I thought about not putting this up today... on account of the fact that Stanley Kubrick died... But I feel the need to be distracted, I need to peel my mind off the depressing and think about the cool. And THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is very very cool indeed. Well... now I turn you over to the dear Professor Moriarty... A rather evil man... talking about a rather evil movie. Enjoy..
Hey, Head Geek...
Right now, I'm seated downstairs, in the lowest level of the Moriarty Labs, in what I like to think of as my private place, my inner sanctum. It's quiet, the first real quiet I've had in a week. The ghosts are gone despite the continued construction upstairs. My henchmen are all asleep, exhausted from the last minute preparations for my trip. The Moriarty Travel Wagon has been fully stocked with disguises, makeup, explosives, surveillance equipment, survival gear, magazines, scripts, flammatory inducement units, and many other top secret items I'll be using on my trip. All that's left now is for me to conclude my look at the sudden wealth of horror films we have been blessed with by trying to sum up my feelings on an extraordinary new film that I haven't been able to shake, even in the two weeks since I've seen it. I'm talking, of course, about the Sundance sensation THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.
I have always loved horror films, ever since I was a young child. I used to sneak into them. I had an older relative (who shall go unnamed to protect them and thank them) who used to take me to see the ones my parents wouldn't let me see. I loved being scared beyond the capacity for rational thought. I spent four years scared out of my head by Michael Myers. Growing up in Florida, always at the beach, JAWS was a film that really got inside my head, something that haunted me regularly. That fear was exhilarating, though, and really taught me how much a film can affect you as a viewer.
Part of the reason the great fear films work is because they tap into something that's more than just scary... they tap into the very primal things that define us. The best horror films reach down into the center of us and terrify us in a place that's beyond logic, beyond reason. They don't bother to engage us intellectually because they don't have to. They get to that little mammal brain inside us and remind us of when the dark was all it took to send us into tiny clusters, shivering, huddled near fires, praying for daylight to return. JAWS and the best moments of JURASSIC PARK tap into one of the most basic fears there is, the fear of being eaten, the fear of being nothing more than a snack for something powerful, unstoppable. PSYCHO kept a generation of women out of the shower by tapping that sense of vulnerability, that fear of having no defenses. And now, having seen BLAIR WITCH, I can confidently predict that my days of camping are finished. Forever. No question.
By now, the premise for Artisan's upcoming release THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT has been mentioned in numerous places, and described here on the site several times. In short, three young filmmakers decide to make a documentary about the Blair Witch legend. They take a 16mm camera and a Hi8 camera into the woods with them, and vanish. A year later, their footage is recovered, and it's cut together to make up the film. Simple. Concise. A waking nightmare.
Even before the really heavy fear sets in, there's the basic terror of being lost and low on food. I spent an entire day lost one time with my father while hunting in the woods of Lookout Mountain outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. We were really lost, too, due to a couple of dumb mistakes on our part. I was scared, but there was also a frustration involved. How can you get lost in America in the 20th Century? Aren't we supposed to be overcrowded? Aren't we supposed to have paved America over? How lost can you really be? The answer, of course, is really lost, and there were sequences in this film that brought that sensation back to me with such vividness that I broke a sweat, got nervous.
But nervous is nothing compared to the way I felt at moments during this film. The first person technique of the movie is clever on a film geek level, and it sure helps with the budget of the movie, but there's something much more subliminally important about it. After a while, you begin to experience this film more than watch it. You really forget about where you are, about the people around you. You are drawn past the edges of that frame so that you're out there with Josh, Michael, and Heather. You're the fourth person on the trip, and their fear gets right inside you. The sequences at night are claustrophobic, confusing, disorienting, and a complete assault. The days are maddening in a whole different way, full of quiet creepiness. As they begin to blend into each other, as each little piece of the film falls into place, the feeling of dread that builds is unreal.
