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What starts off as a deceptively simple little independent film slowly, carefully, turns into one of the most chilling, creepy films in memory. "The Blair Witch Project" has stormed the film industry in the past few months, scaring other studios whose giantically budgeted Summer films were running in fear from the tiny project. The biggest beast that this film has run over would definitely be Jan De Bont's horror update "The Haunting", a picture that's nowhere near as terrifying with it's 70 million in effects compared to this 60,000 dollar piece.

It all starts simply enough with three filmmakers getting together to make a short film about a local legend, the "Blair Witch". The group of filmmakers- Heather(cute looking, yet quite bossy and at times annoying, talking incessantly at the other characters). The other two are Mike and Josh, who take care of the sound and camerawork. They start off interviewing the townsfolk, who all play "local people" perfectly, talking about their opinions on the legacy of the local witch, not only entertaining, but they also give us something to go upon as the filmmakers begin their hike into the Maryland woods. If you've never read any other reviews, it's not likely that you've heard how the film begins. We are told at the begining of the picture that these people aren't going to make it out of the woods alive. Even so, when "The Blair Witch Project" really gets intense, we're no less terrified, even knowing that this ain't going to end well.


The filmmakers make their way into the woods and slowly, they begin to feel intensely creepy- the forest in autumn seems opressive and alive and the black and white footage are the biggest examples of where the film really begins to feel cold and chilling. After the filmmakers find their first location, they begin to head back, only to find out that they're not quite sure where back really is. What becomes possibly lost soon becomes most definitely lost as the crew camps out for the night. During the first night, the characters become aware of a presence in the woods, at first making slight sounds, but as the days and nights go on, making itself definitely more known. There's a terror in the simplicity of the night scenes as the characters race around, completely in total fear. If anything, I would have liked these scenes to go on longer, really wringing all of the fear out of the darkness. As is, they simply end a little too quickly as we're introduced again to another bleak, hopeless morning for the actors.

The first half of the forest scenes are wonderfully acted as the characters slowly lose it as food and supplies run low. Not only that, but a scene of figures made with sticks as well as a pile of stones for each of the characters waiting outside their tents makes it known that the days are no safer than the nights. The handheld camerawork by the 3 actors only puts us further into the reality that this film is presenting. We feel the frustration of these people as the woods seem to go on forever in all directions. The performances are also all fantastic. Where these characters start off as rather unlikable, the sheer fear, terror and sadness that they express as the film goes into it's last quarter makes the film not only chilling, but heartbreaking.


The film really creeps into your head as it goes further. The amount of tension that develops as all hope seems lost is 10 times more horrifying than any horror film of the past few years, maybe ever. "The Blair Witch Project" isn't a horror film, though. It's a solid mix of horror and psychological drama and once it gets going, the intensity with a film this small is breathtaking and almost unbearable as the desperation felt by these characters is greater as the nights fall once again.

Images from the "Blair Witch Project" still are crystal clear in my mind hours after watching the film and there are sequences in this film that I doubt I'll ever forget. The film may start off slowly, but these scenes aren't without their purpose and once the film gets going, I don't think there's been another film this year this thrilling or original. The performances are perfection getting us involved with these characters down to their last moments.

A really well-done film and in my opinion, it's one of the few films this year that's definitely a must see.

****


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