I remember watching the ‘The Blair Witch Project’ for the first time when I was probably in sixth grade. Now don’t judge me but I was used to watching all kinds of horror movies back then. My sister and her friend would bring home the DVDs of the most frightening movies, but something about the Blair Witch Project got me. It was very different from all other movies of that time. Blair Witch had this slight stint of realism that hit you when watched the whole first-person perspective. And it’s probably this perspective that made the whole movie go viral.
The film has no big actors, no visual effects, no dramatic explosions, and absolutely no fancy background music. It appears to be an amateur recording of the events that took place and were later edited together to make it a full feature film. The filming also has its own set of glitches in the recording here and there which makes it look even rawer. The film’s script — if there is one — seems devoid of any real meaning. Even the actors seem so natural at what they’re doing, you seem to wonder whether it’s really a fiction… or not. The characters slowly start losing themselves to the path of hysteria and you can almost feel the madness that’s slowly starting to lurk deep down within them as the shaky camera guides you through the dark corners of the forest.
What makes the whole film even more mysterious is understanding the motives of the fictional editor throughout the movie. The film is like a loopy story with a fictional editor inside the fictional story. While it’s obvious that the actual editor has purposely cut back and forth between the video and the film footage, the viewer is left to decipher the missing puzzles using his/her own imagination. There are no background stories of the character and only a few things are known about the backdrop of the Blair Witch story. The rest of it is left for us to wonder which at times makes us as hopelessly lost as the characters in the film.
The Ending: Who killed whom?
It all comes down to the ending in a horror film. The ending can either make the movie or break it. Though ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has a fair share of scares throughout the movie, the ending is inconclusive, unsettling and downright terrifying. That itself is the reason why one will have to watch it, again and again, to get even a little close to what it tries to convey. In fact, the movie is probably not even trying to convey anything at all and has just left it to your imagination.
The ending of the film shows the two living characters, Heather and Mike, running through the terrifying corridors of an old dark abandoned house trying to look for their friend Josh whose exasperated shrieks echo all over the place. Mike gets a little ahead of Heather and disappears from sight into what seems like the basement of the house. As soon as Heather enters the room, she sees Mike standing in the corner of the room, his face turned towards the wall and not turning towards her even after she repeatedly calls out his name. And then suddenly, she starts to scream louder than ever, her camera drops to the muddy floor and the movie comes to an end.
The viewer is left with nothing but a slew of unanswered questions in the end. Why was Mike just standing there facing the wall? Where was the witch we anticipated throughout the movie? When Heather entered the room, who knocked her down? Where the hell was Josh and why was he screaming for help?
Historical Background and Urban Legends
During the initial few minutes of the movie, a bunch of amateur filmmakers — Heather, Mike and Josh — are found interviewing the people of Burkittsville about the legend of the witch. The stories range all the from the early 1800s to the 1940s. The stories or the urban myths that were going around the town were as follows:
- Local Fishermen: During the early 1840s, a man named Robin Weaver had disappeared into the woods. When he reappeared after three days, he talked about encountering a woman whose feet floated above the ground.
- A historical event at Coffin Rock (Read out by Heather): Dead bodies of five men were found bound to each other with their intestines entirely ripped out and their faces etched with unknown symbols or language.
- Bone-chilling Story of Mr. Rustin Parr: In the early 1940s, an old hermit lived in a house in the mountains all by himself. Mr. Parr came down to the town one day and confessed: “Okay, I’m finished.” This got the attention of the police and they went up to his house for an inspection where they find dead bodies of 7 boys who had gone missing earlier. The rumor went like Mr. Parr would take the boys down to his basement in pairs and would kill one of them while the other just stood there facing the wall.
Theory 1: The Blair Witch herself killed all three
The most obvious theory is that — most of us were able to comprehend — is that the Blair Witch murdered the three of them in the end. Don’t forget that the tales and folklore point towards the witch, so it’s reassuring to assume that the witch had been following the trio all along through the forest, pilling up stones and sticks symbolizing some sort of witchcraft ritual, haunting them each night and ultimately leading them to the abandoned house where she could kill them. Let’s understand how this theory supports the other underlying questions. If it was truly the Blair Witch who kills Heather at the end of the movie, then she probably targeted Josh initially and later used him to draw Heather and Mike to the basement to eventually kill all of them. But if this theory is true, it defies the fact that Mr. Parr killed the seven boys, which is again justifiable because Mr. Parr himself confessed in court that he was insane. So why was Josh facing the wall? From the beginning of the movie, Josh had been the one to get spooked out easily compared to the other two. So later when he actually saw the witch, he didn’t have the nerves to even look around.
