The Blair Witch Project
***.4 GM
Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael Williams

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I am generally not one for the 'scary' movies. The endless sequels like "Friday The 13th Part M: Jason Takes Up Tap and Runs Away To Find The 'REAL JASON,' Who Just Happens To Be An Effeminate Poet Named Zanzibar" and "Nightmare On Elm Street C: People Just Move To Oak Street" really got my dander up, and pointless gore just wasn't as amusing to me as it was to my friend, who also enjoyed setting Smurf toys on fire and scotch-taping his pet bird to a wall.

I went into this film with a bit of trepidation. I had heard people had seen it and hadn't slept for two days. Friends of mine who are very discerning and able to see dumb scare tactics for what they are were proclaiming this as the scariest thing they'd ever seen. Being the general wuss that I am, I was worried about just how bad this was going to get for me... and as a word of warning, a belly full of fast food is NOT advisable if you are planning to spend the next couple hours tensed-up and anxious. Makes for bad ju-ju.

This was an excellent film, done extremely well for what it was trying to do. The footage is put together as though it were the actual discovered footage from three missing and presumed dead film students. None of the film looks professionally staged or lit well (and some people paid for it by getting nauseated at the jerkiness of the cameras). The realism factor is so high, you can hardly blame the distributors for trying to pass it off as an actual event. None of the actors are made up to look pretty, everyone seems down-to-earth, they seem like they know what they're doing, and apparently a good deal of the film was improvised, too. It FEELS real, like we're watching a handful of goobers from the other side of campus going off and doing a class project.

The fact that there was nearly NO blood at all in the film shows that they know how to do scary. The fact that they NEVER relied on cheap crap like things suddenly leaping out at people as they looked behind a tree or something shows that they know how to do scary. They just slowly introduce creepy things into their regular outing, until it builds to the last 15 minutes or so, where the fright factor gets really pumped up and the anticipation begins to build to dizzying levels.

The advantage this film has is that it can kill all of its main characters. Everyone knows they're all missing and won't be found. In traditional crap, one person has to be left standing for the sequel parade while, one by one, all her friends get iced in 'new and entertaining' ways. But we know they all die in this film, and the tension comes from the curiosity about HOW it happened.

It's disturbing, it's original, and it gets you involved because these could be a batch of schmucks you know. It also sticks with you, makes you talk about it, makes you think about it. That's the sign of a good film.



Updated Thoughts - 7/13/2001: Yes, this movie really got to me when I saw it pre-hype. However, the fact that I've never had anything remotely resembling an interest in seeing it again is unfortunately indicating that I may have been overstating things a bit with my initial reaction. However, I still think it was pretty cool for what it was doing, and down the road a bit, when the hype and distaste has faded, people seeing it for the first time might feel what I felt again.

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