The Blair Witch Project

Friday, January 1, 1999

One last thing about the Blair Witch Project

One canít help wondering if the people complaining about Blair Witch Project are the ones silly enough to have a few beers for courage and sit in the first five rows. Sit a reasonable distance from the screen and youíll be fine. Ignore the backlash from the unreasonable waves of hype and you might actually like it.

BWP is very little to do with witches and witchcraft; its greatest strength may be its refusal to pin itself down to any single folklore beyond the townspeopleís crackpot grocery-store gossip. While this nicely lays the groundwork for some speculation about the conclusion, some of the best moments - the stick figures in the forest - are left alone without stuffing them into a specific set of Gremlinesque "Witchcraft Rules." For werewolf, a silver bullet, for mummy, a blowtorch, for vampire an order of scampi, but without adding a "From Dusk Till Dawn"* scene to review the steps for dealing with a witch, we can count out any chance of fighting and concentrate on the remaining options - which ainít much: walk.

The escalating hysteria has nothing to do with any witch. While the low-budget 50s schlock that relied on zooming into the face of the victim wasnít always terrifying, it had something going that Full Moon video doesnít: knowledge that, while looking at something scary can be very unsettling ("In the Mouth of Madness"), looking at a rubber mask will often as not backfire (oh, letís say "Blood Diner"). BWP is a rare creature among horror films, avoiding both of these possibilities by making creatures scarce and concentrating only on the victims, who can concentrate only on swirling concepts of myth and folklore.

This is what everybodyís so eager to talk about lately - unseen horror - but BWP is the only one to master the concept. Despite a small bit ofsuspense, the supposedly scary stuff in "Sixth Sense" is all seen. In "The Haunting" (1999), itís all scene, and in "The Haunting" (1963), it might not even be there. In BWP, itís unseen and very unknown, but the realization slowly dawns that itís definitely something.

Haunting 99 played off Haunting 63 in this, the same way that failed Haunting 63: it sets itself up as psychological horror. Meaning itís all an experiment to see if people in a scary house will drive themselves batty with fear or whether there is something in the house to do the job for them.

Yes, itís very scary when youíre alone at home and hear a noise outside and donít know what it is. Probably itís much scarier when you know itís not your imagination, but something coming to get you. Itís not knowing the specifics, not knowing how to stop it, that can get to you.

BWP delivers a few chilling moments - the figures, the stones, the climax - but donít let those set the pace for you or youíll miss the rest of the movie waiting for more such moments.

BWP doesnít really need to be very scary. Itís at its best carefully pacing those few moments between stretches of dry quiet woods (no birds, no crickets, no chipmunks), as well contrasted as the weary day and tense, awake night. The stretches of day are not an exercise to create fear but a chance to study it: days as futile, shortening spans that become just a reprieve, not the safety of the sunís rays but a lapse, a gasp that, in Harlan Ellison time-is-an-arrow terms, can do nothing but lead to night.

Heather, Mike and Josh are three kids in the woods whose situation is decreasingly likely, less plausible for them (but not for us**) and increasingly desperate - but the desperation has nowhere to go.

*Nothing against "From Dusk Till Dawn." I like it.

**This works as a very nice reversal of Híwood pics. Normally as Bruce Willis and Arnold S. get into more outlandish situations, they have little trouble accepting it, though the audience may not digest it so easily. Here, though the changes in mood are slight for the audience and the events vague enough to require a minimum of disbelief, the characters go through some severe stages of incredulity.

Rating: A- (Don&3039;t not believe the hype)

Reviewed by Matthew Abrams
Contents
The Hills Have Eyes 2

Hostel Part II

Six Degrees

Shark

Jericho

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Justice

The Hills Have Eyes

Love Monkey

Out of Practice

Head Cases

Crunchwrap Supreme

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Batman Begins

Garden State

Hero

13 Going On 30

LAX

Starman

quirkyalone.net

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Line of Fire

We Shall All Be Healed

Happy Family

Arrested Development

Love Actually

A Minute with Stan Hooper

Tarzan

Karen Sisco

Stop All the World Now

Cold Case

Skin

10-8

Joan of Arcadia

Eve

Luis

Lost In Translation

House of 1000 Corpses

Bubba Ho-Tep

Darkness Falls

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Amazing Race

Treasure Island

FearDotCom

Adaptation

To Hit Armor Class Zero

Without A Trace

8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter

Life With Bonnie

JalapeŮo Cheeseburger

The Mothman Prophecies

Happy Campers

The Man Who Wasn't There

Kiss of the Dragon

Josie & the Pussycats

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Dr. Pepper

Know By Heart

Waking Life

L.I.E.

Thirteen Ghosts

Earthlink presents Chang and Eng

New York and Country Bar

Change

Motivation and Water Tower Grammar

Crossing Philly

Makeout Club

Undeclared

The Gap

The Abolition of Work

3000 Miles to Graceland

Kolobos

Duets

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Diesel Sweeties

The Cold Six Thousand

The Grilled Stuft Burrito (Rebuttal)

60 Second Wipeout

The Patriot

Grilled Stuft Burrito

Cowgirls

Crystalline

Frankenfinger E.P.

One Force Down

Shake

Both Our Secrets

Happy Birthday Captain Columbus!

Fight Club

Whatever It Takes

Committed

That Skinny Motherfucker with the High Voice?

Joe Dirt

The Veggie Whopper

Taco Bell Nachos

Palmetto

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero

The Terror of Mechagodzilla

To The Center

Infiniti+Infiniti

American Psycho

The Del Shredder

What Lies Beneath

The Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Bring It On

Chill Factor

Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars

Bad Company

The Blair Witch Project

Hyacinths and Thistles

Lake of Dracula

We'll Have a Time

Home Depot

Snow Day

The Virgin Suicides