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“I gave you back the map, Heather”: Looking back on The Blair Witch Project

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(Originally posted at Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat.)

The scariest movie I ever saw was a bootleg copy of The Blair Witch Project. At the time I was working for Troma, of Toxic Avenger & Sgt. Kabukiman fame. They met the Blair Witch guys at Cannes and the BWs were big Troma fans, so they gave them a few copies of the movie. I watched it with my friend and fellow horror nut Davey Oil, knowing only that it was supposed to be very scary, and that it was a mockumentary kind of deal.

I have literally never been so scared in all my life. Dave and I just sat there after it was over for about an hour (we finished it at 2 in the morning or something) because we were too frightened to leave the room. My bathroom has one of those fan deals, so you can’t hear what’s going on outside, so when I had to go afterwards I made Dave stand at the door and talk to me so I knew he was still out there. When I drove him home we were afraid of the back of the car.

That’s how scary that goddamn movie was before a) the constant hype spoiled people’s expectations and b) they added in the bit about the Witch-inspired killer making one kid stand in the corner while the other was killed. Believe me, without that little condescending post-production addition, the movie’s final image was maybe the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen. When a couple weeks later we showed the movie to a bunch of friends at an upstate cabin, at least one of them was so upset by it she got mad at the filmmakers for making “emotional pornography.” I don’t think I’ll ever buy the DVD of the movie because I think I saw it in the way God intended.

Perhaps all this explains why I reacted so strongly (nightmares and all) to The Ring–I know the power of a scary bootlegged VHS tape.

Sean T. Collins can scream “Jooooosh!” with the best of ‘em. He’s also a pro writer and editor, and blogs at Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat, where this post originally appeared.

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  • http://www.gefen.blogspot.com ben

    are you nuts? that was the most boring, repetitive, agressively unscary movie i ever saw in my life. a waste of a decent nine dollars i could have spent on a pizza. i was in paris the year it came out, walking down the champs elysee and i saw a line five blocks long of psychotic french film nuts waiting to get in to see that flick for the nineteenth time. nuff said.

  • http://www.foliage.com Mark Saleski

    not nuts. i saw this and was very very creeped out on the drive home (through some wooded areas).

    just the short walk from the car to the house was more excitement than i needed.

  • http://www.alltooflat.com/about/personal/sean Sean T. Collins

    Ben, as I said, I think I saw it under just the right circumstances (ie without two-three months of advance hype, simply having it on good authority that it was scary, on a bootlegged VHS tape late at night with one other person in a quiet house, in a version that lacked a certain stupid late addition) to enjoy it to the fullest extent. I certainly understood the negative reaction from people who saw it in the theatre. While I’d imagine that, like Mark, I’d still have found it frightening–I wrote my senior thesis on horror films, and this movie had a lot of what i wrote about going for it–I can’t blame people for not enjoying it the same way I did. I just thought I’d explain how and why I thought it was so scary.

  • http://www.gefen.blogspot.com ben

    hmmm. i understand where your coming from, but it mystifies me that you found it so frightening even though you knew it was fake. i can understand people who thought it was a real documentary – and i think in the early stages there were a lot – being freaked out by it. but the minute you know its all a riff – and i don’t think its that hard to figure out, the acting’s pretty bad – it just turns into watching people yell at eachother in the middle of the woods. i certainly understand someone who really studies horror films appreciating a film that relied on subtlety and creep factor rather than bloodletting, but that certainly didn’t make it a good movie.