Blair Witch Project, The
Blair Witch Project, The (movie)(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
A 1999 movie written and directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick and starring Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard. It is presented as if it is a documentary, opening with a statement that on October 21, 1994, three young student filmmakers disappeared in Maryland's Black Hills Forest, which they entered in order to shoot a documentary centered on the local Blair Witch, a woman named Elly Kedward.
Elly Kedward was supposed to have caused most of the children of her village to disappear, 200 years before. She was said to have lured the children into her home and drawn blood from them. Found guilty of witchcraft, she was banished from the village and, after a particularly harsh winter, presumed to have died. In 1824, Blair had become a town and changed its name to Burkittsville. In 1940 and 1941 the town was the scene of ritualistic slayings of seven children. A local hermit, Rustin Parr, confessed to the killings but claimed that he had been told to do it by "an old woman ghost." He was convicted and hanged. This was the background for the documentary that the three college filmmakers wanted to make.
The Blair Witch Project is then made up of footage found a year after these three filmmakers disappeared. It shows their deterioration as they lose themselves in the woods and are scared by an unknown force. The reason for their fright is left to the audience's imagination, a perhaps welcome retrogression in modern horror films.
The actual filmmakers, Sanchez and Myrick, broke new ground not only with the script but with their treatment (giving cameras to unknowns and letting them loose with the barest of instructions) and their amazingly low budget. The documentary feel, and the amateurish photography, generates a perspective that is totally convincing. More interesting than the movie itself perhaps, was the fans' reactions to it. Predictably, although repeatedly reassured that the story is pure fiction, people insisted on believing that there really was a Blair witch. A promotional Internet web site promoted that belief. The movie, however, was entirely fictional.
Wiccans are not happy with yet another stereotypically negative portrayal of a Witch. The Lady Liberty League (a referral network, and part of Circle Wicca, concerned with religious freedom issues), the Witches League for Public Awareness, the Religious Liberties Lawyers Network, and others managed to persuade one of the co-directors to add a disclaimer to the film, indicating that the movie had nothing to do with the Wiccan religion.