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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Blair Witch Project (1999)



Reviews and Comments

If nothing else, The Blair Witch Project is a phenomenon in cinematic history. It's the first truly independent film ever to hit it so big at the box office, grossing upwards of $150 million domestically. Such performance from such an oddball, non-mainstream effort is amazing.

The question arises, does it live up to the hype? I can't give an easy answer. Certainly I admire it for what it was trying to accomplish, and I applaud its originality. This is a horror film that knows well that our greatest fears are not of what we see but of what might be out there. Is Blair Witch scary? Yes, but not in the modern sense; like many of the classic horror movies of the 1930s, it's more interested in creating the overpowering sense of evil and driving home the pain and terror of the characters. That it does very well -- you probably won't be scared during the film but quite possibly afterwards, when you're lying in bed awake that night.

The success is due in large part to the acting: it hurts to watch this film, for the acting is so good and so real, it's uncomfortable to watch such suffering. That attribute works the other way, too: that quality may be indicative of fine filmmaking, but is it something I really want to watch?

I must again praise the acting. The actors in this movie really lose it when things get bad. Unlike many other horror movies, where the characters may be terrified out of their minds but never lose their Hollywood glamor, these characters truly lose it. It took guts for these performers to lose their composure so completely in front of a camera, and the risks they took paid off in spades.

Much of the dialogue was improvised. The improvisional work is good, on the whole, though at times it was quite apparent certain things were dragged out too long, perhaps because they couldn't think of anything else to say. On the whole, however, again, this is another fine achievement. I think the movie would have been much improved, though, by the removal of a good twenty or thirty minutes of the more meandering footage. The excess was the film's biggest fault; too often, in the middle stages of the movie, I was eager for things to move on and frustrated that the characters were so quick to lose every shred of good sense.