As Halloween draws ever closer I’ve been entering my traditional horror-movie-marathon mode, and so far, have found myself relatively unimpressed. Ok, The Happening was decent, and I’ll review that in another post, but so far, nothing terribly scary has surfaced.
The other day I saw about half of an interview-thing with Stephen King, where he talked about the art of horror films, some of his favorites, and adaptations of his own works. And during the course of the program he talked about seeing The Blair Witch Project, which I hadn’t yet seen. King said that he actually had to turn it off halfway through. Wait, what? The master of horror was scared by a movie? Now wait just a second, I know it’s supposed to be scary, but KING was scared? I have to see this movie.
And so I did. And after watching it, I sat here wondering what the big deal was. Because there was not a single moment when I though “oh fuck this is scary.” Not even a single moment when I was startled. It left me feeling let down, honestly. It was built up as a terrifying film, and there was nothing in it that was scary.
What the hell, King? Why were you scared?
Part of the problem with the film is that, nowadays, everyone goes into it thinking it’s a movie (which it is, of course). But back in 1999, at the dawn of the Internet, The Blair Witch Project was the first “found footage” film, much like the recent Paranormal Activity franchise. And so the movie was subtly advertised, not as a film, but as a true story, the actual footage recovered after this tragic incident. Modern moviegoers know that there’s nothing factual in the movie, but 1999 was a simpler time. People were thoroughly convinced that the three students in the film had a run in with this spirit and were murdered. Bonus points to the writers for using unknown amateur actors, having them film everything themselves with handheld Hi 8 and 16 mm cameras, and using the actors’ real names for the characters.
But for a modern viewer, the movie doesn’t hold up. At all. There’s just nothing scary in it. It feels like an hour and seventeen minutes of dizzying, really poor camera work, crazed screaming, and some hard to discern creepy sounds. In all honestly, the scariest thing was the eerie childish laughter the three students hear one night.
I’d really like to know why King was so scared of this movie; I can’t possibly believe that he thought it was real — really, what intelligent horror author or aficionado could possibly believe that? I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something — but after reading the synopsis on Wikipedia and doing a quick Google search for other reviews, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t miss anything — it just wasn’t a scary movie at all.
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