Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project is a low budget 1999 horror film in which three young film students mysteriously disappear from the face of the earth after being stalked through the woods, lost and kept awake by an unseen antagonist.
Marketing and method
This film was a huge success in part because its makers did heavy marketing via the Internet, spreading rumors and suggesting or allowing people to think that the material they shot was authentic and that the three protagonists really disappeared in Burkittsville, Maryland. This has caused problems for the police department of Frederick County. A similar problem occurred after the movie The Amityville Horror was released.
After the movie's success, a good share of merchandise was sold, like computer games and all sorts of memorabilia. Despite this commercial success, subsequent movies have not matched the success or innovation of the original movie, which some say has inspired the creation of a whole new way of filmmaking: the Method Film-making (named after method acting).
The technique used was to give the three actors only a vague idea of what to do—basically "You are three student film makers doing a documentary on the legend of the Blair Witch"—then turn them loose with a professional camera for the documentary and an amateur camera to document the "making of the documentary". The script was almost entirely ad-libbed; the townspeople interviewed were mostly real townspeople acting, and the three actors had only a minimal contact with the real film crew who did not provide any of the footage and played the role of mediators. The directors provided a basic story outline and utilized GPS technology to move the actors from location to location, so that interaction would be kept to a minimum. Actor's notes were left at "waypoints" located strategically throughout the woods. The result has the look and feel of an authentic documentary.
The film-makers also created a complex, detailed backstory told through the movie's website and in spin-off books.
The estimated production cost of the film was about $25,000. The movie grossed over $150 million at the box office, making it the most profitable motion picture of all time in terms of the ratio of production costs to box office proceeds.
Similar films and influences
In fact, the method of incorporating the camera and film team into the plot is not totally new. Several predecessors of this technique are the Danish Dogme95 movies, and most notably, the Belgian pseudo-documentary Man Bites Dog.
The Blair Witch Project bears many similarities to The Last Broadcast (1998), written and directed by Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler . Both are mock-documentaries about people who go into the wilderness in search of a mythical figures (in this case, the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens) and vanish; however, the endings are quite different. It is unclear whether one project was inspired by the other, or if they were conceived separately in isolation. Cult film buffs also claim a further inspiration for the film is a notorious exploitation picture entitled Cannibal Holocaust, filmed in 1978. This fictional documentary also told the story of a filmmaking crew who journeyed to the jungles of South America in search of a tribe of cannibal natives, only to end up being devoured by the cannibals themselves.
The sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, did very poorly at the box office. Movie distributors believe this is because the film was rated R, and in response to pressure from Senator Joseph Lieberman over sex and violence in the movies, the National Association of Theatre Owners promoted a policy of strict ID checks, thus eliminating the target audience.
The Blair Witch is the character and idea around which the movie is based. In the films, a series of mishaps occur to various groups of young adults, allegedly prompted by actions from the ghost of said Witch, who allegedly tortured and killed children in the woods of Maryland. Much of the first film portrayed the psychological torture and eventual deaths of three young adults lost in the woods.
In 2000, Gathering of Developers released a trilogy of computer games based on the Blair Witch movie, which greatly expanded on the myths first suggested in the film. The graphics engine and characters were all derived from the producer's earlier game, Nocturne,
The first game, Rustin Parr, takes place in the 1940s when a hermit named Rustin Parr who lived near the town gave himself up to police and admitted to the murders of a number of local children, claiming to have been possessed by the Blair Witch. The player takes on the role of a paranormal investigator sent to look into the bizarre circumstances surrounding the alleged child-killer and rumours of the involvement of demonic possession.
The second game, Coffin Rock, takes place further back in history, during the American Civil War, whereby the player takes control of a soldier who has lost his memory and encounters strange visions after waking up in the forest near the town of Blair.
The third game, The Elly Kedward Tale, is set further back in time, in 1785. The player takes on the role of Jonathan Pyre, a witch-hunter who travels to Blair after hearing rumors of the disturbing activity that has recently taken place after the alleged Blair Witch has been banished to the forest.
The trilogy was not particularly well received by critics. The exception was the first game, Rustin Parr, which was criticized for being very linear but praised for its relentlessly creepy atmosphere, including audio that was faithful to the movie, such as the sound of cracking twigs and giggling children heard in the distance as the player-character treads through the forest.
- "Fuck" was said 133 times in the movie. See List of films ordered by uses of the word fuck.
- On the Internet Movie Database, the two main actors and the main actress were listed as "missing, presumed dead".
- The Bell Witch - The allegedly real 19th century haunting that is thought to have been a major influence on the creators of the Blair Witch Project.
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