Blair Witch Project Still. Image Source: BluRay Definition.
This year, Histories of Things to Come is one of the cryptkeepers in the Countdown to Hallowe'en blogathon. Every day this month, I will highlight different themes on this blog when skewed through a horror lens, from transhumanism to anniversaries; from generations to comics; from time-keeping to anti-ageing.
First up, The Blair Witch Project (1999), which together with its accompanying faux-documentary, Curse of the Blair Witch, proved that before the Internet hit full force, people still believed that something fake was real if its producers said it was real. The film has been extensively parodied and diminished by a poor sequel that turned the tropes of the original into clichés. But for a tiny pre-Millennial niche in time, this film owed its astronomical success to a perfect balance between 90s' grunge and a high-tech future. Although it had clear precedents, this was the beginning of Reality Horror.
Made for an initial (later expanded) budget of $20,000, Blair Witch made almost $250 million. It was the first film to be mainly marketed on the Internet. The film-makers exploited the public's pre- and early Web credulity. Wiki: "The film's official website featured fake police reports and 'newsreel-style' interviews. Due to this, audiences and critics initially thought it was an actual documentary about the 'missing' teenagers. These augmented the film's convincing found footage style to spark heated debates across the internet over whether the film was a real-life documentary or a work of fiction." You can see some of that fake supporting information at the film's official site here.
Thus, the bulk of the film's profits came from the technological innocence of a departing century. Because it walked the line between past and future so exactly, it is also a quintessential Generation X film. With that precedent set, this generation has continued to push the envelope in the grey area between reality and virtual reality.
The film also depended on a pared-down, classic horror plot. Its believability depended on a real historical resonance still lingering from Hawthorne-esque memories of Colonial America. Ironically, as the Web-savvy public have become much more cynical about found footage and other fake-reality new media gimmicks (Postmodern and post-Postmodern), it is Blair Witch's purely modern take on colonial witchery - its grounding in the past - that makes it hold up over time.
See all my posts on Horror themes.
See all my posts on Ghosts.