The Blair Witch Project (1999)
By: Devon B. on July 24, 2012  | 
Icon | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 | 81 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Screenplay: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Country: USA
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The marketing behind The Blair Witch Project was brilliant. Things were kept coy for a long time, with little snippets of information coming out here and there. The release of the film itself was monumental, and some people hadn't quite got word that the film wasn't an actual documentary after all. I know some people hadn't realised this because when I saw it at the theatre there were two Christian men who every few seconds would start loudly proclaiming that the people on screen were in big trouble and that they better pray to Christ to save them. I was pretty sure I was gonna see two grown men piss themselves in fear at that screening, but luckily their bladders held. I didn't like the movie at all, pronouncing it "fucking boring" as the credits came up, but was willing to admit that part of my problem may have been the two idiots in the cinema that thought the whole thing was real. Even if you thought it was real before going to the movie, how the hell anyone could think it was real while watching it is way beyond me. I gave the film another go at the drive-in as part of a double feature, but again didn't like it. Someone must've insisted I watch it a third time once it came out on home video, and on the third viewing I was finally able to appreciate it. There was something about this movie that meant it worked far better for me at home on a little screen. It was partially because a lot of it is shot on video so it looked like something you'd only ever see on a normal television, not on a big screen, so the movie felt more genuine on home video.

The story surrounding the movie was that three filmmakers had gone into the woods to shoot a documentary about the Blair Witch, but they went missing. The footage they took was eventually found and The Blair Witch Project is meant to show what happened to them on their journey.

The movie starts with the trio getting together and heading to the town the witch once called home to interview the locals. Then they head into the woods, but almost immediately start to encounter problems because their navigation skills suck. Tensions flare, and everyone gets annoyed at the super annoying director – a pushy lady that could make the Dali Llama wanna smack her after a few hours in her company. She truly was the 90s answer to Franklin from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. To make matters worse, the three stumble across some weird shit, and then the frighteners get laid on them good.

When The Blair Witch Project came out some people said it ripped off Cannibal Holocaust, but I doubt that. Back then Cannibal Holocaust was really obscure in the States, so I'd say it's far more likely to be borrowing from Man Bites Dog (if you're gonna steal, steal from the best, I guess). Despite having virtually no plot, Blair Witch still manages to have a plot point that is so inconceivable that additional footage was shot to try to explain it away, and it was this moment in the film that made me incredulous that the two Christian nutjobs at the theatre could possibly still believe the movie was actual found footage. I mean, I was having enough trouble trying to accept that the director kept filming during the situation she was in, but this moment was so ridiculous it was beyond belief and it wasn't even supernatural.

To be fair, the movie has some funny moments, and there were some things that were done very well. Probably the best example was the clever marketing campaign that meant everyone felt they had to see it, even if it was giving people motion sickness in the theatre. There was also some nifty stuff done to give the proceedings a creepy feel, and the unique filming style on set guaranteed the cast would be deep in the method whenever on camera. The result isn't a bad movie, but it also didn't absolutely wow me, maybe because I'd already seen two very powerful example of "found footage" movies.

Another issue I had years ago with Blair Witch was that it eclipsed the far superior The Last Broadcast. Today I can accept that the films had enough differences to co-exist, but it did aggravate me that The Last Broadcast didn't get the attention it deserved. I know it falls apart at the end, but it's a far better constructed piece than Blair Witch. I found comparison inevitable between the two, and Blair Witch always came second.

I think without the hype and frenzy, The Blair Witch Project is an interesting movie that gave hope to filmmakers that they could achieve a lot with very little money. It freaked a lot of people out, and since that was its raison d'être I guess it was a massive success as well as a blockbuster.
The Blair Witch Project is meant to be shot on cheap equipment by film students, so it's not supposed to look good. There's all sorts of grain and scratches and it looks ugly, but it's meant to. What it's not meant to be is widescreen. The movie was originally shown at 1.33:1, and here it's been cropped. The film was not delicately framed to begin with, so cropping it has made it feel too tight and even more awkward. It also doesn't help to lose picture information when the camera is swirling around. I also think that making the movie widescreen makes it feel more like a "movie" than the found footage it's pretending to be.
Two audio tracks are available, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix or a TrueHD 2.0 track. The DTS is better, but again this is a "found footage" movie so the commentary track sounds better than either of the feature's audio choices.
Extra Features
The Blu-ray has two of the film's teaser trailers as well as the theatrical trailer; the "newly discovered" footage I mentioned before that tries to cover that glaring plot hole; a presentation of the "facts" of the legend of the witch; Curse of the Blair Witch and an audio commentary. The reason I got this Blu was for Curse, which was a 43 minute special, again set up like a documentary, which delves into the history of the witch and the town of Blair, and also speculates on what happened to the three filmmakers from the feature. I've always liked this more than the film itself, but it is much closer in structure to The Last Broadcast so comparisons pop up again. The commentary track features a few of the crew, and it gets a bit goofy but information is provided about what was going on during the filming. Given the way the movie was made was pretty revolutionary, this track is worth a listen. I would've liked a retrospective documentary about the impact of the movie itself, but I'm happy to have Curse at least.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
While it wasn't the original film many people hailed it as, The Blair Witch Project was groundbreaking and paved the way for things like Paranormal Activity. While it was overrated, it still has its moments that make it worth seeing. This Blu-ray is a bit of a letdown because I think the cropping really hurts the movie. I don't even notice aspect ratio stuff most of the time, but I instantly thought something wasn't right when the movie started playing. The US Blu presents the film in the correct aspect ratio, so I'd say get that one instead.

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