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"In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary…

A year later their footage was found."

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT ($30) is probably the most effective experimental film that I have ever seen, and without a doubt, the most successful movie ever made for less than $25,000.00. Not only is the film ingenious in its approach to telling a scary story, the brilliant marketing of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT adds another layer of fright to the movie. By hyping THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT with a web site, as well as with Curse of the Blair Witch- a SCI-FI channel special, which included the "facts" about the story, moviegoers are primed to be scared before they ever go into the theater.

Taken at face value, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is a movie comprised of the recovered documentary footage shot by the three college students who mysteriously disappeared in the Maryland woods, while making a film about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. The movie start off enthusiastically enough, with the three students eager to spend a weekend in the woods making their documentary about the Blair Witch in the actual locations associated with her legend. Unfortunately, after going off the marked trails, the three become hopelessly lost in the woods. Frustrated and hungry, our filmmakers are unable to find their way back to civilization, no matter which direction they try. Things become progressively worse for the threesome as they find themselves being stalked at by some unseen presence that always seems to be beyond the light of both their campfires and their flashlights.

Although nothing is ever shown, and many times the screen is pitch black, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is pervaded by creepy atmosphere so thick that one could cut it with a knife. In this way, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is like an old style Hollywood horror movie, which makes the audience imagine the terrors that are lurking in the dark. There is no on-camera bloodshed in the movie, although there is one "bloody" scene that is downright disturbing for the same reason that the night scenes are scary- the audience is forced to imagine the horror. The "cast" of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT features Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard as the three student filmmakers. All of the performances utilized improvisation to make them very natural and gave them the ability to fool many people into believing that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is the real deal. Also enhancing the film’s realism is the low-tech, documentary style filmmaking techniques utilized in the making of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I should also note that since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is supposed to be a student film, the camera work is very rough and sometimes downright jarring. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was shot with a color Hi-8 camcorder and on 16mm black and white film stock, with both sources being cut together to create the film’s narrative. This isn’t too bad on its own, however since both sources are hand held cameras, the shaky camerawork was reported to induce motion sickness in a small percentage of the people who saw THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT theatrically.

Artisan Entertainment has done a great job with their DVD release of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. The film looks pretty much the way it did in the theater, with a border all the way around the image that resemble a camera’s viewfinder. Since this is video, one would consider this to be a windowbox presentation. Inside the windowbox, the film has an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1, so whether or not Artisan made the right decision to keep the border is debatable. Personally, I liked the recreation of the theatrical experience, but I am sure that there are many that will disagree with me. As for the transfer itself, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT looks better at home than it did on the big screen. Both the black and white film portion and the color video segments are sharper and clearer on the small screen- a perfect reflection of their original source materials. Of course, no one will ever use this title to demonstrate the video quality of DVD. The color video portion of the movie is a lot more colorful and a lot more natural looking on DVD. Digital compression artifacts are a non-issue on this disc.

On the DVD’s packaging the Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack claims to be Dolby Surround. Clean sounding monaural is a whole lot closer to the truth. While the interactive menus are nicely animated, containing full motion video and sound, they are sometimes a challenge to read. Through the menus system one can access the standard scene selection, as well as the DVD’s supplements. Topping the list is a running audio commentary that features the directors and producers of the movie, or should I say the real people behind THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. This is a great commentary track; very down to Earth and filled with a great deal of behind-the-scenes information. An absolute must listen for any fan of the movie. Artisan has wisely chosen to include Curse of the Blair Witch, the terrific the SCI-FI channel special that runs about 45 minutes in length and is an excellent companion piece to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Other supplements include theatrical trailers & teasers, production notes, cast/crew information and The Blair Witch Legacy- a timeline of the mythology surrounding the old girl herself. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is also DVD-ROM enabled with web site access to other supplements.


The Blair Witch Project (1999)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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