Film: The Blair Witch Project

"I just want to apologize to Mike's mom, and Josh's mom, and my mom. I am sorry, everyone. I was very naive. I am so, so sorry. For everything that has happened. Because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault. Because it was my project... Everything had to be my way. And this is where we've ended up. And it's all because of me that we're here now. Hungry, cold, and hunted..."
Heather, in an oft-parodied scene

The Blair Witch Project is a horror movie, shot entirely in the style of a documentary gone horribly wrong. Three college students are researching "The Blair Witch", and go on an expedition into the local forest where the legend is supposed to have started. Things ultimately take a turn for the worse.

Now what it's really notable for is having one of the best Viral Marketing campaigns ever, and certainly one of the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of internet advertising: fake online documents, footage, published dossiers, interviews, and even a couple of professional-looking television documentaries blurred the line between truth and fiction like few other campaigns had done before or since. Many were convinced that the movie was based on a true story, or even consisted of actual footage. Even more were subtly convinced that the "Blair Witch" was a real legend, as opposed to something the film-makers made up themselves. The film can also be credited with being the Trope Codifier of found footage horror films, a trend that got used so frequently that it got driven into the ground over time.

Had a sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.

The Blair Witch Project contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The tie-in materials flesh out the Blair witch legend and the back story, which makes the movie ten times creepier once you realize what a lot of things mean. For example, those three odd piles of stones they find around their tent one morning early on in their trip? Rustin Parr kidnapped kids to his house in the woods, murdered them, and buried them in the basement before making their graves with piles of stones. They were doomed from the start.
  • Apocalyptic Log
  • Big Bad: The witch.
  • Bloody Handprint: They could be ink or paint, but it's hard to tell.
  • Break the Haughty: Though friendly and reasonable, Heather is also a very overconfident and egotistical person in the beginning. As soon as she begins losing control and getting scared she is on her way to a Despair Event Horizon.
  • Breaking Speech: Josh delivers a savage one to Heather when it becomes clear how hopeless their situation is.
    "I wanna make movies, Heather. Isn't that what we came here to do? Just make some movies? Let's make some movies. Okay, here's your motivation. You're lost, you're angry in the woods. There's no one here to help you. There's a witch, and she keeps leaving shit outside your door. There's no one here to help you! She left little trinkets, you took one of them, she ran after us! There's no one here to help you! We walked for fifteen hours today and ended up in the same place! There's no one here to help you! That's your motivation! THAT'S YOUR MOTIVATION! ... You gonna write us a happy ending, Heather?"
  • Burn the Witch!: Or, rather, Torture and Hang the Witch, according to the backstory.
  • Butt Monkey: Josh. Everything bad happens after he accidentally knocks over a pile of rocks while filming at night. For the rest of the film, he in particular is targeted by what's after them.
  • Call Back: Rustin Parr would take a pair of kidnapped children into his basement, then force one to stand in a corner facing the wall while he killed the other one. When Heather follows Mike into the basement of Parr's house, just before she screams and drops the camera, you see a shot of Mike standing in the corner, facing the wall.
  • Captain Obvious: "Mike? There's something out here."
  • Chewing the Scenery: Heather Donahue's apology scene. She acted so hard that you could practically see the bite marks in the camera. She sobs, screams, and shakes so realistically that her acting convinced some people it was a true life account. Her scuffles with the other two were also unscripted, as was the entire infamous apology scene.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Due mainly to the improvised script. It's not Casino levels of bad, but you can tell it's the favorite word of the movie.
  • Covered in Gunge: Their equipment gets mysteriously slimed near the end of the movie.
  • Creepy Child: The crew hear some little kids giggling out in the woods late at night.
  • Creepypasta: The Viral Marketing for the film may well be the Ur-Example, building up a legend about the ghost of a witch through the power of the '90s internet.
  • Daylight Horror: If you look closely as Heather turns away from the open bag fashioned out of Josh's shirt, containing his teeth, hair and blood, breathing hysterically, she pauses for three-odd seconds looking at a stick carefully placed behind her horizontally upon two small plants. Not a METER away. Definitely not there when she walked behind the tent.
  • Developing Doomed Characters
  • Dizzy Cam: The Trope Codifier.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Just to make it worse, once you go into the woods, you can't leave.
  • Downer Ending: The main characters remain trapped in the woods and given the last shot of the movie they won't live enough to regret their decisions.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The witch could be this.
  • Eldritch Location: The normal laws of reality do not apply in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. The best example of this being when Mike and Heather spend an entire day walking south, using a compass, only to end up right back where they started.
  • Expanded Universe: Tie-in short films, books, comics, even computer games...
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone dies. This is, in fact, the premise of the movie.
