1999 remains one of my favorite years of film. Not only did some incredible films come out (Fight Club, American Beauty, Office Space), but this was the first year I started downloading movie trailers. I remember downloading American Pie, End of Days, and The Blair Witch Project and watching them over and over in anticipation for their theatrical releases. All summer longer I examined and memorized these trailers, and my favorite one of all was The Blair Witch Project.
If you are here, you know what The Blair Witch Project is. If you didn’t live through it, then you really missed out. It was viral marketing at its finest. Fake websites were set up and rumors ran amuck that this film was real. It was the actual footage of a group of college students who got lost in the woods.
In 1999, the internet was still relatively new, and the old urban legends of days gone past hadn’t been completely eliminated from the public consciousness. People still believed one another and if you stirred up a little confusion that was all you needed to get people to buy into your story.
I counted down the days for The Blair Witch Project. The film was going to revolutionize the horror industry and I couldn’t wait to have a front row seat for it. I was fifteen years old and because the film was rated R it would be hit or miss whether I would be allowed in by myself. Back then it really depended on who was working the box office, and I couldn’t take that risk. In fact, I couldn’t take a chance on the movie being spoiled so I managed to convince my father, who was not a horror fan, to take me to my first ever midnight release.
We were visiting my grandmother for the summer in the midst of moving from Dallas, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee, and I think the major disruption in my life along with my father feeling like he’d left me to my own boredom for the summer meant he was willing to make this crazy sacrifice. He even convinced my stepmom to join in.
And so, the three of us drove forty-five minutes to the closest theater and the pandemonium that awaited us.
I wish smart phones had been invented and I had photos of the parking lot. It was a madhouse. Cars were everywhere and people were excited about the film. We made our way into our sold-out theater and sat down for this epic event surrounded by two hundred other people just as excited as I was.
The movie began and the suspense began to rise. Like most found footage films, it starts off a bit slow and then begins to add small moments to unsettle you. I was into it. This was my first found footage film (they were quite uncommon pre The Blair Witch Project) and I felt like I was watching something I shouldn’t have been. The film builds and builds, and we finally get the iconic moment from the trailer.
Then the film climaxes and it goes black, and I sat there wondering what the heck just happened. I had promised my parents a horror revolution and well… I got that ending. I remember my stepmom turning to me and saying, “Well, that sucked” and as much as I wanted to argue, I couldn’t. That was not worth the crowd, the drive to the theater, or the midnight release. It wasn’t a terrible film, but man did it end on a disappointing note.
I know some folks LOVE The Blair Witch Project, and I can respect that. There is something to love about The Blair Witch Project. Sadly, it just wasn’t for me, so the night ended up a bit of a bust. However, the fact that I manage to drag my folks out to a midnight horror release, and it didn’t go so well has been source of joy and jokes for over twenty years now. And sometimes what is great about horror isn’t the actual storyline or even the scares, but the experience. This site may not exist if not for the nostalgia of renting horror films in the video store. The feeling of isolation while watching a VHS tape at 1 AM when the entire world is quiet. That fuels my love of horror and that summer anticipating The Blair Witch Project, getting caught up in the madness, and then watching it all sizzle out in the final shot is just one element of my history and love of horror.