Hey, where have we seen THOSE before?!
In the first episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke, some very familiar-looking relics made a surprising appearance. I’m of course referring to The Blair Witch Project‘s creepy “stickmen,” which decorated a house in one scene that immediately had me wondering if, like The Woods, the new season of FX’s hit series was actually some kind of secret sequel. An even larger stickman made an appearance in this week’s Episode 2, so it’s likely we haven’t seen the last of them on the show.
Of course, American Horror Story is known for paying tribute to iconic horror films, so one could easily write off the stickmen as nothing more than just another homage; if you’d prefer to call it a “rip off,” that’s totally your prerogative. But timing is everything, and it’s the timing of this particular homage that left me scratching my head. The first episode of American Horror Story: Roanoke premiered literally the night before Blair Witch hit theaters, and you may have even noticed that the first appearance of the stickmen directly preceded a TV spot for, you guessed it, Blair Witch.
Now I’m not suggesting that there is any actual link between American Horror Story: Roanoke and the Blair Witch universe – it’s of course possible, but not very likely – but isn’t it just a little strange that Blair Witch imagery would be so prevalent in a season of American Horror Story that premiered the exact same time as the release of the first Blair Witch Project film in sixteen years? Is it just an oddly-timed coincidence, or something more?
Ben Rock is the production designer who created the iconic stickmen for the original Blair Witch Project, and so I reached out to him to see if he had any thoughts on this one.
“I’m sure it was tied in with the release of the new movie,” Rock speculated, noting that he too found the timing to be something more than mere coincidence. “I don’t have any actual knowledge, but why else? I think brand-wise it could help the new Blair Witch movie just as another way to put that idea in front of a different kind of horror fan – the American Horror Story audience is, I assume (with no actual knowledge) an older audience but maybe one who would remember the original Blair Witch Project.”
I mentioned to Rock that it was possible the creators of American Horror Story had no idea, at the time of filming the new season, that The Woods even was a Blair Witch sequel – after all, that secret was only revealed just a couple months ago – but he posited that non-disclosure agreements could have been signed and FX could very well have been working with Lionsgate for the tie-in marketing.
“It just seems like synergy to me. Like it was planned on some level,” he told me. “But honestly I don’t know one way or the other. I’m just speculating.”
Either way, Rock seems delighted that his creation still remains so iconic and relevant.
“My design was a work-for-hire – so it’s not like I own it or feel slighted in any way,” he noted. “Lionsgate would be the only rights holder. Obviously I’m flattered and at the same time it’s extremely weird to me that a stopgap idea I had when I was 26 still has any resonance. For me it will always be surreal.”
Be sure to check out Ben Rock’s series 20 Seconds to Live over on Ariescope!