I’m not a horror aficionado. I will admit it; horror films scare me. Scary Movie 3 scared me. I was about 12 years old when I watched it, but still, fear wasn’t what that film was going for, yet I felt it. If someone tells me to watch a scary film, I will watch it if they sit me down and put it on, but I can only remember once ever going out of my way to watch a horror film.
That horror film was The Blair Witch Project. I watched it alone when I was 18. I watched it with the door closed, but kept the lights on because I’m not insane. I hold this movie responsible for why I need to have something on to fall asleep. Before this, I could climb into bed and sleep without concern, but after this I couldn’t.
I loved the movie as it happened. It was chilling, well-acted and a brilliantly effective use of the found footage technique. But it didn’t scare me until the next time I was home alone at night. I turned my lights off and tried to sleep but couldn’t. That was fear.
The brilliance of the film is in its pacing. It builds slowly and is mainly about small, creepy occurrences and the slow emotional breakdown of the characters, which it makes it feel real. Its budget meant that the supernatural elements present in sequel Blair Witch weren’t available to the directors, and it absolutely benefits from that.
Each slightly strange noise, object or building is something that everyone can relate to from their life. A creek in the house, finding something you can’t remember ever buying. That’s why finding twigs assembled in weird ways or noises in the middle of the night is so easy to connect with. This is creepy and played out brilliantly quick enough to reach a crescendo at the right time.
You, of course, can’t talk about The Blair Witch Project without mentioning its marketing campaign. The diary and police interviews helped to create a very rich tapestry for the overall project, which again plays on small, very real fears and how they develop over time. The diary, in particular, is something that still gives me chills when I think about it.
The Blair Witch Project isn’t flashy, isn’t jumpy and is quite divisive when people debate really effective horror films. However, for me, it was a masterful approach to taking relatable weird occurrences and taking them to an extreme end. It was that which stuck with me when I tried to get to sleep the next night, when I noticed the shape the tree outside my window made in the glare of the street light. I put on the TV, and I haven’t been able to sleep without noise since.
Did The Blair Witch Project affect you as much as it terrified Luke? What film frightened you in the most? Let me know in the comments section.