If you know me well enough then you’ve probably heard the story of the first time I watched The Blair Witch Project. It was the first time my parents had let me stay up late and my older siblings and I had come to a group decision that this would be the film of the night. My brother, a keen film enthusiast like me, produced some the finest acting I have ever seen and explained that this was a real film. In my naivety, I believed him and watched as the film began with onscreen text that read “In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. A year later their footage was discovered.”
The rest of the film blew me away. The found footage format had existed long before The Blair Witch Project had come out but first time directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez used the format in exciting new ways to tell an already old story. From the children laughing to Heather’s tearful apology that turns into a breakdown, the imagery is wonderfully simplistic yet still utterly terrifying. The climactic scene where Heather and Mike search for Josh in the house is the best scene in the film. An unforgettable sequence that culminates in a shocking finale image that is without doubt one of the best endings of not only the genre but for all films.
As the film ended, my brother casually informed me of the fakery of the movie. Nevertheless, it took a long time to process what I had just seen. The movie was incredibly clever with its own rich mythology to accompany it. Years later, Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) directed an impressive sequel that despite updating the story, still wasn’t able to beat the original. To this day, I still tell people that this was the film that turned me into the film geek I am today.