The Blair Witch Project Casts a Spell on Generations

The Blair Witch movie poster.

Courtesy of IMDB

The Blair Witch movie poster.

Lily Ives, Features Editor

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Is The Blair Witch Project truly a good movie?

A question that I am certainly not the first to pose. People have been debating this since the movie’s 1999 release. Is the shoddy camera work a sign of a bad movie making or is it atmospheric? Is the inexperienced acting distracting from the story or does it help build it? It is in my opinion that The Blair Witch Project is a masterfully made movie and a piece of film that everyone in my generation and the generations to come should see. 

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this film, the basic premise is as follows: Heather, Michael, and Josh are all students who are making a film about the Maryland-born urban legend of the Blair Witch. All starts fairly normal with the trio basically camping, until they begin hearing the sound of twigs snapping coming from all around and wake up to seven rock piles set around their camp. Strange happenings continue, coming to a peak with the loss of a map, and with the conclusion of the story taking place in a cabin. 

The Blair Witch Project is an influential movie for a variety of reasons. For example, the movie helped start the trend of the concept of viral marketing, but possibly more importantly, it brought the found-footage film genre to the general public’s attention, which now dominates the horror movies of the 2000s/2010s. The film still has a large cult following and some of its imagery has now been put to an iconic status and has been mentioned in plenty of new media, including an animated Scooby Doo project. 

First of all, the marketing for The Blair Witch Project was incredibly immersive, and it made the concept of this being real documentary footage far more believable. With a minor budget of $60,000 and people who weren’t actors playing their leads, marketing was the only way to make money off of this movie.

 Another example of a horror movie with a small budget is Saw, which had a budget of $1.2 million, an amount considered small. The Blair Witch Project had only a fraction of this, yet made $250 million with Saw making about $100 million.

 The marketing for this falls under the category of viral marketing which is a method of advertisement which directly interacts with the audience prior to the films release, having the audience spread the information about the movie. For The Blair Witch Project, the biggest aspect of the marketing was the website created for the film. This website featured a timeline detailing the events related to the myth of the Blair Witch, information about the aforementioned missing film students, photos of these students that were supposedly released by authorities, and interviews with the families of these students. All of these elements made the legitimacy of the film seem much more real and added an atmosphere that hadn’t really been seen before. 

In my opinion, The Blair Witch Project is an amazing horror film, as well as the marketing, because of the way that the jump scares were done in the film. The majority of the film’s actual horror elements are left up to the viewer’s interpretation. Specifically, the Blair Witch herself is never actually seen by the audience; all we see is what she is doing to the students, such as creating the rock piles and the now famous stick dolls.

 Another example of this is the ending of the film. Spoilers for the people who haven’t seen it: the ending of the film leaves the fate of the students up to interpretation, with the general belief being that they are killed by the Blair Witch. This ambiguity has led to a variety of fan theories about what actually happened in the events of the movie and to a question about how much was actually the Blair Witch’s fault. Seeing a community come together and talk about what happens in a movie is something that makes you feel like your a part of something, making the viewing experience more fun.  

To put it simply, The Blair Witch Project is a film that truly captured its audience’s attention prior to its release, in the actual film, and even now, 20 years after the film’s initial release. It has something that I don’t think any other film with ever truly capture. The still-standing popularity and cult following of this movie is a testament to how successful this film used the traits of horror movies.