August 4, 2016

filmsgraded.com:
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Grade: 35/100

Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Stars: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

What it's about. Set in a New England forest. Three dumb young adults with too much time on their hands decide to investigate the Blair Witch, a vague myth about killers in the woods. The leader is Heather Donahue, a pushy and unbecoming director wannabe, toting a shaky camcorder. Josh and Mike have less discernible motives. Perhaps they enjoy hiking for miles lugging a huge backpack. Though they don't act like it.

Soon, our less than intrepid leads are lost in the woods. They quarrel, and their evening campsites are targeted by crazy people with an unfriendly agenda. And it's "farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies," as Robert Shaw might sing.

How others will see it. A windfall for Haxan films (Häxan is a 1922 silent horror film with footage reconstituted into 1941 and 1968 talkies), The Blair Witch Project was a marketing triumph, and unexpectedly filled mainstream theaters. The movie won the Best First Feature - Under $500,000 award at the Indepedent Spirit festival, which shows you how the film was regarded by the cinema industry back in 2000.

Today, though, the user ratings at imdb.com are not that hot. They average 6.4 out of 10, but decline steading from 6.9 under age 18, to 5.8 over age 45. The user reviews are all over the map, as you might expect, but certainly some have figured it out, as did the viewer who summed it up as the "most over-hyped movie I've ever seen."

How I felt about it. It would be an exaggeration to state that The Blair Witch Project was the worst thing that ever happened to independent filmmaking. After all, there are Edward Wood movies to contend with, in addition to the myriad cheap films which have a righteous tough guy beating up innumerable bad guy henchmen.

Nonetheless, it is depressing to realize that The Blair Witch Project is regarded as a model film in the indie field. After all, it cost 60K to make, and made 140M in U.S. theaters alone. Double that for the worldwide gross, throw in video sales and rentals, plus television rights, and you have a bonanza for the producers. Success!

The only problem is that the movie isn't good. Actually, it's not even mediocre. It is bad. Not terrible, granted, but still bad. It looks cheap. It looks bad. It is bad.

Is it all about the money? That would explain Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which I have not seen but is a most unpromising premise except to line the pockets of special effects animators.

About the film. The Blair Witch Project, that is. Here we have three truly stupid people, who take up 97% of the movie. They are so dumb that they don't carry cell phones, yet carry backpacks large enough to hold Steve Urkle's car (yes, I am aware that that cultural reference ages me). They could really use a steadicam, so that viewers don't get motion sickness.

Even after it is clear that their lives are in danger, they continue to carry this large camcorder with them, plus its requisite batteries and film. If they are lost in the woods for days at a time (is this possible in New England?), without ever encountering any evidence of civilization aside from lunatics who harass them at night, don't they have sense to follow the creek downstream, which is certain to take them to people who use it to fish, explore, or hunt, and live nearby.

Then there is the Blair Witch itself. Apparently, it is some kind of murderous cult that lives in the woods and lives off the land, a mobile unit which uses an abandoned house as a base. Anyone who wanders into their area is murdered. How long would this go on until the FBI stages a raid and arrests these people? Six months? A year tops?

Or, possibly, the Blair Witch cult only targets r-e-a-l-l-y stupid people, like the three leads in this move. In that case, they might operate with impunity long enough to make the sequel, which, fortunately, nobody seems to have seen. Count me out.

More about the movie. The interviews with local cranks aren't as bad as the rest of the movie. Too bad we don't see more of them. And at least the film is only 81 minutes long. It could easily have wasted another 40 minutes of the viewer's life.