“Never did I want to be here again… and I don’t remember why I came.”
Few horror films in the history of the genre are more important and influential than The Blair Witch Project, which popularized the found footage style that films like Cannibal Holocaust played around with years prior. Countless horror movies that have come in the wake of the 1999 horror flick, including the Paranormal Activity franchise, owe a huge debt of gratitude to the tale of three friends hunting a witch out in the woods of Maryland, and if you’ve been watching “American Horror Story: Roanoke,” you know that the film’s influence also extends to the small screen.
Another television show that drew inspiration from The Blair Witch Project, many years before “American Horror Story” was even a thing, was MTV’s “FEAR,“ which premiered in September, 2000 – just over a year after the legend of the Blair Witch terrified audiences across the world. Essentially, the show blended the found footage chills of The Blair Witch Project with the thrills of a reality competition series, making for a fresh and new reality show that was many years ahead of its time. It was also the first of its kind, paving the way, like BWP, for countless imitators.
The basic gist of FEAR is that contestants would be placed into allegedly haunted locations like abandoned mental hospitals and penitentiaries, tasked with braving their worst fears and trying to document anything resembling paranormal activity. What made the show so unique is that, like a found footage film, everything viewers saw was filmed by the terrified contestants themselves.
At the start of each episode, the contestants gathered together in a safe-house location and logged into a computer that spoke out the rules of the game for them. Each contestant took turns completing specific, increasingly frightening dares, and the ones who were able to complete all their dares without heading for the hills were awarded cash prizes at the end of the game.
It’s worth noting that one of the spooky locales, seen in the fifth episode of Season 1, was New Jersey’s real-life Camp NoBeBoSco (renamed Camp Spirit Lake for the show), which played the role of Camp Crystal Lake in the original Friday the 13th. How cool is that?!
MTV’s FEAR aired for just two seasons before being cancelled in 2002, reportedly not because of low ratings but rather due to the high cost of production – somewhat ironic when you consider that the found footage sub-genre was literally born out of a desire to make horror films on the cheap. Sixteen episodes aired in total, and to date, a DVD collection has yet to be released.
Of course, paranormal reality shows are a dime a dozen these days, with “Ghost Hunters” being perhaps the most popular to come in the wake of “FEAR,” but it’s the MTV series that established the format other shows have adopted in the years since it premiered. Simply put, it’s proven to be as influential on reality TV as The Blair Witch Project has been on horror cinema.
You always remember your first, as they say.
Check out a playlist of “FEAR” episodes below!