[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B003YXZH5S][/pullquote] Horror as a film genre, can be broken down into many sub-genres. It could be Science-Fiction-Horror, Slasher-Horror or Torture-Porn-Horror to name but a few. One of the most recent additions to the sub-genres is the ˜found footage horror’ films. Beginning in 1980 with Cannibal Holocaust, the idea that a film is has been edited together from footage found after the event is one that has plenty of potential for scares. Despite the implication of a terrible ending for all the characters involved, it was only a matter of time before a film defined the genre. That film came in 1999 and was called The Blair Witch Project.
October 1994, and independent film-makers Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard venture into a woods in Maryland in search of the infamous ˜Blair Witch.’ They interview local residents to get a back-story on Rustin Parr, a local hermit who lured children into the woods in pairs and forced one to stand in the corner, facing the wall while he murdered the other. Heading further into the woods, the trio come across ˜Coffin Rock’ the site of ritualistic murders in the past and as night falls they realise that they’re lost and set about trying to navigate their way out.
The first thing to mention about The Blair Witch Project, is it’s budget and production style. The characters are named after the actors who play them and everything is shot on hand-held cameras to increase verisimilitude throughout. The script is mainly improvised and there are no special effects to speak of, so the overall budget of the film was between $20,000 and £700,000. It took just shy of £250m. This success aside, The Blair Witch Project was marketed with shots of the audience reacting to the film in a similar fashion as was used for The Exorcist and Paranormal Activity.
The script, although heavily improvised cleverly draws inspiration from the Salem Witch Trials as well as other classic horror films like The Omen, The Shining, Alien and even Jaws. This helps to ground the film in reality and when combined with the untrained actors just being themselves on camera helps to create an atmosphere throughout that what the audience are experiencing is truth rather than fiction.
˜Found footage’ is still a reasonably new style of film-making and with blockbusters like Cloverfield and no end to the Paranormal Activity franchise, there’s every chance that it will continue to establish itself.