Stephen King is a master of horror stories, but even he gets scared. Half way through this movie, he had to turn it off.
By Melissa Coy
Published 3 days ago
Steven King is a master of horror and fiction stories, but even he gets scared sometimes. On an episode of Eli Roth’s History Of Horror, available to stream on Shudder, King recounted the time he was in a hospital and had been administered some pain medication when he first saw The Blair Witch Project.?His son brought a VHS tape to the hospital and then told the world-renowned author that he’s “gotta watch this.”
Halfway through the film, however, Stephen King recalls telling his son to turn off the movie because it was “too freaky.” Maybe it was thanks to the medication, but this movie definitely frightened the man who has been frightening readers for years. What made The Blair Witch Project so freaky, and does it still hold up to today’s (2021) standard of found footage horror films?
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When?The Blair Witch Project?came out in 1999, people genuinely were confused on if this was real footage. Believe it or not, found footage was a relatively new film technique, and the concept was not understood by the large majority of the population. It didn’t help that upon the world premiere of the film, the creators used a marketing campaign to make it appear as if the actors?had actually been lost?and that this was the footage found after the incident. There were ‘missing’ and deceased’ flyers for the actors placed around any festival the film was shown at. There was also a dedicated website that allowed viewers to learn more about the project. All of this marketing helped make?The Blair Witch Project?into a legend because of its scare factor in appearing as if were a real event that shouldn’t be seen.
The Blair Witch Project?was filmed on a budget of $200-$750 thousand?but managed to make almost $250 million since its initial release in 1999. This makes it one of the most financially successful independently made films ever, despite being a sleeper hit. A movie like this would have been instantly dismissed by a movie viewer in 2021 because there are a ton of movies like?The Blair Witch Project?that keep pushing the boundaries of horror and terror. People today also know very well about this technique of filming thanks to franchises like Paranormal Activity?and Cloverfield,?and it would be hard to find someone gullible enough to believe a movie like this could be real.
People now know that?The Blair Witch Project?is just a film, which makes rewatching a less enjoyable activity. There are no big movie moments, and everything seems as if it is just a couple of friends recording themselves. Because of this, it does manage to stay more believable than other movies like Cloverfield, since everything feels natural and not forced. Perhaps this is because although there was a 35-page screenplay, most of the dialogue was improvised. Of course, a movie like this can now be made by anyone with a phone camera and basic film knowledge, and if?The Blair Witch Project?hadn’t ever?been made, someone today would have thought of the same technique by now. But it is still a special movie for being (somewhat) of a pioneer.
The acting in the movie, with improvised dialogue, is very strong. The fear the actors?feel is very palpable and translates well through the screen. Although the Blair Witch is not seen in the final film, supposedly she was to make a 1-2 second appearance in the distance, but the camera operator did not pan over to where the actor playing the witch was standing. The scene was never re-filmed because of the tight principal photography schedule and so the witch is never seen. Not showing the witch might have been the best choice, as it might have become a little too fake looking if the mysterious witch was shown in full.
The ending of?The Blair Witch Project?is definitely the creepiest and most unsettling part of the whole movie. It is a little open ended, and without a clear conclusion to the ending, first-time viewers’ feeling?of anxiety will stay heightened and not allow them to feel settled. Perhaps it is because Stephen King (like the rest of the world) hadn’t been exposed to as many found footage movies before that it made him feel uneasy. A film like this definitely did better in an age where the latest DVD technology was just beginning, and the most readily available way to watch a movie was on VHS.
Something about holding a physical VHS tape and putting it into a VCR, and then watching an hour and a half of creepy found footage must have given?a more impactful experience than watching it on a laptop.?Stephen King said that the thing about?The Blair Witch Project?is that it looked at felt real. Although there are other, maybe more scary found footage films out there, this one comes with a bit of nostalgia for some moviegoers and stands out thanks to its viral marketing campaign.
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