I wanted all three of these fucks dead less than ten minutes into the film's running time.
While eating lunch with some of my geekier co-workers during my days at DC Comics, I asked if any of them were psyched for the then-upcoming giant monster flick CLOVERFIELD and they all expressed interest, particularly one who was into it because of its handheld camera POV, something that reminded him of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. He then expounded on how BLAIR WITCH was the scariest film he'd ever seen, a sentiment echoed by the guy sitting across from them. I listened to them go off on it for a few minutes before I made a statement I've iterated many times since the summer of 1999: "Okay, I sat through THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and I must have missed something. That film wasn't scary in the least. In fact, I have to say I think it's one of the worst movies I ever saw."
The lads looked at me, completely gobsmacked. They then launched into all of the standard defenses brought into play when anyone has the temerity to deride BLAIR WITCH, including my obvious inability to appreciate a low-budget film (bullshit), its innovative camerawork (???), its "totally original" concept (also bullshit; records of an ill-fated expedition and the recounting of what went wrong is a convention of horror fiction dating at least back to the days of the pulps), and my alleged inability to enjoy a horror film that doesn't contain graphic gore and violence or titties (again, bullshit; my all-time favorite horror movies include ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) and ISLAND OR LOST SOULS (1933), both notably lacking any of the aforementioned holy trinity). And as my brain began to boil at their ill-informed comments regarding me as a film fan — hoo-BOY, if only they knew — they unleashed the expected final volley in their film's defenses, namely its months of brilliant internet promotion, an aspect that they claim was an integral part of the film's "artistic triumph."
Needless to say, I called bullshit on that.
I didn't bother to lay down my credentials as a majorly-immerseded movie goon and instead countered with the observation that if the film depended on one having seen the internet stuff, what about those who hadn't seen the promos and tie-ins? If your film, an entertainment piece that people are going to pay money to see, relies on material not found in the core work to bolster it in terms of both content and creep factor, then the damned thing's a failure from the get-go. That stopped the defenders in their tracks, their mouths literally hanging open and croaking feeble attempts at rebuttal, but Yer Bunche soldiered on fearlessly and laid down the law on that bit of amateur hour horseshit that would have been rejected as a script for that weak-assed TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE, and would barely have passed muster in even the most pretentious of film schools. Yeah, this misbegotten "film" gets me going like few others, and I've seen the infamous MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE and SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY, but at least those films manage to be entertaining precisely because of how appallingly terrible they are.
For those of you fortunate enough not to have had the time it takes to sit through this crap irretrievably stolen from your too-brief life, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is a faked footage feature — perhaps the defining entry in that sub-genre — based around a video purportedly found after three filmmakers set off into the woods of some ass-end part of Maryland in search of answers regarding local legends of Elly Kedward, a woman put to death in 1785 in the Blair township, and the subsequent supernatural phenomena and murders locally attributed to her malevolent ghost. The three filmmakers display a staggering level of outright stupidity — to say nothing of their ability to be utterly unlikable and annoying — and in no time I found myself rooting for their immediate deaths, hopefully from being torn apart by PCP-crazed badgers. Sadly they didn't meet their demise at the teeth and claws of hopped-up mustelids but they do eventually snuff it, one of them memorably facing into the corner of an abandoned house and looking like he's in the middle of taking a wicked leak.
The "scary" things that happen include them kicking their map into a nearby river, getting lost in the forest where there may or may not be a ghost, the sound of branches snapping at night, their fear and paranoia over being lost wearing their nerves thin and rendering them that much more irritating, strange scarecrow-like constructs (that are barely of interest, much less terrifying in any way), and shitloads of leaves and twigs as far as the eye can see. There's absolutely zero suspense and the filmgoer ends up with bubkes when the movie ends.
During the summer when THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out, people stood on long lines to see "the scariest film in years," braving the unforgiving NYC heat and humidity for hours, but a bunch of my pals and I were fortunate enough to get our hands on a legitimate reviewer's VHS tape of the flick — one of the perks of having connections in the media — so we prepared to enjoy it in the air-conditioned comfort of my pal John's apartment over in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill area. We cracked some beers and watched as the story unfolded, remaining silent throughout, and when the final image faded and the credits began to roll there was a brief pause before my friend Cat irately exclaimed, "THAT'S IT???" She then launched into a tirade the like of which I've seldom seen, and I wish I could have gotten it on tape for posterity. When Cat gets her Irish up, all bets are off and her well-reasoned lambasting of the flick was both profane and hilarious, as though she had channeled the spirit of some long-dead film critic, its spectral anger roused by the affront to entertainment that we had just endured. And in order to make up for the travesty we had just witnessed a number of us went to the local multiplex and saw DEEP BLUE SEA, the movie about super-smart sharks who go on a bloody rampage at a marine research facility, and it was immeasurably more entertaining than THE BULLSHIT PROJECT.
And don't ask me how, but THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which cost $22,000 to make, went on to a worldwide gross of a reported $248,000,000, over 11,000 times what was spent to unleash it upon an unsuspecting planet. And even now, nearly some sixteen years after its release — or should I say "escape?"— it's considered a landmark in horror cinema and a work of unrelenting terror. Proof of this head-scratching state of affairs can be found on the Internet Movie Database's user comments section on the film , a forum that contains over 3211 (!!!) viewers' two cents worth, the overwhelming majority of which is glowingly favorable. Did those people see the same film I did? I've done a lot of camping in my time and I just don't find anything in this movie scary. I swear I don't. Well, at least we got a couple of porn versions out of the deal, the best of which was 2000's THE BARE BITCH PROJECT.
Poster from the theatrical release.