“The Blair Witch Project” in 2016 is a victim of the world it created.
Before 1999, when three film students vanished into a Maryland forest while attempting to make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind, horror movies all pretty much looked the same.
And after “The Blair Witch Project,” horror movies all looked the same again … only different than before.
It became known as “found footage,” and it was awesome. With the point-of-view trend of filmmaking, audiences were a part of the experience, like we were witnessing something we really weren’t supposed to see. Movies like the “Paranormal Activity” franchise pulled a Spinal Tap by turning everything up to 11.
But like grunge and the Michael Jordan crying meme, found-footage horror movies became old and predictable. And yet there’s something about the first time …
Things like finding a love letter from an old high school sweetheart can make me yearn for a simpler time. In the case of “The Blair Witch Project,” that means going back to a time before smartphones and lightweight camera equipment.
I remember sneaking into an opening weekend screening of “The Blair Witch Project” with a date. It was sold out, thanks to a brilliant web-based ad campaign that was so successful cast members later said their parents received flowers from fans who believed their children were either dead or missing. My date and I bought tickets to “American Pie” and instead sat on the front row for “The Blair Witch Project.”
Kind of like the famous Rolling Stone review for Bob Dylan’s downright awful 1970 “Self Portrait” album, about 45 minutes into the movie I was thinking aloud, “What is this (four-letter word for poop)?”
I had a headache, was a little nauseous and never wanted to go into the woods again, a feeling that had nothing to do with the supposed Blairsville witch. But I stuck with it – thankfully. Having been caught totally off guard, the last three-plus minutes of that movie might be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in a theater.
It was all we could talk about afterwards.
Watching it all over again, it’s impossible not to feel hostile toward the found-footage genre that “Blair Witch Project” created, especially considering the number of films that actually did it better – including the recently released sequel “Blair Witch.”
Plus, 99 percent of “The Blair Witch Project” is kids whining about being lost in the woods without cigarettes.
Sometimes, I wish that “found footage” had remained lost. At least I wouldn’t feel nauseous all over again.