters was launched an entire year prior to the film’s release, and the claim of the film’s authenticity wasn’t completely debunked until after the premiere.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Directed by: Oren Peli
While The Blair Witch Project is often (incorrectly) credited with starting the whole “found footage” subgenre, it really didn’t see a whole lot of mainstream copycats. The years after The Blair Witch Project were filled with a different horror spectacle: torture porn. This is the era that saw the Saw franchise thrive and Eli Roth release two Hostel films.
Paranormal Activity (along with the original [Rec]) was the one that was the jumping-off point for countless found footage films: Cloverfield, V/H/S, Chronicle, The Last Exorcism, and countless others have arrived in the wake of the original Paranormal Activity, for better or worse. It even had its own like-minded viral campaign that mirrored that of the original Blair Witch Project film. It was billed as real, and for a while, some believed it.
Filmed in 10 days, Paranormal Activity showcased the appeal of the genre and the newest digital technology: cost efficiency. Made for just $15,000, it eventually grossed $193 million worldwide at the box office. It went on to spawn five sequels totaling $889 million worldwide combined.
You’re Next (2011)
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Blair Witch is directed by Adam Wingard and scripted by Simon Barrett, a team that has collaborated on The Guest, segments of V/H/S, V/H/S 2, and The ABC’s of Death, and 2011’s horror-action flick You’re Next, which we covered in 31 Days of Horror.
You’re Next tells the story of a family dinner that goes terribly wrong when the house becomes under attack by masked killers lurking in the woods. What starts off as a home invasion film akin to The Strangers or Funny Games, turns into a survival actioner, led by the charismatic lead Sharni Vinson, and the kinetic direction of Adam Wingard. It’s a tense film throughout and one of the best films the horror genre has had to offer in recent memory.
Blair Witch opens Friday September 16th and currently has a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes.