Saturday, October 19, 2013

My years in horror: 1999

Go ahead and call me a hypocrite for not recognizing Scream as the best of its year because I blame that film for turning horror into a self-referential joke but for naming The Blair Witch Project the best of 1999 even though it started the whole "found footage" craze that has usurped torture porn.

If that is your opinion, you are welcome to leave a constructive comment, or you can keep your opinion to yourself, or you can go start your own blog and write your own list. I encourage healthy dialogue, but you can do whatever you want.

You all know the story: three young documentarians disappear into the woods and this is the footage they left behind. The filmmakers played it as a true story and I admit that I took the bait, at first. I saw a spot on IFC, late at night, and Heather Donahue crying her face off into the camera sold me. Real or not, I had to see this movie.

I saw it twice in the theater and both times the crowds were pissed off at the end. Sure, they spent most of the film in fear but for some odd reason, they felt cheated at the ending. I loved it and still do. The final three shots are absolutely brilliant.

Donahue is amazing as the driven film student, intent on finding evidence of the Blair Witch. She goes from being the kind of cute, kind of nerdy film girl you hope to meet at the end of a night of drunken trivia at the college watering hole to an egomaniac to being scared out of her ever-loving mind. The character arc is superior. Her two male counterparts are serviceable but lack the presence of Donahue.

The Blair Witch Project built up perhaps the greatest hype of modern cinema, and many would argue whether the film lived up to the hype. Once the secret was out--yes, it was just a movie-- some of the glow wore off. But ask yourself this: could you watch The Blair Witch Project and then go camping the next day? Don't answer because I don't want you to have to lie to yourself.

It is a shame that the sequel Book of Shadows tried to mix the found footage concept with the self-referential gimmick of movies such as Scream. It has some good moments but not enough to bring about the conclusion to the trilogy proposed by co-directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. The Blair Witch Project is not only the best horror movie of 1999 (sorry Audition) but also one of the most original horror films of all time.

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