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Wednesday
Sep142016

Team Experience Remembers Blair Witch

This weekend sees the release of surprise sequel Blair Witch, a high(er) tech follow-up to 1999's The Blair Witch Project. You might recall the GOTCHA moment on social media when Adam Wingard's The Woods was revealed at Comic Con to be a surprise sequel to an unwitting audience, but the original was somewhat of a surprise in its unveiling as well. Launching at Sundance to an audience unclear of its authenticity (later revealed to be fictional), the building buzz of its shocks created a box office hype machine so large that it could only leave some viewers feeling dooped.

Still today, the film can inspire fierce debate among genre fans and cinephiles over whether or not the film is indeed scary...

Do the protagonist reflect our own hubris or are they just obnoxious, entitled idiots? Does the shoddy filming enhance the snuff film vibe or is the thing just too damn ugly to watch? Does it hold back too much or let your imagination go to its darkest reaches? Is The Blair Witch Project scary or not?

Here are some reflections from Team Experience:

The Blair Witch Project came shortly after I was embracing horror, and was maybe one of my first scary films in the theatre. I saw it right when the buzz was high with hyperbole, and once it was revealed to be fake, I was fully on board. I remember being all but breathless in the final scene, that final shot still being one of the most chilling of the genre. When the film cut to black, my packed theatre unanimously booed. - Chris Feil

The film was too small to play in my home country, so my very first time was at home on VHS. I sat there completely horrified, and even knowing I had the power to stop it and find something happier to do, I was compelled to keep watching (was this perhaps why the characters in the film set out to find the Witch in the first place?) and as if the piss-in-my-pants feeling I was left with wasn't enough, I spent endless hours afterwards reading about witchcraft. I had nightmares for a whole month. - Jose Solis

I still don't remember how it happened because The Boyfriend and I are not into horror films but we went on opening night in a giant theater in Manhattan. (Must have been the Sundance hype?) The theater's air conditioning was the most insane I've before or since experienced -- we were shivering before the movie even started. By the end of the movie -- which I still remember vividly and I only saw it once -- it wasn't the air conditioner making us shiver. We were both terrified and I still think it's one of the great movie endings. - Nathaniel R

I'd ever experienced My first time with the Blair Witch was on VHS. I had heard about it, of course. Who hadn’t? But my friends were seriously horror-phobic so I skipped the cinema. Ultimately, I think that helped and it’s why I never understood the backlash. Watching the events unfold alone in the dark at home with all of the scratchy tracking a Blockbuster rental could provide is surely the most appropriate way to watch this film. It was exceptionally scary then and it remains just as scary today. That ending in particular. How do they top that? We’ll soon see, I guess. - Glenn Dunks

Consider Team Experience's vote as affirmative for the scary side. Tell us where you stand on The Blair Witch Project in the comments! Is the film scary or not?

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Reader Comments (24)

I stand on the "important, daring, and occasionally scary, but so un-compelling between the scare moments that I kind of understand how the Worst Picture nomination could happen" side.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

A friend of a friend got us a copy from HBO, and we watched it just before it hit theaters, and on an appropriately dark and stormy night.

Terrified. The mounting dread and fear of the doomed trio is palpable. I didn't sleep for 2 days. The hype was insane, and it felt absolutely real.

I never did see it in a theater, but the intimate setting of home video seems much more suitable for found footage films. This worked perfectly.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Never seen it.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul Outlaw: You'd get just as much, if not more, out of the original movie just watching a "Blair Witch Project Scare Moments Supercut" on Youtube. Trust me.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I love horror films and this is no exception. Saw it when I was 19 and had just start uni. I think the ending is great and very unsettling.

I don't think it deserved the Razzies it won.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMikey C

Regardless of your opinion of the film itself, nobody can truthfully say that its marketing was anything other than genius. I saw it early on in its run, when it was still murky if it was real or not. (Remember this is before you could pick up your phone and Google answers to everything.) There were "Have You Seen Me?" paraphernalia of the actors that I remember for sale, amongst others. That whole blitz compelled me to attend, to get some answers at the very least.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

I had the pleasure/horror of seeing this in the theater at Dolby Labs HQ in SF a few weeks before it opened. Needless to say, the sound was perfection. And, the scares in this movie are all about sound and silence. I never get scared in horror movies, and I didn't want to go back outside after watching it. I still get spooked walking around nature late at night. Was it the movie or the theater? I'll never know. But it is one of the only things that has ever scared me at a primitive, irrational base human level.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCorey

I watched it on VHS (I feel old, I was barely a teen) and felt really bored by it. Never was into horror movies but there was such a hype that my friends convinced me to watch with them. The shaky camera got really annoying and I remember being half asleep and missing a good chunk of it.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterV.

