The Films of 1999: The Blair Witch Project
A student documentarian, Heather Donohue (herself), organizes a project to study the legend of the Blair Witch, a supernatural figure reputed to live in the Black Hills of Maryland.
I’ll be writing here about why I enjoy and appreciate the film so much, but the late Roger Ebert also had an elegant and crisp take on the film:
The film is a neo-classic of the 1990s self-reflexive age; a decidedly ambiguous film that either concerns three film students bedeviled by an evil witch in the woods, or three film students be-deviled by their own inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.
Sometimes the action is a live event unfolding before our eyes, apparently un-staged. And sometimes, we're watching staged bits of a student's documentary project...deliberately staged (for example: Heather's monologue at Coffin Rock).
The point is that this was life in America at the turn of the Millennium, and even more so today, in 2016.
Movies give us answers. They show us monsters. They resolve mysteries. We are content with this, because our disordered lives feel very structured and orderly when we watch movies. We get ninety minutes of predictable, ordered existence.
And again, I suspect that those who find horror films simply “fun” don’t want to be confronted with the depth of terror that her performance creates. Her screams for Josh are blood-curling. We are conditioned for our final girls to be resourceful librarian-in-glasses types, who, finally, overcome their monstrous enemies. Heather is a smart leader, a resourceful person, and she never, ever, gets close to even understanding exactly what she is up against.
She doesn’t “win,” and, well, our culture hates those who don’t win. We view them as weak, as failures. Some of the hostility that Heather has endured in real life is no doubt a result of this viewpoint.
Worse, The Blair Witch Project knows that our rational way of seeing the world -- with cameras and the like -- will do us no good when the witch comes to take us.