(Originally posted at Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat by Sean T. Collins.)
The 13 Days of Halloween: Day 13
1. The Blair Witch Project dir. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez
the scariest movie I've ever seen
Well, here we are: Blair Witch. Let me say right off the bat that I don't expect to change anyone's mind here. This is a movie for which the phrase "you either love it or hate it" was invented. I remember seeing it on opening night in a theatre: Half the audience booed and yelled at the screen as the closing credits rolled, while the other half looked as though they'd just been eyewitnesses to a plane crash. With most films you can argue that people just didn't "get it," but it's different with this movie: It gets you. Or it doesn't. A lot depends on where you first see it, how you'd heard about it, the kind of mood you were in, and (I think) the kind of mood you allowed yourself to be in. So yeah, this movie gets you, or it doesn't.
Good God, did it ever get me.
Opening night, August 1999, was not the first time I saw Blair Witch. That was actually back in June of that same summer. At the time I was working for Troma Studios, progenitors of the Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, and various other rubber-masked individuals you see at the San Diego Comic-Con or on E! Entertainment Television. The Troma Team had just gotten back from their yearly expedition to the Cannes Film Festival, which took place just before I began interning at the company. Along with the usual tales of living 20 people to a room and having your picture snapped by hundreds of paparazzi while dressed as a man-eating condom, my coworkers had brought back a videotape. It was given to them by the makers of The Blair Witch Project, who, it turns out, were enormous Troma fans. (I guess Troma is an inspiration for anyone who wants to make a movie for less than no money, although clearly the Blair Witch people emphasized Troma's can-do spirit and not so much their fondness for exploding heads.) They gave them a copy of their movie, which was just beginning to garner some attention during its screenings at the festival, as a gift. Needless to say the Troma folks were quite excited: Horror-film true-believers to a man (and woman), they were up for anything, as long as it was frightening. Before long copies were making the rounds of the whole staff, and I remember being quite excited when I finally got mine. There was no hype, no stories in Newsweek or Time proclaiming this the scariest film in history and touting its micro-budget blockbuster status, no appearances on late-night and early-morning talk shows to publicize it, no endless parodies consisting of people talking into videocameras. All I knew when I took my copy home was that it was a mockumentary, and that it was scary.