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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Film Review: The Blair Witch Project

There really isn't anything I can tell you about 'The Blair Witch Project' that you may not have heard already. The making of this movie, and the hoopla surrounding its US release is already the stuff of legend. But this film is different. Because the hype has been worth it. Trust me when I say, it is the most realistic horror film I have ever seen. Whether or not it is the best is really up to personal choice.

Reviews of The Blair Witch Project from the nation's top critics!The plot, to use a clich?is simplicity itself. Three young filmmakers, Heather Donohue, Josh Leonard and Michael Williams, disappear in the woods surrounding Burkitsville, Maryland while filming a documentary on the urban legend of the Blair Witch. The film is the 'lost footage' of the students. The basic plot allows the whole idea to take on the air of an old-fashioned ghost story, one we all have heard and shivered at around a camp-fire.

This is not a horror film of the 'Scream' variety. There are no huge jump shocks, gallons of blood or ironic commentary. This film's horror lies in burrowing into your mind, adding layers of tension and fear, with no release. There is no catharsis. What you are left with is a deeply freaky feeling, an almost claustrophobic dread. It is something that I have never felt before.

The slick production of most slasher pics is also missing. 'The Blair Witch Project' is shot entirely with home video and 16mm film, operated by the actors themselves. Thus, because we see everything form their point of view, we are forced to empathise with them. We are also never shown what is haunting the trio. There are no CGI hags who jump out at the highest point of tension, only the faces of three people going through hell.

None of the film would have worked, however, if the acting had been terrible. It is not. In fact, it brings to horror movie acting a whole new standard of realism. What gets most viewers (including me) is the sheer normality of the students. The first forty minutes shows them joking about. They are people not much older than I am. Their reactions would more than likely be similar to ours. The sheer desperation and fear on their faces is tangible. Heather Donohue is a revelation. Her last speech in which she turns the camera on herself is a masterclass on the display of naked emotion. Those who I have talked to and have seen this film, have singled this moment out as one which has haunted them.

This film will have its cynics. I warn you to leave ALL your preconceptions at the door. Sit back, and allow your mind to be slowly poisoned with doubt and terror. And trust me when I say it has the most gripping last 15 minutes of any film you will ever see. 'The Blair Witch Project' is refreshing, highly original and most definitely will be ranked amongst 'The Exorcist, 'The Shining' and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' as one of the greats.

Ian O'Sullivan