Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tribute to "The Blair Witch Project" and it's Decade Old Website!

The Blair Witch Project. It is one of those horror films that you either lived through and get why people remember it so fondly or are to young to understand why the hell anyone ever spent money watching it in the first place.

I am a huge fan of the flick but will always be among the first to admit that time has not been kind to the motion picture. Since its release in 1999 countless other movies have taken the concept of "found footage" and not only done it better, but done it to the point that it is incredibly difficult to go back to The Blair Witch Project and enjoy the movie for what it is.

And what it is (or was) is an incredibly surreal experience with a complete mindfuck for an ending that, back in 1999, everyone was convinced was 100% real.

It sounds like a complete farce but trust me everyone thought this film was real. Simply because they told us it was. Besides, it didn't look or sound like any other film that had ever came out before it. This looked like... well, found footage.

It made the movie seem completely plausible when logic and better judgement should have dictated otherwise. The Blair Witch Project wasn't just a film that you went and seen. It was an experience that, for a few months in the late 1990's, everybody was completely intrenched in.

And a big part of that experience was logging online and checking out the films official website. Which, in my opinion, did more to sell the "reality" of The Blair Witch Project than any movie poster or TV spot ever could.

So not only did they create a movie that looked, sounded, and felt real but then they went ahead and wrote up this entire Blair Witch mythology, posted it online and then treated it like the goddamn gospel.

And we all fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The wonderful part about the internet is that nothing ever really goes away. Despite being over a decade old, the original Blair Witch website is still online. Largely untouched since the films release, it is like stepping through a time machine and into a world of slow internet connections and horribly compressed .GIF files. Here are a few highlights:

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MYTHOLOGY: It is amazing that this passed as a functioning website back in 1999. I know the phrase "times used to be so much simpler" tends to get tossed around a lot, but holy shit the internet really did used to be a hell of a lot simpler.

Anyhow, the meat and potatoes of was this section. Everything on here is a complete and total farce, ie: absolute bullshit. There is no Elly Kedward. There was no "rare" book from 1809. And there sure as shit wasn't four bodies discovered in 1886.

... and none of that mattered. Look, if you cared enough to seek out this information it meant that you wanted to believe that there was more to The Blair Witch Project than what was presented on the screen. And in that case this was compelling information that completely convinced people it had to be real.

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The entire website is filled with stuff like this. Little nuggets of information like a rare book published about witches back in 1809. Then you'd click on it and find a photo of "the only known copy in existence!" and holy shit... it's a creepy looking book surrounded by mysterious looking objects that I dunno what exactly they are but it absolutely has to be witchcraft!

And then conveniently the only known copy of the ultra rare satanic looking book has been returned to an unnamed private collection, but you choose to ignore that part. Or maybe that somehow adds to the mystique that is Blair Witch Mythology!

Either way it is like a case study of the human mind choosing to believe what it wants to believe and ignoring what it wants to ignore. If you thought this was all bullshit and biscuits you can very easily pick apart everything that has been listed as "history"

If you wanted to lick into its saucy goodness, then it delivered everything necessary for your brain to digest and.... I haven no idea where I was going with this analogy. I need to pause and eat lunch, apparently.

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REAL CONTENT: You've really got to hand it to the films creators, they went above and beyond the call of duty to try to muddy as much of the websites content with both real and fictional information.

That did an excellent job of making it so that when you read through the above mentioned mythologies section, you'd have a hard time telling that information apart from the other stuff that was totally legit.

Like these old Christmas and vacation photos from one of the films primary actors, Heather Donahue. We look back at this stuff now and almost take for granted how simple of an idea it is. Back in 1999... nobody did this kind of stuff.

If you watched a movie with Nicolas Cage in it, they typically didn't stick his vacation photos someplace in it. Because Nicolas Cage was an actor playing a character in a movie. Heather Donahue was a real person and holy shit did I just watch her get killed on screen by evil woodland ghosts? Yes. Yes you did.

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AFTERMATH PHOTOS: I used to watch a lot of Unsolved Mysteries as a kid. A subject that I absolutely  need to dive into deeper here on the website at some point. Anyhow, Unsolved Mysteries used to scare the hell out of me. And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the shows theme song still creeps me out to this very day.

The Blair Witch website has an entire section dedicated to "aftermath" of the event. Essentially it is a series of photos done up to look like the police crime scene photographs with a few still shots of various TV reports and such thrown in for good measures.

And it completely reminds me of something that would have aired on Unsolved Mysteries! Just floating through them I can picture Robert Stack, brown trench coat and all, standing in the middle of some old abandoned factory talking about how these students vanished into the woods back in 1994. And maybe you can help solve this mystery!

It is creepy. Really kind of cool. And something that only could have happened at that specific moment in time. I love The Blair Witch project because of it. So should you watch the movie this Halloween Season? Absolutely. Turn off all the lights and try to put yourself into the right frame of mind. Don't make the mistake of approaching it as a film critic and just enjoy it for what it is. Or at the very least..... go check out it's website with the theme song to Unsolved Mysteries playing in the background!

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