On this day, 15 years ago, my mother and I went to a movie theater in Houston, TX (one that has been torn down since) to see the new phenomenon that had been relentlessly hyped for weeks… The Blair Witch Project. Of course I had been primed by the “online” rumors that this film was real, and of course I didn’t believe them – but since each internet page took approximately 60 minutes to load back then I never “verified” my doubt.
Nevertheless, I was genuinely nervous upon entering the theater. The trailers had terrified me (I didn’t know not to trust Peter Travers at that point). And even the film’s first act wheel-spinning (now a staple of the sub-genre) felt sort of revolutionary to me at the time. I was a bit younger than the characters in the film, but they serviceably resembled my older sister’s group of friends to the point where they felt at least somewhat authentic to me (in particular Heather Donahue’s bullsh*t assertion that it’s “impossible to get lost in modern civilization”).
And man, that ending. It haunted me, it really did. After exiting the theater my mother complained of feeling sick from the shaky-cam (a new era of complaining was also born on that day) and I was struggling to reconcile the minimalism of the finale with the horror I felt.
I have never revisited the film, a conscious choice to leave that experience trapped in amber. Maybe I will someday, but I fear enjoying The Blair Witch Project on its own terms will be difficult given the deluge of films that have been aping it for 15 years now.
Happy birthday, Blair Witch Project. I don’t hold the atom-bomb against Einstein so I guess I won’t hold The Devil Inside against you.
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