image credit: Summit Pictures

Review: The Blair Witch Project (1999) *****

This is a great example of The Metropolis Effect. I just coined that–do you like it? It’s meant to describe the experience I had watching Fritz Lang’s Metropolis for the first time, long after it was initially released. I had seen so many movies (TV shows/books/games/music videos) cribbing heavily off Metropolis that the originating movie almost felt modern–even derivative. Coming across it late, I’m already so familiar with the ripples from the rock hitting the pond, seeing the splash that came first is *weird*.

Such is is with The Blair Witch Project. I was eleven years old when this came out, and this wasn’t my kind of movie. It seemed way too scary. Hence I’ve spent twenty-five years experiencing the ripples from Blair Witch without knowing the reference.

Again, I find myself shocked at how modern The Blair Witch Project feels! The retro look is *so* cool right now, I’d absolutely believe everything was some kind of grainy VHS filter. Found footage dominates internet horror. My kids are into horror on YouTube, and I’m telling you, I think I’ve seen about two hundred brilliant twists on everything Blair Witch did so neatly.

The permeability of the membrane between reality and folk myth was punctured by The Blair Witch Project and culture has been streaming through that hole ever since. Or maybe we should go all the way back to Orson Welles narrating The War of the Worlds over the radio and scaring a nation into thinking aliens were invading–which is *really* impressive genetic lineage for a shaky movie that mostly has three cast members we don’t often see very well.

I remember how everyone Back In The Day (spits out dentures) was so confused by this, because it felt real. This wasn’t what movies looked like! But now, *everything* looks like The Blair Witch. There are just as many brilliant filmmakers running around with their friends, doing creepy shit with their cell phone videos that looks so similar.

I just want to keep referencing later projects that seem to borrow from Blair Witch’s magic. For instance, I kept thinking about how this was slower-paced and naturalistic very much like the original Paranormal Activity, too…but Blair Witch was way less boring. Hearing their missing friend calling from the woods had me making Annihilation bear jokes. The Rolling Giant did well capturing a similar ambiance with camera work barely glimpsing the pursuer. Cloverfield tried to scale up the stakes of found footage to kaiju-size. On and on and on.

I don’t know how to comment on this besides thinking it was just brilliant and prescient. I get why it hit so hard. The ending lands flawlessly. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m genuinely glad I waited to see it because I don’t think I could have appreciated it when I was younger. I bet this was a blast to see in the theaters with a crowd, though.

(image credit: Summit Pictures)

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