Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

"The Blair Witch Project"

by Richard Schwartz

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Though quite innovative in its radical attempts to exploit mutliple media and reinvent a genre, "The Blair Witch Project" fails to match its bold ambition with likeable characters and a crisp storytelling style. The horror-influenced "mockumentary," which spooked midnight audiences at Sundance, takes cinema verite one step further by telling the story of three student filmmakers who hope to uncover the myth of the so-called "Blair Witch" by taking their cameras to a Black Forest allegedly inhabited by the spirit.

Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick, "Blair Witch" begins with an ominous prologue, informing audiences that the students disappeared and their film and videotape were the only evidence discovered. Without any narration but only the archival clips to guide, the audience gains a genuine sense of the personalities of Heather, Michael and Josh. In a "Real World" sort of touch, we bear witness to everything, including their constant personality clashes. However, as their arguments continue throughout their eight-day exploration of the dark forest, the decibel level increases as well, making for a rather unpleasant viewing experience. A couple of screaming sessions could have still established the conflict among the trio without grating on the audiences' nerves. Moreover, none of these characters is likeable and certainly not someone with whom you'd want to spend five minutes, let alone an entire movie. Thus, there is little sympathy when things begin to turn for the worse.

In the final course of events, Sanchez and Myrick succeed in creating some sense of suspense, but this is somewhat dulled and rather anti-climatic because the audience has known of the characters' fate since the first frame of the film.

Yet another irksome characteristic of "Blair Witch" is its insistence on the repeated use of dizzycam effects to create a sense of the live, unrehearsed and amatuer nature of the piece. Still, "Blair Witch" is groudbreaking for its willingness to experiment and will likely herald a new breed of stylized virtual fiction tales, blurring the lines ever more so between reality and entertainment.

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