"I don’t recall an exact occasion but rather slowly hearing bits of info about this revolutionary, scary-as-hell horror film that may just even be true. I immediately became fascinated and loved the chilling reality vibe to it. I also loved the imagery associated with the film and bought a movie poster before I’d even seen the film – the teaser poster with the negative-image shot of the forest. It was the first movie poster that I ever got framed."
-Dave Alexander; Rue Morgue Magazine
"I had first heard about The Blair Witch Project after reading in the entertainment section of the newspaper about the popularity of the television documentary Curse of the Blair Witch. I watched this documentary on television and was instantly hooked by how real everything looked and seemed. I raced online to find out more and this was when most people had to suffer from a dial up Internet connection. I needed to know if the legend was real or not."
-Serena Whitney; Killerfilm
"I remember first hearing about BWP online, people were discussing it on this message board, talking about the website, and that they were not sure exactly what it was. Viral marketing online back in 1999 was hardly was it is today, so the website confused a lot of people. I remember going to the website and quickly deciding that I should stop before I learn too much, and that I needed to see this film."
"I heard all the buzz around the time it screened at Sundance, the internet cult hype I found out about after the fact!"
-Adam Lopez; Toronto After Dark Festival Director
"I'm not sure if I caught the trailer for The Blair Witch Project first, or if I had heard about it on the Sci-Fi channel first. I do remember the fake documentary that Sci-Fi had made, and aired just prior to the film being released. I wasn't sure if the story was real or not, but by the time I went to go see the movie, I knew it was all a set up, and a very good one at that!"
-Heather Santrous; Mermaid Heather
"When BWP was first released, I was a junior in college. All the kids were talking about it and how it was actual found footage and everyone HAS to go see it. I was/am a film buff anyway so I saw the movie within the first week or two of release. I even drove an extra 45 minutes to get to the "good" theater with my date."
-Andrew James; Row Three
"I believe I read it about it somewhere - a blurb in some magazine. Time, maybe? It sounded interesting so I checked out the website. Wow, finding out about something in a print publication BEFORE seeing it on the web…that will probably never happen to me again."
-Stacie Ponder; Final Girl
"I saw it in theaters with my wife/then girlfriend. I vividly remember us being on the edge of our seat and feeling a bit claustrophobic. It was easily and still to date, one of the scariest cinematic experiences ever."
-Mike Pereira; Bloody-Disgusting
"I saw the movie in the theater during it's '99 release, however I saw it late in its run. I was disappointed...it did scare me at times, but after all the hype I was expecting a film of such quality it couldn't possibly deliver. Plus, all the hand held footage made me sort of nauseous."
I saw the leaked workprint on VHS before it came out in theatres and thought it was a really cool and smart low budget film that wasn't mind blowing, but that had a really great and creepy ending. I was curious to see how it played with an audience, and how the blow-up to film was going to look, so some friends and I went to see it opening night. We hadn't anticipated how popular it was going to be, so when we got to the theatre, only the front row was available. Normally I would have walked right back out and asked for a refund, but since I had already seen it and the crowd was abuzz, I sat down. Sitting in the front row, if you haven't guessed already, I got motion sick. I wore a baseball cap back then, and spent a large portion of the film with my face in my hat, looking down at the ground. Every now and then I'd take a peek through the holes in the hat to watch the movie. With maybe fifteen minutes left in the movie, I got too sick, and had to go sit outside on the floor, praying I wasn't going to barf, and knowing that 400 people probably thought I had left because I was a wimp."
-Jeff Wright; They Shoot Actors Don't They?
"I knew going in that it was fiction, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of it whatsoever - I absolutely loved it. I was totally sucked into the story and rather frightened. While the film itself was fantastic, the atmosphere made it even better; I caught it at a midnight screening opening day (back in MY day, when midnight screenings of new films were rare) at the Angelika in New York. In the lobby, there were glass cases set up to display some of the items that had purportedly been buried under the house- some DAT tapes, cassettes, Heather's diary, etc. Everything was weathered and dirty and worn and it all seemed so real. It was great."
"I saw it at the famous Angelika in the Village with friends and it was a packed house. This was well into it's huge media coverage and I hated it.. so did the rest of the crowd. People started throwing things and yellin they wanted their money back. Needless to say, everyone was pissed."
