In the Summer of 1999 the internet existed, but it wasn’t what we have today, not by a long shot. Most people still were using dial up access, there was no YouTube or Social Media, Ebay was in it’s infancy and Amazon was mostly selling books.
I remember seeing ads on TV for something called The Blair Witch Project coming to theaters in July. I even read about it in magazines like Entertainment Weekly and Fangoria. Sci-Fi Channel even had a special about the upcoming documentary.
The movie was billed as being real, it was about 3 college students making a documentary about an urban legend Blair Witch in Maryland in 1994 and they disappeared. The footage they shot was discovered in the foundations of a structure where it shouldn’t have been and what was being released was a compilation of the footage edited together. The production company even created a website to support their narrative.
There was so much buzz about this movie and so many people believed that it was legit. To be honest I wasn’t sure if it was real or not. Part of me knew it had to be a work of fiction, but another part of me really wanted to believe that it was real. Either way I wasn’t missing this movie and fully intended to go opening night.
My wife at the time was not a fan of horror movies, but she even wanted to see this. We headed to Hoyts Cinema and the line was huge as the turn out was way more than the theater anticipated. We bought our tickets and the screening very quickly sold out, however the theater decided to show it on a second screen.
We went to the first theater, where our tickets were for and couldn’t find two seats together other than the front row, so we went to the other theater and acquired a couple good seats. The start of the movie was delayed, which was unusual, and we didn’t have to normal trailers before the film either.
It was delayed so long that the theatre employees brough in concessions to sell at a discounted rate, I have never experienced that before or since at a standard theatre. The discussion the whole time by my fellow audience members was the validity of the movie, and the vast majority fully believed that it was real. They were thoroughly convinced.
Finally the movie started everyone was so into the movie. About 25 minutes into the flick it night time and the they are hearing strange noises and we get hit with a jump scare and simultaneously the screen jumps and the picture melts away.
The audience started to scream, like legit fear started to scream. More than one person cried out something about the Blair Witch was coming for us, I think some of them actually meant it too. People were panicked! Eventually the house lights came on, we were informed that the projector broke in Theater 1 and once they respooled the film they would restart the movie. Everyone in theatre 1 was sent home with a voucher.
This was back when 35mm film was the standard for showing movies, they only had one print of the film so they fed through the projector in Theatre 2 and ran it across the room to the projector in Theatre 1, so when the that projector broke what we saw was a single frame that was stuck in front of the projection bulb too long and melted.
We eventually finished the movie, it was awesome and the overall experience really enhanced we feelings towards it. As we were leaving people were still debating if it was real or not. It was so remarkable because they captured something special when they released this movie and they really were able to work the audience on the validity of the film in a way that simply couldn’t be done today.
The movie also innovated the found footage feature film genre. It was the first movie to use this style of filming, others like Cannibal Holocaust and 84C MoPic were successful with the format, however The Blair Witch is what really jumpstarted it.
I’ve seen the other films, Book of Shadows was just okay, however 2016 Blair Witch I thought was excellent. It’s been a few years since I last watch the film, seems like a good time of year to check it out again.
Until Next Time!