I saw it at the movies when I was 15.

It was a weird/terrifying experience, the theater was packed and the other teenagers were behaving exactly like the people at the opening of Scream 2. It was so intense that the owners had to stop the film in the middle so people would calm down.

I later saw it at a movie class, it was quieter but still scary.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterremy

Mikey C: It only got two nominations and I definitely wouldn't call it one of the five worst films of the year. However: It's win is an acting win and (even if you like the movie) can you really say that the original Blair Witch Project is at all well performed?

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I saw it in theaters when i was 7 or 8 and I didn't find it scary when i was watching it but for the next three to 4 years of my life this film haunted me. I always thought the blair witch would get me. I watched it again recently and I woke up in the middle of the night scared. This is one of the scariest movies ever.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

It's a classic of horror by implication. I saw it at the theater when it came out, and it has lost none of its power. Blood-curdling finale.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I think it's important and had a huge impact on the direction of the horror genre. Horror has always had successful low budget films, but this was a cultural behemoth. The marketing campaign alone that they set up in the early days of Internet marketing is something to be studied and applauded.

I also remember getting violently ill in theaters because of the camera angle and still, many home viewings later, having to pause the film a few times each time I watch to reorient myself so I don't get sick again.

I love the world of the film. The design is great. I just wish that the actors were given just a little more training in how to stabilize the cameras before they shot it. The chase sequences with the focus going everywhere could have been so much more effective if the early shots didn't all shake, too.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Never seen it.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I was only 4 when it came out in theatres, so I actually didn't get to watch it until I was in high school. I think it was on Netflix.
But, yeah, I absolutely loved it and I think it holds up really well.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

The movie is the best found footage horror film because the protagonist is an obsessed film maker. I saw a copy a friend had downloaded from the internet and it was different from the released version - it was and remains a great horror film

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I saw it when it first came out and I thought it wss pretty good. Saw it again on TV and found mysrlf becoming convinced. Great horror movie. And I love the acting. The actors play it to the full, without shame or irony. Top stuff.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I didn't see it until several years after its theatrical release; I think I might have been 15 or 16. At the time I lived in a remote house in North Carolina surrounded by the woods - woods that weren't all that different from the barren deciduous forest of the film. And not far from the house was a long-abandoned cabin where someone would build makeshift fences with branches and plastic bags. Needless to say, the film was a little too real for me. It's still one of the scariest films I've ever seen.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJason H.

When The Blair Witch Project first opened in 1999, I was 15 and my sister was 13. One of the few television shows the whole family watched together was The X-Files - my sister and I considered it a big thrill when we were allowed to stay up late go watch it on Sunday nights. Blair Witch was inescapable, and when my parents heard there was no gore, they decided to ignore the R rating and go as a family. When we got back from our screening that evening, we realized that we had to take the garbage out to be collected the next morning. We lived in a wooded area - our house was set back from the road and surrounded by woods on two sides. That night, we were all so scared that it took all four of us to bring out one garbage can.

Even if we now know it's fake, the terror onscreen feels real. This is how people really react to being scared - they don't think, they don't fire off a witty comeback. They jolt, scream, and run like hell (swearing optional). That's why it's such an effective horror film, to my mind anyway.

September 14, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

A phenomena and a horror masterpiece fo me.

September 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersati

I watched it when it was first released on video, with a group of friends, and it didn't do much for me. Way too much outside stimulus to be fully invested. Revisited years later when I was alone in my college dorm room, no distractions, and it was a harrowing and terrifying experience. I would confidently cite it as one of the seminal works of horror in the last 50 years.

September 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Saw it the first - and only - time in the first few weeks of it's release. I love watching horror movies, but other than more psychological ones ('Carrie'), or meta ones ('Scream', 'The Cabin in the Woods') they mess me up too much afterward for it to be worth it (I had trouble sleeping after watching the trailer for 'The Babadook'.). With 'Blair Witch', I remember running from my car to the backdoor of the house any time I got home after dark because I was frightened for at least 6 months, if not closer to a year.

September 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

My heart pounds through my chest every time I see that ending.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

For me, still the scariest film I've ever watched. Get why some don't care for it, but I still shakee at the thought of it.

September 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

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