-Don Neumann; Quiet Earth
"I saw it in the theater within the first couple weeks it was out. Frankly, I was very unimpressed. I thought it had some really interesting ideas but failed to build any tension. It was just this never-ending meander through the woods, and having grown up in some pretty rural areas, it never seemed particularly scar or convincing to me. The imagery at the end, of the guy in the corner, was effective but by that time I had already given up on the movie. So yeah, I am one of the haters. On the other hand, I had and have no issue with the first-person camera work that drives so many people nuts. I like it, when it is used effectively. I thought BWP used it well -- that was not one of its problems (pacing and not enough movie in their movie was the issue.)
-Cory Casciato; The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse
"I scored a pass to the advanced screening, and I loved it. People were genuinely freaked out, and it exceeded my expectations. The film really worked on me, as even without the supernatural angle, it taps into those fears of getting lost in the woods, being cold, going hungry, etc. I hadn’t been that affected by a horror movie so much since I was a kid – the hair stood up on my arms, I was holding my breath at some parts and the ending was such a perfect punch in my already sickly-feeling gut. I saw it several times in the theatre and it worked every time."
"I saw the film with the masses in an air conditioned theatre on a hot summer day in 1999. My friend and I needed an excuse to get away from the unbearable heat outside, but once the film was over we were racing to get out of that theatre. I’ll always remember the feeling of my knees shaking in fear at the finale."
"Saw it on DVD, when it came out after the theatrical release. I decided NOT to watch it at theatres after hearing how nauseous the shakeycam was supposed to make it for viewers. Personally a shaking giant screen is not my cup of tea."
"I believe it took me a week or two, after the release, but I did get to see The Blair Witch Project on the big screen. It was the first film I went to go see by myself, so that added to the experience some I think. I was sitting there looking around me once in a while, as the film played out. That is something I do when I am feeling nervous. I look around to see if anyone else is feeling the same way. At the end of the film, no one got up for a good while after the credits rolled. I couldn't hear anyone talking either. This left a lasting impression on me, since I have never been to a movie that has happened at before or after. I loved the film. I know there are a lot of people out there that hate it, and I can kind of see why that is. It is very slow. However, the things that happen in the film really let the imagination run wild, and I can have a big one at times. It was the event at the end of the film that really hooked me though."
"So I saw the movie in the first week or two of release and was very skeptical of the authenticity of the whole thing. I flat out knew there was no way that this was real for loads of reasons. Still, I remember trying to delude myself into believing the legend since it made it a lot more fun to experience and discuss with friends. The feel of the film was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I don't remember ever watching a feature length film that looked like it was shot on my mom's 8mm home video camera. It felt raw and real. Everyone loved to talk about the final act of the film and hypothesized about the legend and what actually happened and how scared they were, etc. Myself, I actually preferred the earlier scenes when the sun was still above the horizon, but things were slowly going wrong. The build-up of anticipation and all of the creepy clues found throughout the forest and the general sense of impending doom was what I appreciated most about the movie. Even if I wasn't consciously aware of it at the time, I know now that that is exactly how I felt."
"I saw the film early in its run in a Varsity VIP screening room, which is a very small theatre with extra comfy seats and 'table service' for the usual cinema snacks. I brought my girlfriend, who was not keen about horror movies in general, but who attended for my sake. She didn't make it through the whole movie. The shaky cam, and perhaps the fear, drove her out of the theatre by about the half-way point. I was instantly hooked by the story, by the believability of the characters, and the faux-doc style. I'm a pretty easy audience as it is, my suspension of disbelief is strong, so I loved how the film played with your head, how it was utterly sincere in its 'reality'. And yes, it scared the shit out of me. A testament to the concept that 'less is more', BWP very skillfully showed us that a few noises in the dark, or even a weird pile of rocks outside your tent can instill fear and panic much more effectively than a perfectly rendered monster or a long sharp blade cutting through your guts."
"My friend. She was actually one of the people that suffered from extreme motion sickness from the film. She almost threw up all over the audience members in front of us—which would have made for a funny anecdote at parties today."
"I believe I was."
"The people who saw it when it first came out thought it was better than those of us who saw it after the hype machine had carried it along. They were pleasantly surprised by the quality and the scariness, while my friends who saw it later expected the moon."
"My buddy Josh was completely freaked out by it. He bought it hook, line and sinker (even after I told him it was all a marketing campaign/hoax, he refused to believe me) and was terrified of the woods for weeks. We were actually going to film a movie at another friend's place out in the woods and we got a little turned around (lost would be an exaggeration) and he started flipping out about how this was just like the beginning of Blair Witch .... it was pretty funny."
