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The Blair Witch Project
1999 - R - 86 Mins.
Director: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
Producer: Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie
Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams, Bob Griffin, Jim King
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Some of the best horror movies are those that imply rather than explode, hint at rather than expose. Fear is scarier than scariness itself--scary is just scary. Fear is fear. And fear induces all else that follows. Fear gets you on the edge of your seat; fear makes the hairs on your neck stand up. The scare comes afterwards.

The movie is false, but knowing that ruins the surprise of it all. Three amateur filmmakers--two guys and a girl (where's the pizza place?)--go into a Maryland wood, in hopes of uncovering the secret of the infamous Blair Witch, a legendary witch who is rumored to live in the woods. First they interview town folk and get their sworn testimonies. An old, apparently crazy woman insists that the Blair Witch appeared next to her in a lake once and was covered with beastly hair. (That sent chills up my spine.)

Then they embark into the woods, equipped with video cameras and recording everything. But soon they get lost--the map is pointless. They just keep going in circles. They walk around the woods for days, every night hearing strange sounds outside their tents and finding mysterious wooden ornaments hanging in a graveyard.

"The Blair Witch" project is smart enough to know this, but that is about all I can credit the film for. It's that type of fear-inducing, thought-provoking horror movie not made since the likes of "The Exorcist" and "The Omen," but when I was done watching it I realized that it hadn't really scared me at all. It had me thinking, yes, and it had me interested throughout, but it didn't scare me. After all the fear had settled there was no scare left. I viewed the film with all the lights in the room turned off, and yet it still didn't scare me. In fact, I found it to be rather ridiculous at times.

But it is an admirable horror film, one that uses ancient techniques as opposed to chainsaw-wielding villains with ski masks chasing groups of very, very stupid, mentally under-developed big-breasted teenage bimbos around a house for hours in the dark, jumping out at the camera whenever we've gone too long without a jolt. No, "The Blair Witch Project" is all about insinuations and the unknown. I'll admit that the film is pretty darn creepy, if ineffectively scary. At one point, a group of three teenagers are asleep inside a tent, lost outdoors in a Maryland woods, when loud screams start coming from somewhere out there.

They rush outside with the video cameras jolting about frantically. I was waiting any second for some ghostly pale figure to be seen far off in the woods.

Which is part of my disappointment in the film. To unexpectedly catch a glimpse of something--the witch, the ghost of the murderer, anyone and/or anything--would have been terrific. To expose something ever so briefly so that you think, What was that? and try to play back your videotape again to pause the image.

But the film doesn't ever really approach the Blair Witch. Furthermore, it never really explains anything by the end of the film. And I understand that this is the appeal of the film for most people. BUT...I'm not asking to show the Blair Witch chasing them around. All I would have liked to see was at least an ever-so-brief glimpse of some unintelligible being. That would have been far spookier, because eventually you get to the point while watching the film when you realize it isn't going to show you anything, and you start to lose interest.

This movie sent chills up my spine and made the hairs on my neck stand up at certain points. This is my kind of horror movie--I'm not into the slasher flicks, primarily because I do not find them very scary at all. I'd rather have the images of the attacker lurking in the dark left up to me, not jumping forward at the screen.

Am I contradicting myself? I say I do not want to see the Blair Witch, but yet moments later I say I do. No, what I want to see is some effervescent being illuminated in the dark ever so briefly; it would be the ultimate spine-tingler. Remember in "Signs" how M. Night Shyamalan showed the alien walking across the driveway at a birthday party? Remember how you weren't expecting it, how sudden it was? How quick? I would have liked something like that--just something very quick and very, very spooky. Not even as detailed as the alien--some far away being standing in the middle of the woods, who suddenly disappears with a shriek. (So that you never really see it at all, you just see the light and think, What was that?)

The craving of seeing the attacker is part of the fun. In this case, my craving was never fully satisfied.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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