Dec 27, 2005

Overrated films part 2.

Next up on the list of overrated films is the wildly successful The Blair Witch Project. I know a lot of you loved this film and may have been genuinely scared by it, but really the movie wasn't great nor was it that good.

The Blair Witch Project is a perfect example of how a film lives or dies by it's marketing and not by it's quality. There was so much hype leading up to the film that it ran amok with rumors that the movie was an actual documentary and that the footage was real. Websites were littered with postings from people who apparently knew the crew involved and gave first hand accounts of their encounters with the Blair Witch.

The whole Blair Witch is a myth. None of the events that happened in the film nor the legend that the characters were supposedly covering ever happened. has a great article about the fabrication behind the film and it's hype. You can read about it here.

Miramax has always been known for cleverly hyping mediocre films into great cinematic masterpieces such as Chicago. Television advertisements were bombarding TV screens all across the country and the movie was hailed by many critics as one of the scariest movies ever. A lot went so far as comparing it to the works of Hitchcock.

Now the premise of The Blair Witch Project is actually pretty cool. The writers/directors used a completely independent low budget and hired three actors and gave them enough supplies for them to survive in the woods. They would give them a opening premise and the actors would adlib all the dialogue. Once they were in the woods they would receive instructions on the next scene and directions to find the other parts of the script. The actors would also film every event. There were no special effects nor were there any real orchestrated music.

The final product was an interesting if not implausible film. While I agree with most that the technique used in making the production was rather bold the movie to me seemed almost laughable.

These three actors are told to film everything while they are supposed to be terrorized by a fictitious unseen witch. The whole concept is ridiculous considering survival instinct would kick in at some point and the crew would drop their cameras and run like hell in any direction. The only problem with that is the last half of the movie couldn't have been shot. The fact that they didn't made them seem stupid to the point where they almost deserve their fate. I'm not sure if that's what the filmmakers wanted, but I found myself almost chuckling at the idea of people put in a perilous situation while looking through a viewfinder.

One of the crew in the film gets kidnapped and taken to a house. The other two finally hear his screams and decide to investigate. They search the seemingly abandoned house yelling for him while having big bulky cameras strapped to them. Now logic would dictate that a weapon and a flashlight would seem like better items to rescue your friends with, but that's just me. Now I'm a big fan of cameras, but when I look for my comrades to help them out of a life or death situation I promise I will not do it while trying to film the entire thing. It just seems silly.

Some apologists for the film have told me that the film wasn't that scary, but it was still great. How? That's like saying a comedy was good even if it wasn't funny. The movie failed to do the one thing it set out to accomplish and that is to provide me with a good fright. Clerks, a low budget comedy, has numerous flaws, but it was funny at least.

The Blair Witch - Attacked In The Tent:

"I'm really proud of Blair Witch Project as a film, but as far as the cultural phenomenon of it-that was just weird luck." - Joshua Leonard


Mattbear said...

Of course, if you're going to talk about movies, you know I'm going to have to weigh in.

I'll say this: I loved Blair Witch Project. It did scare me. What I have seen in terms of people who were scared and weren't scared by this movie is the ability to let themselves get caught up in what is going on in the movie, to forget reality, surroundings, etc.

The movie did a good job of using the basic horror tools - isolation, inescapable situation, the unknown. As a result, I was able to get caught up in what was going on and not think about the bad idea that they might run into that house holding cameras and running film. So yeah, I wasn't thinking. Sometimes, that's the point of a movie.

Everything about the situation was creepy; the getting lost and no logical route getting them out, the bizarre stuff happening...even the end moment. So I got creeped right the fuck out. I can see where thinking about it would break the suspension of disbelief and drop you out of what is going on in the movie, and not let the atmosphere and creepiness get to you.

I think there was an attempt to establish why the characters (or at least Heather) would continue filming. It's the scene one of the other characters is filming her, sticking the camera in her face and berating her for continuing to film. Essentially it is meant to establish that the camera is her security blanket; that if she's filming it's like a barrier between her and what is happening - a rationale explained and used by many journalists and documentarians for why they continued to film when horrific things were happening right before them.

Does it work? Not so much. My enjoyment of the movie, my fear, didn't hinge on that. It was more just getting sucked into the movie, into what was happening on screen.

The problem here is, if we go by your standard (the premise not being utterly ridiculous or at least having gaping holes) every horror movie anyone ever liked is overrated. "Hey, the monster/psycho killer with the huge teeth/claws/chainsaw/axe/gun is somewhere in this house. Let's go out there with a flashlight! That'll keep us safe!"

Wiwille said...

I knew that post would strike a nerve with someone. While you made some good points I do disagree that keeping people ignorant of basic survival techniques, or even instinct, is key in all great horror. The key to keep me scared is a) good intelligent characters who through no fault of their own are put in dangerous situations b) a powerful cunning villan who doesn't have to rely on the character's stupidity to have them killed. Movies like Psycho and the Excorcist prove that. Seeing mildly retarded teenagers die is of no consequence to me, but I do appreciate them getting naked on film for the most part. If I don't like the characters then their demise really doesn't hold my grasp. This is why I don't really care for horror films as a general rule.

I do believe that most people, maybe not you, were scared by the Blair Witch Project is because they were told to numerous times by various media outlets more so than the elements incorporated in the film.