  • Foreshadowing: "We'll all look back on this and laugh heartily." At one point, Heather says: "If I die without ever walking across another stream on a log again, I'll die a happy girl". She does.
  • Found Footage Films: Probably the Trope Codifier
  • Gainax Ending
  • Genius Loci: One theory is that there's no witch and that the forest itself may be sentient and being the true responsibile of all that people's disappearance.
  • Ghost Story: The whole movie (especially the ending) is like a scary campfire story put to film.
  • Going in Circles: It's the SAME LOG!
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The witch. Though there's been action figures, described by Cracked as looking "like Treebeard got it on with Swamp Thing".
  • Horror Struck
  • A House Divided
  • Improv: The actors were given no more than a 35-page outline of the mythology behind the plot before shooting began. All lines were improvised and nearly all the events in the film were unknown to the three actors beforehand, and were often on-camera surprises to them all.
  • It's All My Fault: Heather: I just want to apologize to Josh's mom, and Mike's mom, and my mom. I am so sorry! Because it was my fault. I was the one who brought them here.
  • Jitter Cam: Helped popularize it alongside Saving Private Ryan, yet used it to such extremes that frequent cases of motion sickness were seen with viewers of the movie.
  • Kill 'em All
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The original marketing for the movie claimed that it was found footage of a true story, presented to the public by the producers.
  • Mind Screw: Who was hunting them? Was it really a witch? What was that ending all about? We'll never know. (Unless we take a look at the extended universe.)
  • Mockumentary: And several Mockumentaries were made about the mockumentary.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens a few times, the biggest example being the transition from a shot of Mike eating a dry leaf and Heather laughing at him to Heather's famous apology scene.
    • Or cutting from Mike and Josh sarcastically singing the national anthem together to the three coming across the log in the stream that they had already crossed hours before.
  • Nostril Shot: The apology scene. Heather aims her camera on her nose and eyes. Funnily enough, in spite of how famous and iconic that image wound up being, the DVD Commentary reveals the actress thought she was filming her entire face.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The entire movie is made of this trope.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Arguably one of the reasons why they get lost in the woods in the first place.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "FUCK!! YOU!!! LOG!!!!" A little easy to miss, but an underappreciated gem. The line, according to the feature-length commentary on the DVD, is actually "FUCK! YOU! GOD!"
  • Regularly Scheduled Evil: Though not operating on as tight a schedule as some other supernatural woods creatures, the Blair Witch likes to pull some freaky shit every fifty or sixty years or so.
  • Rule 34: The Bare Wench Project and The Erotic Witch Project, etc. Both of which had more sequels than the film they're spoofing.
  • Say My Name: JOOOOOOOOSH!
  • Spiritual Successor: Paranormal Activity and Grave Encounters.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Why don't they just follow that river? You know, the one with the log... Supernatural forces were at play. It's likely that no matter what they did, they wouldn't find a way out. note 
    • There's also Mike kicking the map into the river out of frustration. Josh and Heather are rightfully furious and attack him in anger.
  • Trope Codifier: For all those minimalist First Person Camera Nothing Is Scarier horror movies that are so popular these days.
  • Ultimate Evil
  • Unbuilt Trope:
    • This movie spawned plenty of imitators, especially in the late 2000s (Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, The Last Exorcism, and Unaware). However, those films all had pretty high budgets, slick editing, and plenty of scary CG monster/alien/whatever effects. This film's minuscule budget, realistic location, and rambling, unscripted nature make it feel like a deconstruction of the very films it influenced.
    • Heather's insistence upon filming everything even when logic suggests she put the camera down for once, a staple of found-footage horror movies, is suggested by Josh to be her way of coping with the fact that she's lost in the woods — the screen on the camcorder all makes it feel less real. This also causes a rift between her and the rest of the group, with Mike and Josh telling her several times to turn the camera off and even attacking her over it.
  • The Unreveal: During the final sequence, Heather is heavily implied to have seen the antagonist, but drops her camera before she can get a shot of it. We never find out the meaning behind...well, much of anything, really.
  • Wicked Witch: The titular witch.

The tie-in games contain examples of:

  • Actionized Sequel: Actually the prequel.
  • Adaptation Expansion: As with other tie-in materials.
  • Backto Front: Each game takes place further back in time than the film, and further back than each one that came before.
  • Demonic Possession: It is revealed that the Blair Witch, Rustin Parr, and Kyle Brody were influenced by a malevolent Native American entity called "Hec-aitomix".
  • Foregone Conclusion: Elspeth Holliday and the Stranger are able to trap Hec-aitomix back to its realm, but only temporarily and leading to the events of the film five decades later.
  • Motive Decay: The entity "Hec-aitomix" got less and less threatening with subsequent installments, and its motivations were soon reduced to Fantastic Racism... in game order.
  • Shared Universe: Nocturne share the same universe with The Blair Witch.
  • The Witch Hunter: Jonathan Prye in Volume 3: The Elly Kedward Tale.

Alternative Title(s):

Blair Witch Volume I Rustin Parr, Blair Witch Volume II The Legend Of Coffin Rock, Blair Witch Volume III The Elly Kedward Tale