Think back to the camping trips of your childhood or teenaged years. Remember that one kid who could really tell a spooky story around the campfire? Now imagine that person being given a video camera, and just enough of a budget to put visuals to their story. Double how scary that would be, and you have a good idea of what's in store for viewers of the hot new horror movie, "The Blair Witch Project."
The premise is deceptively simple, and one that probably has a lot of big name directors fretting, "Why didn't I think of that?". Three film students head off to backwoods America to hunt down the legend of the Blair Witch for a documentary subject. The movie informs us in the opening frame, that the three have disappeared, and what you are about to witness is the footage that was found a year later. The three, played by young actors Heather Donohue, as the bossy director, Joshua Leonard, as the cameraman for the 16mm black and white footage, and Michael Williams, as the sound guy, play characters named Heather, Josh and Mike.
They tool around the town of Burkittsville, formerly called Blair, interviewing townfolk, gahtering stories about a witch killing trappers in the last century, and a killer hermit who kidnaped children in the 1940s. Heather, to the great irritation of her comrades, insists on not only having Josh formally film the needed footage, but carries a Hi8 camcorder and records their efforts at filming and all of their pertinent conversations about making the film, as well.
But once they get lost in the woods, the lark is over, and when those things that go bump in the night, and lurk in the stark shadows of the autumn woods, begin to fit pieces of the legends they have heard, "The Blair Witch Project" becomes an exercise in sheer terror.
The approach by directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, gives the movie an incredible sense of immediacy, intimacy and versimillitude. But it's the extremely natural performances by the three young actors-- particularly Heather Donahue, who deserves an Oscar nomination-- that brings it all together. Heather's self filmed, on screen apology to the families of Josh and Mike is a movie classic.
The only real logical leap you have to make is that the kids would keep filming in moments of extreme terror, right up to the bitter end.
At this point you're probably thinking "Why are you taking up Credo space on this movie?" Horror films are not exactly a favorite in Christian publications.
First, this is perhaps the first time anyone has done anything new in the genre since Hitchcock made you wonder if you should turn your back on that flock of birds perched in your backyard.
Second, most movies of this type have a specifically occult angle that explains the strange happenings. Here, we just know there is an evil presence in the Blair woods, we have to fill in our own blanks. Others rely on an excessive amount of blood and gore, and (like the "Friday the 13" series) even try to evoke thrills from watching the evisceration of young people. "Blair" has about three drops of blood, total.
And third, it's just a darn good movie.
Aside from casual overuse of obscene language, particularly in the early scenes, the objectionable content quotient in "The Blair Witch Project" is pretty low. However, this intense movie should be limited to grown ups and older teens who can enjoy a good, cathartic scare?