In 1999, a little movie called The Blair Witch Project took the movie world by storm. It was the fictional story of three film students trying to make a documentary about ‘the legend of the Blair Witch’. So they went into the woods–despite locals telling them of ghastly murders and it still being haunted–and never came out.
Standard horror movie fodder? Maybe. But The Blair Witch Project was unlike anything before it.
Developed by filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the script began with a 35-page outline and the dialogue was improvised. The actors were cast after a very informal audition process, though it helped if they knew how to work a hand-held video camera, since that’s what they would be doing the bulk of the filming.
Most memorably, it was marketed primarily by the Internet and broke ground for that kind of viral marketing. The movie’s official website featured fake police reports and “newsreel-style” interviews, sparking debates everywhere on whether the movie was real or not. Because of the brilliant marketing campaign, the film cost about $60,000 to make but grossed $140 million in the U.S. alone. It was totally ahead of its time.
Fast-forward 17 years later and we’re about to step foot in those woods once more, if we dare. An official trailer for Blair Witch, a sequel to the film, was released at Comic-Con and it looks even scarier than the original.
Blair Witch centres on the brother of Heather Donahue (one of the trio from the first film), who is determined to find out what happened to (or simply find) his long-missing sister. Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, the film was secretly shot in Vancouver last year under the name The Woods. Sneaky buggers.
The Blair Witch Project kick-started a trend in horror movies that still reigns supreme, what with the “found footage” and angry old-timey spirits (yeah, we’re looking at you, Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring franchises).
“It’s still the golden standard for found footage, in a way,” Barrett said of the original, during the Comic-Con panel. “It’s pretty much unparalleled in terms of its commitment towards reality, to the point where characters [are] filming their feet while they’re yelling at each other.”
So, in this digital age of camera phones and everything so easily accessible online, will Blair Witch be able to do what The Blair Witch Project did? Maybe. Despite it being harder for studios to keep things from the audience, thanks to the Internet and social media, producers were able to keep Blair Witch under wraps.
The cast this time around has doubled in size, and stars James Allen McCune (Shameless), Valorie Curry (The Following), Callie Hernandez (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), Brandon Scott (Grey’s Anatomy), Wes Robinson (American Dreams), and Corbin Reid (Words With Girls).
haunts hits theatres September 16. You ready to go back into the woods?