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BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE

SYNOPSIS:
On October 21, 1994, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams hiked into Maryland's Black Hills Forest to shoot a documentary film on a local legend 'The Blair Witch.' They were never seen again. One year later, their footage was found, documenting their harrowing five-day journey through the Black Hills Forest, capturing all the terrifying events that led up to their disappearance.

"The Blair Witch Project is a post graduate student film built on two concepts. One is that it should look like a real documentary in every way. A phoney device, but it is in service of the second concept. That is that screen horror has been abused and needs a little shaking up, going back, in fact, to some essential film crafts like the power of suggestion. This is teamed with the sub-concept that the paranormal is fertile ground for horror films. If you read the production notes - which most audiences do not - you would know it took eight months to edit - far longer and costlier than it took to make. This highlights the fact that the filmmakers set out on what was something of an experiment - but with some attainable ambitions. The attention and anticipation it has generated owes more to the film's aura - appropriately enough - than to its final payoff and there will be some debate about its lessons for more conventional filmmakers. Less is more being one of the issues, certainly as far as horror flicks are concerned. But the aura was partly propelled by the creation of the extensive Blair Witch backstory, on which the 'horror' is based. The home video nature of the film is cranked up to full wobble and shake, intended to lend an air of authenticity to what we see. This is valid enough filmmaking technique, and lends itself to the low budget faux-doco style. The pay off for the generally well maintained tension, however, is likely to bring a curse or two on the filmmakers - from paying customers. So while more sophisticated (older?) audiences may resist the film's quirky charms, eager young thrill seekers should get a buzz out of the improvisational, un-structured and unrefined project which dares to go unblinking into its own convictions."
Andrew L. Urban

"We're never shown a "Friday The 13th" issue homicidal maniac stalking innocent campers or even the scary rednecks of "Deliverance" meting out justice on the city folk who've destroyed their world. Yet most of us will leave the cinema after witnessing The Blair Witch Project with a chill and possibly even a reluctance to turn the light out when we get home. This isn't the first film to put forward the idea that we're watching footage rediscovered after tragic and mysterious events. The Italian film Cannibal Holocaust (1980) offered "real" footage shot during an anthropological expedition gone wrong (and was so convincing it was banned in 32 countries) and there is presently a controversy surrounding a film called The Last Broadcast, allegedly conceived before The Blair Witch Project. I haven't seen that film but it's hard to imagine a more frighteningly realistic depiction of terror than we're shown here. To achieve this, co-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez trained their actors in camera work and set them loose in the woods for 8 days, allowing them to improvise the entire script from general notes dropped off overnight with diminishing rations of food. The result is extraordinary as the toll taken on the actors transfers to their characters. Heather, determined to lead with authority, is quick to dismiss early suggestions they're lost -"this is America, it's impossible to get lost here, we've destroyed all the forests". Soon afterwards the fear in her eyes brings chilling resonance to Michael's earlier comment "did you ever see Deliverance" and an early interview conducted in town in which an interviewee casually announces "anyone worth their salt knows this area's been haunted for years" None of the three actors had much experience before taking on these ultimate method roles and knowing the performances arrived without an on-set director (or anyone else for that matter) makes this even more remarkable and allows us to accept the hopeless wanderings of the mentally broken trio as reality. The masterstoke here is to strip away professional filmmaking technique and instil direct human terror onto the screen. What we're capable of imagining and what the talented creators of this instant horror classic lead us to believe is far scarier than any boogeyman made of flesh and blood. See this brilliantly staged exercise in malevolence and discover for yourself."
Richard Kuipers

"Reviewing The Blair Witch Project is a little daunting. Not because of anything in the film but because itís almost impossible to talk about it without also talking about its Web site. Indeed, those who arenít familiar with the Web site may have some difficulty following the plot, because the site gives a lot more back-story than the film itself does. Anyway, what about the film - is it the scariest ever made, as some publicity would have us believe? Well, the short answer is it comes damn close. The Blair Witch Project is very frightening simply because it is very real. The hand held camera, the naturalistic sound, the lack of music, the use of available light and the fact we never see whatís causing the fear all add up to an intensely visceral experience. And I defy anyone to not get a chill up their spine in the final sequence. While "something" may or may not be out there in the woods stalking the student filmmakers, this isnít a monster movie. Itís about the relationship between the three, how they react to this most extreme situation and how far they will go to save each other and themselves. It also features a remarkable performance from Heather Donohue as the young auteur. Her fear is almost palpable as the nightmare grows around her. The Blair Witch Project may be a bit too eagerly anticipated, with the result some people will be disappointed. But this is one clever, well-made and scary movie. A word of warning - donít see it the day before that Xmas camping trip."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

Andrew L. Urban talks to Blair Witch Director
DANIEL MYRICK

FEATURE

BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE
(US)

CAST: Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard

WRITTEN, DIRECTED, EDITED BY: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

PRODUCERS: Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Neal Fredericks

MUSIC: Tony Cora

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ben Rock

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 9, 1999







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