"I don't know if "affected" by it is the right word, but I remember my date cowering in fear in her seat during the last 15 minutes or so of the film. Let's just say I didn't sleep alone that night. Everything else is really a blur (remember I was in college) so I don't remember anyone being truly affected by it, but it sure was the buzz for several weeks... still is to some extent I suppose."
"It has to be a toss up between a friend of mine and myself as far as who was affected the most by it. Even though I had to explain the ending of the film to her, she was the only person I knew that was into the film as much, if not more, than I was. Both of us were buying up anything we could find about the movie."
"I watched it with my then girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and we were both pretty freaked out by it. That END scene was absolutely terrifying. It still lingers in the mind. It's what you DON'T see in Blair Witch that I think makes it very scary. A recent zombie flick [REC] from Spain did a very good job of recapturing that terror of what you don't see is more scary than what you do."
"Well, on the way home from that screening, my friend asked me if Blair Witch comprised the ACTUAL footage they found, or if they re-shot it all and released the recreated footage. I was confused by that question until I realized he had no idea the whole thing was fake. I hated breaking the news to him! My mom, however, has the best story. She's as big a horror nut as I am, and around the time of the film's release she had a t-shirt with MISSING emblazoned above pictures of Heather, Josh, and Mike. She wore it one day when she got her hair done, and I guess her hairdresser asked about it; my mom mentioned the website but not that it was all fiction. Apparently her hairdresser went home, looked it up, and was OUTRAGED that no one seemed to be doing anything to find these missing kids. He proceeded to go on all sorts of forums to tell the world of his outrage…my mom clued him in about the truth at her next appointment, saving him from a lifetime of worry and eventual embarrassment."
"It's been a few years. It's one of those films that worked to marvelous effect on the first viewing. I found it just doesn't hold any power over the viewer upon multiple watches because you see how you were tricked by its simplicity. I think many resented that which is probably why in the history of horror cinema, there's never been a phenomenon which ended up becoming so completely forgotten. The terrible sequel and oversaturation of the Blair Witch product might have something to do with that, as well."
"I only saw it the once in the theater. I thought it was OK, but not really worth a second viewing. I think The Last Broadcast, which is similar in theme and shooting style (faux documentary, found footage from a doomed exploration in the woods) is less scary but a more interesting and well constructed film."
"I watched it less than two months ago, to prepare for writing the cover story for the current issue of Rue Morgue, which revisits the film. I hadn’t seen it in years but it worked on me once again. I showed it to someone younger who missed the initial hype, and she was genuinely scared by it, and thought it was real until she went online and read up on it. I totally lied to her for as long as I could to preserve that deep down freaked out feeling."
"It’s been years since I had seen The Blair Witch Project mainly because it is one of those films you should only experience once to get the full effect of it. Many people complain how it’s not that scary and it’s over-rated. I’m glad that I’m not one of those people, which is why I refuse to watch the film again. It would taint the terrifying memories I have of it."
"I think I probably haven't seen it since opening night, so I'm definitely due for a rewatch. I have pretty strong (but vague at the same time) memories of THE CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH television special that was aired just before BLAIR WITCH PROJECT's release being as effective, if not more than the movie itself, so I'm looking forward to rewatching that as well."
"I have only seen it once! By my own rules, I probably owe it another chance, despite finding it so utterly boring and pointless the first time through. The ten-year anniversary is as good of a reason as any, I guess..."
"The last time I watched The Blair Witch Project was back in September of 2006. I didn't realize it has been that long ago already. It was time for my 100th post, and I had decided that I would write about The Blair Witch Project. It isn't a film I watch a lot, because it feels like it loses some of its magic each time that I do. That being said, the ending of the film still manages to get to me everytime."
"I saw it shortly after its video release. I sat down in the living room with the lights turned off and showed it to my mom. It as then I realized that this movie sucks ass. It's simply three immature kids screaming obscenities at each other for 45 minutes. It was really uncomfortable for me to sit there with my mom listening to all of that as I knew she was perturbed; not scared in the least, just perturbed. Hence, I was perturbed as well. I didn't remember all that from the first viewing. It seemed like a completely different film from the amazingness I had built up in my mind. I have never seen it since. Saw part 2 though. I underwent reconstructive surgery the next morning to repair my eyeballs and ear drums after I mashed them in with a corkscrew to relieve the pain of that movie."
So, as I expected, the opinions expressed above were polarizing to say the least. The debate still continues, but it cannot be denied that The Blair Witch Project is not only an important horror film, but a significant milestone of the medium. I hope you enjoyed my retrospective coverage this week and thanks to everyone who contributed. Check back here soon for tales of my trip to this year's Fantasia Film Festival!