The Promotion of the Blair Witch Project Part Three

The official Web site of the Blair Witch Project can effectively tell the ‘story’ of the film, in a manner in which the film’s makers and distributors perceive it and wish it to be understood. It can frame the film narrative within a context designed to condition our viewing of it and has the ability to determine the sort of pleasures we might derive from it. In an online journal, Dan Myrick describes the directors’ collaboration with Artisan on the Blair Witch website. According to Myrick, Artisan added additional material primarily designed to “compliment [sic] the film and reinforce the backstory of the Blair folklore”. This campaign, which was further complimented by a television project, presents this fictional movie as a documentary about three student filmmakers who vanished while working on a documentary about a legendary witch near the town of Burkittsville, Maryland. The story unfolds through their own footage, accidentally discovered by student anthropologists a year after their disappearance and then pieced together by Artisan. This material included fictional items such as police reports, interviews with the ‘missing’ filmmakers’ parents and a timeline extending back to the eighteenth century. Speaking of the web site in the lead up to The Blair Witch Project’s nationwide premiere, Myrick noted “It’s all fiction . . . but people are getting confused. We kind of count on that”.

This website that became the heart of the campaign offered much additional material in relation to the information on the “Mythology” surrounding the Blair Witch legend, background on “The Film-makers” who disappeared, a summary of “The Aftermath” of the disappearance, and a tour of “The Legacy” of these mysterious events, in particular the various materials recovered in the search for the student filmmakers. This reinforced the film’s non-fictional ‘backstory’ and a generation of documentary-styled ‘found footage’ horror films that celebrate the documentary claim to reality and truth as powerfully horrific.

In The Blair Witch Project, the documentary style of the film locates the source of repressed fear in reality itself and inverts the psychology of horror. The monster is not merely some fantastical creature inherent to a fictitious narrative; the monster is reality itself within the boundaries of a documentary record, and the monster is as elusive as the referent. The Blair Witch Project is a film in which the monster is the documentary film format and its ability to delude and misrepresent. It is the use of documentary conventions that renders the absent witch’s existence so convincing and that demonstrates a repressed fear of the representation of reality to which documentary films lay claim. All of these elements elaborately propagate the notion of authenticity, attesting to the film as a ‘found-footage’ type of documentary rather than a fictional work, and offered a reality far stranger than that found in any classic horror film.



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