I remember when I first saw JURASSIC PARK, it was about a week before it opened. I was working as a tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood (yes, even the Professor has gone undercover as a regular worker from time to time -- research only, I assure you), and they were showing us the film so we could rave about it to the people on our tram. We saw it at the Alfred Hitchcock Theater on the Universal lot... it's an incredible room, a place where they do sound mixing, and it was absolutely packed, every seat full. During the classic first T-Rex scene, the temperature in the theater went up a full 10 degrees. Everyone was actually leaned forward, breathing heavy, in that primal place. The rest of the film never quite matched the intensity of that moment, and if it had, the film probably would have gotten an R. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT hits a certain level of intensity early on that seems like it can't possibly last, but somehow it does. Then it gets worse. Then that sustains, then gets worse again. The film never gives you an out. It never backs off. It never stops scaring you. When I saw it, everyone in the room looked like they had been beaten up when it ended. They were physically exhausted from the experience, drained, and everyone looked sweaty, disoriented. It has that strong an impact on an audience. And the eight of us didn't say a word or make a noise for the entire running time. Not a peep. There was no kidding around, no wisecracks. Everyone was too wrapped up in their own personal experience to pay attention to anything around them.
The story of how this film was made is just as incredible as what you'll see onscreen, and I want to send my most sincere congratulations out to Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. These guys are what independent film is all about. They set out to prove that they could scare us without using some franchise character spouting one-liners and without the full technical support of a CG team and the finest soundmix six weeks at Skywalker Ranch can produce. They set out to make one film, accidentally made another, and were smart enough to realize what they had. Every choice they made in getting this thing onscreen was right, and the result is a genuine classic. I pray they write a book to discuss the entire development from start to finish. Until then, their website at http://www.haxan.com will have to do, along with an outstanding article in this month's FILMMAKER magazine. Do yourself a favor, though... wait until after you see it to peek behind the curtain. You'll be glad you did.
I'd like to go out on a limb here. I am going to predict that this film will have an effect on future filmmakers that will be as profound as the effect that STAR WARS had on my generation. The impact will not be felt in a wave of horror films (although there will be copious numbers of BLAIR WITCH ripoffs, mark my words), but in a sudden rush of films shot on video finally getting theatrical play. Audiences are going to be so absorbed in this film that the video won't bother them at all. The next step is for someone to make a film where the video camera's not explained away... just a narrative film that happens to be on video. This film is the bridge to get there, and it levels the playing field for everyone in a lot of ways.
I worried about raising people's hopes too high for this film, but there's no real way to do that. I feel like telling total strangers about it. I feel like showing it to everyone I know, one at a time, late at night with the lights off, and just watching them as it unfolds. I feel like telling everyone in the world at once, just shouting it as loud as I can... THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is among the most frightening films ever made, and one of the greatest debut movies imaginable. This film deserves to be seen by everyone who loves film at all. This is what revolution looks like.
So... to sum up, I liked it.
And now I'm off. I'm going to hit send, let this wing its way to Harry as I walk down the hall to the Transport Hangar. The drive ahead of me is nothing, not with the knowledge of what's ahead. ShoWest promises to be outrageous. If there's any year to go, it's this one, and I want to thank everyone who's made AICN's coverage of the event possible. You readers are in for the straight dope on all of it. You'll hear about the first public demonstration of digital cinema. You'll hear about Fox's STAR WARS party on Wednesday night with 1/2 hour of footage and the stars of the film and... oh, Lord... George Lucas himself. You'll hear about Warner's presentation, with the debut of the first EYES WIDE SHUT footage anywhere, as well as material from Oliver Stone's NFL film, THE GREEN MILE, IRON GIANT (let's see that trailer, guys!), and WILD WILD WEST. You'll hear about my adventures backstage at the awards show where Will Smith, Heather Graham (the future Mrs. Moriarty), Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, John Madden, Sean Connery, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, and Jerry Bruckheimer are all being honored. I'll take you inside the trade room, I'll take you to New Line's presentation, and I will share with you each and every scrap, morsel and tidbit I find out about anything and everything else.
The road calls. I must be off. Until Monday night...
or Moriarty c/o getworms.com
3435 Ocean Park Blvd. Ste. 112
Santa Monica, CA 90405