Blair Witch Project (1999)
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez

Starring Heather Donahue Joshua Leonard Michael C. Williams

Not only one of the best horror films of the 1990s, but one of the best overall films of 1999, "Blair Witch" should go down in history as proof that it doesn't take a big budget to make a great movie, in fact it may not even take a budget at all. Filmed with amateur actors using (allegedly) stolen equipment, "Blair Witch" is splatterdom's first ever pseudo-documentary, in the spirit of "This Is Spinal Tap" or "Bob Roberts." It's really pretty unnerving, although the fact that it became a national craze made a lot of people sick of it.

The story: Three filmmakers go on a road trip in 1994 to film a documentary about a legendary Blair Witch, who had been killing people--particularly kids--in the area since the 1800s. Donahue is quite convincing as the leader of the film project. In fact, her performance (along with the performances of her two co-stars) are so good, it's virtually impossible to tell they aren't really three filmmakers who disappeared.

I actually don't want to go in much detail story-wise. It suffices to say that "Blair Witch" is one of those films that should be experienced by anyone with even a modicum of cultural taste--and giving away any of what happens will diminish that experience. I can say that first-time directors Myrick and Sanchez used their non-existent budget to their advantage by introducing the film as the lost footage from the doomed filmmakers. This sets the film up as a true story, which was (previously) most effectively done a quarter century ago by the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

In fact, this is by far better than that early masterpiece. It really, truly comes across like a true story. It generates a real sense of mystery very reminiscent of "Twin Peaks" if you're familiar with that series. It's no wonder the film sparked a cultural phenomenon when it was released in 1999.

A must see for any film lover, not to mention fans of horror flicks, "Blair Witch" shares a lot with "Night of the Living Dead." Like George Romero's timeless classic, "Blair" is raw, ground-breaking and terrifying. I'd recommend seeing it in a theater, preferably at a midnight screening. Midnight screenings in Palo Alto were actually sold out when this film opened here, a good sign for the continued popularity of the horror genre. In addition to crafting an exquisite movie, Myrick and Sanchez directed a TV special, a kind of fictional documentary about the fictional documentary depicted in this film. The special, which is also a must-see, is entitled "Legend of the Blair Witch."

A disappointing sequel came out one year after this flick.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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