Most Horror movies
create a buzz of interest, but no Horror film in recent memory has had the
advance word of The Blair Witch Project. When a film is called the
most frightening film to come out of America in 20 years, and was
received with rapturous applause at an out-of-competition midnight screening at
the prestigious Sundance Independent Film Festival, then you tend to sit up and
The directors have gone on record to cite their
favourite films as The Exorcist and The Omen, where lasting
horrors are unravelled from a look or a subliminal sound, a far cry from the
overblown and really rather unfrightening excesses of The Mummy or
The Blair Witch Project is a work of
fiction, but the film-makers have gone to great lengths to create the
appearance and affecting immediacy of a documentary using improvized
dialogue and hand-held cameras operated by the actors themselves.
The premise is simple. Three college students
go into the woods to research a local legend. They disappear, and no trace is
found of them until a year later when their cameras are found. The footage is
assembled and the fragments of film tell a story of pure Horror
The cameras have recorded the students mental and physical disorientation
in the isolation of the woods. They have recorded the terrifying nightly
hauntings that assail the students the sickening noises and half-seen
things in the dark. The film is thus about cold, unremitting fear.
It is about spiritual deterioration, panic, fear of hunger and the horror of
never getting back to civilisation.
The Blair Witch Project was created by
five film buffs from Orlando Florida who collectively call themselves Haxan
films: Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick, producers Gregg Hale, Rob
Cowie and Mike Monello. Most of the dialogue for The Blair Witch Project
was improvized, but to the directors meticulous schedules, which in many
instances were timed down to the hour. The actors were actually sent into the
woods for an eight-day shoot. They were given Global Positioning Devices
and daily orders of what was going to happen to them...
For the length of the shoot, the three cast
members did not have any contact with the production team. To further increase
the tension of the later scenes, when the characters were supposed to be
running out of food, the actors food rations were decreased also,
although with their full co-operation. It nevertheless added a real edge to the
Part of the attraction of the film is the
intricate and highly convincing back-story that Sanchez and Myrick created,
termed the Blair Witch Legend, and in order to add realism to a
200-year old witch, they used that powerful piece of modern magic, the
Internet. When the Legend was unveiled on the
Witch website, (www.blairwitch.com) it proved terrifically popular
the line between reality and fiction was convincingly blurred.
Since August of last year, the five creators of
the film have been regularly posting newsletters or updates on the film,
particularly its success at the Sundance Festival. Fans want to get all
the details down says Sanchez, so we do our part by expanding the
mythology, adding more evidence and clues.
The film-makers will continue to contribute
background data to the Blair Witch Website. In addition, they have documented
every step of the highly unusual production and are currently editing a video
project on the making of the film. A book expanding the Blair Witch mythology
is also underway.
The township of Blair was situated
in North Central Maryland, two hours from Washington DC. In February 1785,
several children accused Elly Kedward of luring them into her home to draw
blood from them. Kedward was found guilty of witchcraft, banished from the
village during a particularly harsh winter and presumed dead.
Excerpts from The History of the Blair Witch
In November of the following year,
all of Kedwards accusers, along with half of the children in the village,
mysteriously vanished. Fearing a curse, the townsfolk fled Blair and vowed
never to speak Elly Kedwards name again.
In November of 1809, The Blair
Witch Cult was published. This rare book, commonly considered fiction, told of
an entire town cursed by an outcast witch...
...on October 20th 1994, three
Montgomery College Students - Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael
Williams - arrived in Burkittsville to interview the locals about the legend of
the Blair Witch for a class project. Heather interviewed Mary Brown, an old and
clearly insane woman who has lived in the area all her life. Mary claims once
to have seen the Blair Witch near Tappy Creek in the form of a hairy,
half-human, half-animal creature.
The following day, October 21st
1994, Heather interviewed two fishermen who informed them that Coffin Rock is
less than 20 minutes from town and easily accessible by an old logging trail.
The film-makers hiked into the Black Hills Forest and were never seen again...