Random Acts Of Movie Watching: Andy Burns Take On The Blair Witch Project Again

If there is indeed a Blair Witch, I guarantee you she’s laughing at me right now. Laughing at me real good.

Flashback to 1999 and the movie world is all a-buzz about The Blair Witch Project, a low-budget movie about a fictional witch that plays itself as a real-life documentary, filmed on hand-held cameras and staring three unknowns who allegedly went missing in 1994. We’ve seen this style since, most notably with Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, but The Blair Witch Project was the originator, the innovator as it were. I saw the movie with my two sisters in a theatre in Ancaster, Ontario, and vividly recall not feeling particular frightened while watching. Maybe it was the jerky camera work, maybe because you never actually see anything frightening during the movie, or maybe just because I wasn’t really paying attention at the beginning, where the lore and mythology of The Witch was dished out and later utilized; whatever the reasons, I walked out of the movie non-plussed and not really sure what all the fuss was about. Then, about a week later, I had a nightmare about the film so vivid that I woke up with a legitimate fright. Clearly, The Witch had stuck with me, whether I liked it or not.

11 years later and I’m looking after my 3 month old daughter for the day. With her asleep on my lap first thing in the morning, I decided I was going to stream a film on to the trustee iPad. I started scrolling through the various horror offerings on Netflicks when I came across the iconic cover to The Blair Witch Project, the one with Heather Donahue’s eyes looking at us pleadingly and snot running down her face. Seeing as I’d only watched the movie once, I decided I’d head back to Burkittsville and see if I could discover some newfound appreciation for a movie I was so quick to once dismiss.

Removed from all the hype that first surrounded it, I will definitely say I did find more things to appreciate about The Blair Witch Project the second go around. I found it more palatable to my eyes watching it on the iPad – what was perhaps distracting on the big screen actually worked well on a smaller one. I also made sure to pay attention to those first scenes with the various townspeople who reveal the lore of the witch and child killer Rustin Parr – clearly essential info which I missed the first time around and which helped give me a greater appreciation of the final moments in the old, abandoned house. There’s also a general sense of claustrophobia throughout the movie that I also thought held up well.

However, the various aspects of the film that didn’t do much for me more than a decade ago still remained upon second viewing. Our three main characters are not particularly likeable, especially Heather. Nobody comes across as particularly sympathetic. In fact, the deeper they get into the woods they just ooze stupidity more than anything else. And let’s talk about the whole “kicking the map into the water” thing. Seriously? That was out of the realm of logic when I first saw The Blair Witch Project and it hasn’t gotten any more palatable since. Am I wrong? Throw in the fact that I also started getting bored watching the threesome wander around the forest and I walked away feeling much the same as I did all those years ago – not particularly frightened.

Which means it should come as no surprise to you or I that I wound up having another freaking Blair Witch nightmare that very evening. The Witch was in my dreams, chasing me. In my sleep I could feel a horrible tingling sensation running up and down my arms as I tried to wake myself up, but it just wasn’t happening. I thought I heard screaming in my ears and I felt completely trapped and at her mercy, until I finally awoke and was able to find some comfort cuddling up to my wife and daughter.

She did it again. The damn witch is two for two when it comes to scaring the crap out of me. And I didn’t even see her coming. Again. So to you, The Blair Witch, I concede a final defeat. While I may not think much of your movie, it managed to once again do what it was designed to. I won’t ever doubt your power again.

I’m so sorry.

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