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In 1999, The Blair Witch Project was a huge movie. On a microscopic budget, it made almost $250 million worldwide and was the 10th highest grossing domestic movie of the year. However, in the almost 20 years that have elapsed since the movie came out, something odd has happened. At some point, it seems like everybody decided that The Blair Witch Project was a bad movie. Everybody is wrong.
While there may be an argument to be made that the film hasn't aged very well, there's really no argument against the opinion that, in its moment, The Blair Witch Project was actually an amazing film. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
It Introduced Found Footage To Millions Of Moviegoers
To be clear, The Blair Witch Project didn't invent the found footage genre. However, all previous uses of the technique were smaller, independent films that your average movie theater patron doesn't see. For millions, this was the first time they had seen a movie that purported to be first person perspective footage of an actual event. Blair Witch simply didn't look like anything they had ever seen before. This was the thing that made the movie so unique for most viewers, and had people talking at watercoolers for weeks, or months, afterward.
They Basically Invented Viral Internet Marketing
These days, every movie's marketing plan seems to involve attempts to create viral videos or games to get people engaged with the project. The Blair Witch Project did this before all of the modern features, which meant nobody knew what it was. The original Blair Witch website purported to show actual crime scene photos and interviews, giving the entire thing the feeling that what we were seeing was an actual event. Everything from the myth to the missing kids was played straight. Only about 40 percent of American homes even had internet access in 1999, which meant it had something of a mythic reputation. The idea that stuff on the internet had to be true was actually a believable statement.
It Stood Out Because Horror Movies Sucked In 1999
2016 has been a solid year for horror. Films like Green Room, Don't Breathe and Lights Out have all been solid. 1999 was not like that. The only serious competition for a horror film in 1999 was The Haunting or The House on Haunted Hill. Those movies were terrible. The Blair Witch Project may have been the best of a bad field, but it was still the best. It was the only horror movie worth talking about that year.
It Made Simple Things Scary
While your average horror movie makes sure to give you something to be scared of -- a sociopath, a monster, whatever -- The Blair Witch Project found its scares in the mundane. Being lost in the woods is a scary thought, and it's not impossible that it could happen to anybody. Whether or not there's even a supernatural presence at work is never even clearly defined within the movie. The fear is of a nebulous unknown. The film's lack of a budget shows, but it uses that simplicity to its advantage to make the thing you can't see terrifying.
It Shifted The Focus of The Tension From Your Eyes To Your Ears
In a similar vein to the previous point, traditional horror movies are all about showing you the thing that is scary. Whether that's Freddy Krueger and his claws, or a horrific massacre out of a Final Destination movie. The Blair Witch Project couldn't afford to show the audience anything, and so it played the scares over the speakers. There are multiple stretches of the film where the screen is completely black and there's literally nothing to see. Instead, you simply hear the same sounds the characters do and try to figure out just what the hell it is. It puts you in their place like few horror films have ever done before... or since.
Before Message Boards and Comment Sections, It Created Very Strong Opinions
As previously mentioned, the internet wasn't exactly the thing that it is now back in 1999. There probably were some pretty intense AOL chat rooms discussing The Blair Witch Project, but if you wanted to talk about The Blair Witch project last century you had to do it with people that you knew who had seen the film. It's true, not everybody loved it, but pretty much everybody saw it and whatever the opinion, it was a strong one. I had friends who refused to talk to me for a week after I recommended they see it. Love it or hate it, it's not a film that anybody has forgotten.