The Blair Witch Project released July 30, 1999
The Blair Witch Project is an American horror film released in 1999. The narrative is presented as a documentary pieced together from amateur footage, filmed in real time. The film was produced by the Haxan Films production company. The film relates the story of three young student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams) who hike into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch, and subsequently go missing. The viewer is told that the three were never found, although their video and sound equipment (along with most of the footage they shot) was discovered a year later. This “recovered footage” is presented as the film the viewer is watching.
A studio production film based on the theme of The Blair Witch Project was released on October 27, 2000 entitled Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Another sequel was planned for the following year, but did not materialize. On September 2, 2009, it was announced that co-directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick were pitching the sequel.
The three principal actors, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams, shot nearly all of the completed film.
The actors were requested to interview the townspeople, who often, unbeknownst to the actors, were planted by the directors. As a result, the expressions on the actors’ faces were unrehearsed.
The working title was “The Black Hills Project.”
The actors were given no more than a 35-page outline of the mythology behind the plot before shooting began. All lines were improvised and nearly all the events in the film were unknown to the three actors beforehand, and were often on-camera surprises to them all.
Some theatergoers experienced nausea from the handheld camera movements and actually had to leave to vomit. In some Toronto theatres, ushers asked patrons who where prone to motion sickness to sit in the aisle seat and to try not to “throw up on other people.”
The production company Haxan Films borrowed its named from Benjamin Christensen’s witchcraft documentary, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), a source of inspiration for the film. HÃ¤xan is the Swedish word for witch.
The house that Heather is in during the opening shot is owned by Lonnie Glerum, the film’s key production assistant. He is also operating the camera during the opening shot.
When promoting the film, the producers claimed it was real footage. Some people still believe it.
One of the video cameras used by the actors was bought at Circuit City. After filming was completed, the producers returned the camera for a refund, making their budget money go even further.
When Joshua Leonard and Heather Donahue pick up Michael C. Williams, they were originally listening to the song “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals on the radio. However, Haxan Films couldn’t get the rights to keep it in the film.
The 16-millimeter camera was broken during filming; Joshua Leonard (who had the camera in his pack) rolled down a hill, causing the lens to pop off the camera.
This film was in the Guinness Book Of World Records for “Top Budget:Box Office Ratio” (for a mainstream feature film). The film cost $22,000 to make and made back $240.5 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made.
The sign for Burkittsville at the beginning of the movie has been stolen three times, and was stolen opening night of the movie.
The waitress asking about Blair High School is played by Sandra Sánchez, the sister of director Eduardo Sánchez.
The three leads believed the Blair Witch was a real legend during filming, though of course they knew the film was going to be fake. Only after the film’s release did they discover that the entire mythology was made up by the film’s creators.
Held the record for the highest-grossing independent movie of all time until October 2002, when it was surpassed by My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).
This film uses the word “fuck” 154 times.
The filmmakers placed flyers around Cannes for the film festival that were “Missing” posters, stating that the cast was missing. All the flyers were taken down by the next day. It turns out that a television executive had been kidnapped just prior, and they were taken down out of respect. The executive was since recovered safely.
It took a mere 8 days to shoot this film.
Apparently, Heather Donahue brought a knife into the forest while filming was taking place because she didn’t like the idea of sleeping with two guys.
To promote discord between actors, the directors deliberately gave them less food each day of shooting.
In a scene where the main actors are sleeping in a tent at night, the tent suddenly shakes violently and they all get scared. This was unscripted and the director shook the tent; they were really scared.
The first cut of the movie to be screened was 2.5 hours in length.
The crackling sounds in the woods were made by the director and friends walking up to the camp’s perimeter, breaking sticks, and then tossing them in various directions.
Rock band HIM shot parts of their music video for the song ‘And love said no…’ directly outside the house seen at the end of the movie
When the movie was released the town of Burkittsville, in the hopes of making at least some profit from the film, did its own marketing. During the annual summer carnival the local Ruritan Club featured the “Bur-Witch” sandwich – country fried ham and a fried egg on top of a cheeseburger, nestled in a sesame seed bun, and doused with horseradish. The sandwich was the most popular selling item on the menu two years in a row.
In the movie, Heather and Mike share a somewhat antagonistic attitude towards each other. In the commentary, the directors revealed it was Heather and Joshua who were arguing most of the time (and more heatedly). Almost all of the footage of their arguments was taken from the final cut after the filmmakers decided it seemed like both men were “ganging up” on Heather.
The 1999-2000 hunting season suffered badly due to this film. The movie was so popular that fans all over the country were hiking into the wilderness to shoot their own Blair Witch-style documentaries. As a result they kept most of the wildlife scared away from hunting areas.
Numerous fans were so convinced of the Blair Witch’s existence that they flocked to Maryland in hopes of discovering the legend. They apparently didn’t read the closing credits of the film.
The first title for the movie was The Blair Witch Tapes.
The runic lettering in the old house are a mixture of two different alphabets, Hebraic and Futhark. Hebraic runes went on to become Ancient Hebrew. Futhark runes are proto-European, dating from the first millennium B.C.
It should be noted that many of the Futhark runes seen in the old house are reversed, which has a special meaning. A reversed rune implies a dark or negative fate for the person who reads them.
Filed under: GoreMaster 100 Films
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