Theory 2: Josh killed Heather and Mike
The most plausible theory that almost fits all the pieces of the puzzle in the right place is that just like Mr. Parr killed the seven boys, Josh killed Heather and later Mike in the dark abandoned house. Now this again brings us to two situations: Josh who seemed to be the calmest and the most mentally stable out of three had some serious issues deep inside him and the whole idea of being lost in a haunted forest drove him insane which later led him to disappear and eventually kill his friends by luring them to the abandoned house. The other parallel situation here that completely aligns everything is that the Blair Witch does not directly kill her victims but only possesses one of them to kill the rest.
Now let’s rewind a little going back to the Mr. Parr story: he killed the children in pairs and every time he killed one, the other faced the wall, which could be the reason why Mike faced the wall when Heather was being murdered by Josh. From the beginning itself, Josh seemed to be the primary target of the Blair Witch. There was an instance where the three had to run away from their camp upon hearing strange noises around them but when they returned only’s Josh’s stuff was thrown around and his backpack was marked with slime. This provides evidence to the fact that Josh was being eyed upon by the Witch who later “controlled” him. Josh also gives it away when he says “I’m not playing head-games, if anyone is playing head-games, you’re playing head-games” when no one really was talking about head games at all. Josh also complained that he could hear noises at night that Heather and Mike did not which is very similar to how Mr. Parr heard these voices in his head that asked him to murder the children. What makes this theory even more disturbing is that Josh probably pulled out his own teeth or bone or whatever he had wrapped up inside that pile of sticks wrapped by torn pieces of his shirt, which was later found by Heather.
Theory 3: Mike and Josh were together involved in killing Heather
The craziest theory suggests that Josh and Mike were both involved together into luring Heather to the house and eventually killing her. From the beginning itself, Mike had been very vocal about how filming the documentary about the haunting of a Witch scared the hell out of him. Most of all, Mike also chucked the map into the creek and later foolishly laughed about it. Maybe the Witch was already controlling Mike and made him kick the map away. Maybe it was Mike who leads the three to their eternal rest. Or maybe the witch first targeted Mike and made him throw the map and then targeted Josh who later killed Heather while Mike — who was either ashamed of what he had done or couldn’t see what Josh had turned into — just stood there facing the wall.
We hit one last nail on the coffin with this theory when we take a look at Heather’s journal which was released online on the official website of the movie. Heather gets suspicious of Mike and Josh’s behaviors and mentions on pages 18, 21 and 23 that she believes that the two do not sleep through the night and also how surprising and scary it is for her that the guys are able to sleep in the middle of all of this sinister stuff. On page 33, she also mentions that all the strange things happen when she falls asleep. Maybe that’s a coincidence or just maybe Josh and Mike just wait for her to fall asleep so that they can scare Heather and slowly drive her insane into believing under the existence of the Witch.
Theory 4: Heather started it all
This is the least probable theory when compared to the others, but at the same time it is also the most terrifying one. This theory suggests that Heather was the first one to be possessed by the Witch when she initiated the idea of shooting a documentary on the Blair Witch. Or probably Heather’s stupid idea of going to the forest later drove all three of them insane as they were all sleep and food deprived and also scared because of the backdrops of the urban legends still lurking in the back of their heads. Their vivid hallucinations of skewed perceptions drew all of them insane which led to them killing each other and eventually themselves because none of them ever got back home.
A Viral Phenomenon
Much before the Paranormal Activity Series became a phenomenon, it was the The Blair Witch Project that utilized the concept of viral marketing. Despite its miniscule budget, of $68,000, the film went on to earn $248 million at the box office. A few months before the release of the movie, a website was launched for the movie that featured the story of 3 teenagers who got lost in the woods and never came back. While hunting them down, the police had found a bag full of video and audio tapes which later led out to become the official ‘Blair Witch Project’. The website was later updated with fake new article snippets, interviews and also posters that had photos of the “missing students.” IMDB itself initially stated that the students in the documentary were still missing. This is the reason why you should not believe everything you see on the internet.
The news of the missing students started to go viral and small trailers of the movie started coming out in the form of lo-fi snippets of the movie. The trailers redirected people back to the original website of the movie and soon Blair Witch Project became the most talked about film of the year. People got so engrossed into the whole idea of the film being an actual documentary of real events that they started sending condolence letters to the families of the actors in the movie.
The Blair Witch Project is no doubt a terrifying film and you actually find yourself feeling the pain and anguish of the characters while watching the film. While there may be people who may complain on the lack of jump scares and eye candy like most mainstream horror flicks, this one can really get inside your head if you watch it carefully listening to every detail right from the beginning. And for those who thought that the events of the movie were real, I don’t even know how you slept at night before getting to know it wasn’t.
While most horror movies rely on “pleasing” the audience with special effects, make up and sudden scares, ‘Blair Witch Project’ allows our imagination to flow and take us to distant and dark places that no movies ever can. The filmmakers filled our minds with questions by just showing us only parts of the whole story and in the process allowing us to create our own demons. The makers took their lack of budget as a big advantage and gave us one hell of a mysterious and spine tingling masterpiece.