Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

TGIF! The pup and I are back after a rough week with a review of a modern classic–a classic piece of WTH? Here’s hoping there are more folks out there with common sense than spastic colons. 😉

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Trailer HERE

Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Review –

July of last year marked the tenth anniversary of a movie that blew records out of the water, nauseated viewers with erratic camera work, and screwed with many a moviegoers’ head. You have to give Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the writers and directors of The Blair Witch Project, an A+ in the hook department.

The Blair Witch Project follows the fictional disappearance of three college students Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (to give the story more authenticity the characters share the same names as the actors—confused yet?). Heather is putting together a documentary as a part of her thesis on the infamous Blair Witch, a rural legend in nearby Burkittsville, a small Maryland town in the Black Hills. Along for the ride are Joshua and Michael two film students volunteering their time and the university equipment to Heather’s thesis project, unfortunately, what starts out as a weekend trip into the woods ends with them all disappearing without a trace.

The entirety of the film is recorded via hand held video in both color and black & white by the students who head out on their adventure to begin collecting tales of the Blair Witch. The main tale they discover is that of a serial killer in the 1940’s who murdered a number of children and claimed the Blair Witch made him do it. Nothing new here being as there have been numerous tales told about serial killers who blame, ghosts and demons for their own actions.

The following day, they continue their exploration of the town and the outer edges of the woods; collecting the original tale of the witch and the mysterious disappearance/reappearance of a young girl, Robin, in the mid-1800’s. Parking their cars, they load up their gear and head out to Coffin Rock where another of many bloody legends linked to the Blair Witch supposedly occurred. Their first night in the woods passes with no problems. At this point, nothing odd has happened and to be honest I was bored out of my mind. Not even a prick of my hackles.

On their second day in the woods, the three begin arguing with one another when they don’t arrive at a supposed cemetery that Heather is leading them to through the woods. What do they discover? A clearing filled with piles of stones. Okay, now my mind is boggling. What the hell is scary about this? Later, after dark, they hear noises in the woods. OMG! Noises in the woods—hang on to your bloomers folks.

Definitely lost in the woods now the arguing intensifies between Heather and Michael. Unable to return to the car before sundown they agree to camp one more night. The noises sound like something moving through the trees. Yeah, there’s no explanation for movement in the woods in the middle of the night. (Can you sense my sarcasm?) The following morning more of the mysterious rock piles appear surrounding their tent. Tempers continue to flair between all three of the intrepid filmmakers especially when Michael tells them he threw their map away the day before. Just as twilight approaches, they discover another clearing where the iconic stick figures of varying sizes dangle from the trees. As night encroaches, they freak out as more sounds begin to close in some that appear to be weeping and/or screaming.

I have to be honest I was not impressed with the Blair Witch. If anything, The Blair Witch Project focused on scaring the bejesus out of people who never stepped foot in the woods. (Much like Deliverance did in the 1970’s) Being a country girl who spent a good deal of my childhood running through the woods, exploring caves, and abandoned houses nothing came off as particularly scary. Panic, jerky camera movements, torn up backpacks, and eventually a missing comrade have the others on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I would be more likely to believe at this point that what the three are experiencing is a mass induced paranoia and audio hallucinations if not for the bundle filled with teeth and blood. Of course, that could be explained by Josh (who goes missing) going coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs first.

The closest to creepy is the final scene of the movie that leaves us with more questions than answers. I won’t spoil the scene though if you happen to be one of the few people who never saw this movie. The most amazing thing that The Blair Witch Project managed to do was convince thousands of people that it was REAL. Not since Orson Wells’ 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds has a piece of entertainment caused people to lose their common sense. Of course, Orson did it so well people were committing suicide. We can look at that as a sign of Wells’ genius or at the fact that humanity has gotten smarter. I’d prefer thinking we’ve gotten smarter, but I doubt it.

So what’s my final opinion?  Myrick and Sánchez are two of the best snake oil salesmen to slither into Hollywood in ages. The fact that a film made them both millionaires that had no real script, no well-known actors, and filmed on a miniscule budget, is quite the feat. They held the title for ten years until Paranormal Activity appeared out of left field in 2009.  Let’s just say that hand held video does not an excellent horror movie make. Not even if Steven Spielberg backs you, the man is good, but he’s a mouse when it comes to knowing what’s scary, but that one is for another day. *snorts & rolls eyes*

Final Rating: 1/5 Fox Pups

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Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Teaching young seekers

When the young pagans are you own, or the children of folk who come to your gatherings, then the issue of teaching is fairly straight forwards. It comes down to the parents to decide.

However, what happens when a seeker comes to you, who is not of an age to legally make their own decisions, and whose parents you have no contact with?

There is a great deal of fear around working with young folk as it is. If you are faced with a pagan teenager, whose parents are not supportive, you may be opening yourself to all kinds of problems and accusations. Teenagers are also adept at lying about their age – they do it all the time to buy alcohol, cigarettes, get into pubs, it’s part of being a teenager, so there’s always the possibility that a young person who comes to you, may be younger than you thought.

Here’s a few things to consider.

Are they genuine? If your seeker is a child who thinks they’re going to be just like Harry Potter or Sabrina the teenage witch, then gently send them away, because they aren’t ready. Recommend them some books and tell them to come back when they’ve read those. If they’ve read a bit and can talk with some intelligence about personal experience, if they are having strange things happen to them and need support, then take them seriously.

Sending them away is the easy option. I know there are working groups who set the age barrier high – I’ve heard of over thirty even, because they want matured and settled folk. However, what happens to the young seeker? Will they stop seeking because you said no? There are (and I have met some) unscrupulous people out there, both in the pagan community, and masquerading as pagan. Saying no to a young seeker means you take the risk that they will find someone far less suitable. If things are happening to them – premonitions, poltergeist, empathy… they may be desperately in need to reassurance and turning them away may result in them seeking medical intervention instead. I don’t personally think that refusing to teach teens is reliably a moral choice, although there are most definitely risks.

Seek parental contact and consent. If you can get it, this is a great asset. Some years ago I took on a student who was fifteen when we started. I talked to her mother, (who is pagan, which helped!) and there were no problems. Said student worked with me for a few years, and is now at college and involved in (possibly running) a moot. If you can’t get parental consent and the young seeker is at odds with their family, tread very carefully. Make sure you do not leave yourself open to any unpleasant accusations.

Avoid any kind of private meeting – teaching online is viable for the kind of material it’s appropriate to offer younger seekers, or meet up in public places, and make sure your student learns to take appropriate precautions.

What to teach? Whatever path you are on, encourage your young seeker to get a good grounding in myths and legends. This is unlikely to trouble parents/guardians, it is risk free learning. Beyond that, I would recommend focusing on ethics, philosophy, green living, nature study and meditation. Teaching a young seeker meditation skills will open the way if they want to go further. It encourages imagination, self possession and mental discipline. You can teach protective visualisations as well. Showing a young seeker how to hold firm mentally, how to be calm and psychically protected makes good sense. These are good skills, there’s little scope for doing anything daft with them. They make a good grounding and enable the young person to feel like they are being taken seriously, without taking them into inappropriate kinds of experience.