Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Real Tears, Unreal Attempts At Fears: The Blair Witch Project Fizzles

The Good: Direction, Moments of acting, Art direction
The Bad: Flat characters, Shoddy make-up, Nonexistent plot, Not scary
The Basics: A lame attempt to be scary utilizes excellent direction and good actors, The Blair Witch Project fails and degenerates into an anger-management-gone-awry experience in the woods.

The Blair Witch Project is one of those films that people either like or hate, I've discovered. I saw it when it was released in the movie theater and it stuck with me enough to write a review. It was a nice try, I think. Beyond that, whomever was responsible for the marketing deserves an award of some sort. Ahh yes, the hundreds of millions of dollars in profit are award enough. Sometimes I forget that.

The Blair Witch Project is a study of the failure of the United States' educational system. No, really, it is. It begins with three young people, Heather, Michael and Josh tromping around Burkittsville, Maryland. They exhibit witless interviewing skills (they ought to have taken public speaking classes) in asking local residents about the mythological Blair Witch. The Blair Witch was, by some accounts, a local child-abusing woman, by others a full blown witch. To the audience, she comes across as a ghost story told by a bunch of hicks in a backwater town. I live in a backwater town and I don't think they could have dug up so many people talking nonsense as they did for the first few minutes of The Blair Witch Project.

From there, the trio goes off into the woods. Here it seems none of them learned to read a map properly. None possessed basic survival skills and none of them, apparently, had the foresight to tell friends and family to have a search party ready should their hunt for . . . oh, a WITCH, take a turn for the worse!

Okay, what am I saying here? It's a horror flick. The problem is, it asks way way way too much suspension of disbelief. Or it forces us to assume the characters are complete idiots. They don't plan ahead, they don't have many basic skills for the project they're doing and there's a serious flaw in the film that anyone who has spent any time in the woods will pick up right away.

It's a serious flaw in hair and make-up that after three days in the woods, Heather still looks beautiful. Yup, her hair is not messed one wit, she has no zits, there are no rings under her big, beautiful eyes. The guys are similarly untouched by the normal and natural effects of being exposed so long. After all of the attention the directors went through to make the chases in the darkness seem real and set the tone of the film as scary, to undercut it with such a damning flaw is, ultimately, unforgivable.

So, our trio gets lost in the woods. Ooh . .. Then, one of the men disappears and the video diary entries that they've been taking for their project become more and more about being scared. It tries to be a study of fear. Eh, it fails.

How do I know it fails? The same way I knew 9 1/2 Weeks wasn't being terribly erotic; when I found myself noticing the quality of Mickey Roarke's coat as opposed to the lovemaking. Similarly, I was captivated by Heather crying into the camera. I could not cite any other instance where I had seen the pure, unadulterated creation of tears in a human. It was quite impressive, watching her speak and seeing the tears form in her eyes and fall out. What was she blubbering about while crying? I had lost interest by that point.

None of the characters are terribly interesting. Half the movie is spent swearing at each other and complaining about how lost they are. It ends up as a film that reads like a bad episode of The Smurfs. Save the Smurfs are all named by a remarkable talent they possess and it's clear early on none of the characters in this film have a remarkable talent.

The actors do well in conveying their fear, but it's still impossible for me to buy the Nonexistent plot. Basically, the movie sets you up saying, "This can be scary," and then later tries to say "Ooh, this IS scary." I sat there and responded, "Is it? Why am I not scared?" Then I realized; it's not scary, especially with the make-up flaws. They cut all believability out of a surprisingly well-directed film.

In conclusion, outside the generation of tears and the very last few frames, which are sickly beautiful, there's nothing in The Blair Witch Project to howl about.

For other horror films, please check out my reviews of:
Let The Right One In
Repo! The Genetic Opera


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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