"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..."
The Blair Witch Project is a horror movie, shot entirely in the style of a documentarygone 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.Had a poorly received sequel which upped the Mind Screw and pretty much killed the franchise off. The directors are still thinking of coming back for a third, though.
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.
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?"
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.
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 Children: The crew hear some little kids giggling out in the woods late at night.
Daylight Horror / Freeze-Frame Bonus: 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.
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, only to end up right back where they started.
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.
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 This is confirmed in the tie-games and other material. You will get turned around despite the fact you were following the map perfectly. Frankly, if those woods don't want you to leave, you're not going to be able to leave.
There's also Mike kicking the map into the river out of frustration. Josh and Heather are rightfully furious and attack him in anger.
This movie spawned plenty of imitators, especially in the late 2000s (Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead, The Last Exorcism, and now 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.
It should be noted that, even though the Horror Mockumentary genre was an unbuilt trope at the time, it is not the first to do this. Cannibal Holocaust was perhaps the first and The Last Broadcast was released just before this film but to less fanfare.
To be fair, its still fairly standard practice to have the person filming the Found Footage to be portayed as either mentally ill, or a Jerk Ass. This happened in both the original Paranormal Activity, and Chronicle.
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.