I first watched The Blair Witch Project when I was 14. I was home alone “sick” from school and I remembered my dad bought a second-hand VHS of the film a few weeks before. Alone in the kitchen, I popped the movie into the tiny television on the counter, pulled up a chair, some chicken noodle soup and succeeded in terrorizing myself. Afterwards, I curled up on the couch with a baseball bat and couldn’t wait for my mom to get home.
But in its heyday, The Blair Witch Project was a terrifying phenomenon. I remember stories from friends who saw it (those lucky middle schoolers allowed to see R rated movies!) of how scared they were, how they would never go in the woods again and how they swore it was real. Yes, I remember a girl who claimed to have heard of the Blair Witch legends back when she lived in Maryland, even though it was all made up just for this movie. It had that effect on us, the impressionable young teens with no other drama in our lives.
Anyway, the film is a very low budget found-footage horror film in which three young filmmakers set off into the woods to make a documentary about the Blair Witch and are never seen again. Heather (Heather Donahue) is the brains behind the project and leader out hiking. Josh (Joshua Leonard) seems to be second in command and pretty laid back. Mike (Michael C. Williams) seems to be the grunt who was talked into this little adventure. Things go well for a while, interviews for the documentary provide us with information on the witch and the filmmakers are in high spirits. But when Heather decides to hike off the trail to save time, they get lost. In the night, strange things happen and they can sense that they are clearly not wanted in the woods. The ending always gives me the creeps and is a moment I won’t ever get out of my mind.
I believe, to get really into The Blair Witch Project, as I did at 14, is to completely immerse yourself in it. Turn the volume up full blast to hear every rustle and snapping twig. Turn off your phone and the lights. In fact, just turn off all your cynicism and let your suspension of disbelief take over. If you do those things, you will get the full effect of the film and be plenty scared.
However, if you watch it during the day, check your Facebook or text every few minutes and let yourself be distracted, it’s nothing. I found myself, wondering why I had found this film so frightening back in the day when I watched it during my son’s nap time, in the daylight, while folding laundry …like moms do. The Blair Witch Project is so much better when you’re scared, letting your imagination get the best of you and listening to every little sound. Or maybe you just need to be younger and easier to scare. Either way, I miss my youth.
“Witches in days gone by were roasted just like my Vienna sausage.”