Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 6: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The one singular, shaky slide above begins the 1999 surprise smash hit The Blair Witch Project—the largely influential, less than insignificantly budgeted horror film that has since become a genre staple. Though, audiences today are still split down the middle regarding the film’s quality and actual effectiveness as a horror film.
My opinion? It’s good. Damn good. One of the best of its kind, arguably.
The film opens with Heather, Michael, and Josh (played by Donahue, Williams, and Leonard, respectively, using their real first names) gathering as they plan a trip to the town of Burkittsville, MD to find answers and film a documentary about the Blair Witch, a local myth turned phenomenon as stories and lore began to grow. With exposition told pretty interestingly through “local” interviews, Heather’s documentary is off to a convincing start.
The next morning, the trio begin heading into the woods in North Burkitsville, armed with a pair of handheld cameras, a handful of supplies and, of course, a map. Remember, it’s 1994—a fact you may end up forgetting while watching The Blair Witch Project. No cell phones, no GPS, hardly anything at all. Technology is scarce, and as much as you may want to scream at the screen to just call for help, you remember just as quickly that no one is on the receiving end.
As time passes, the documentary presses on and more evidence of the Blair Witch’s presence becomes increasingly clear. Though great for their documentary, their situation worsens as supplies begin to run out, they lose all sense of direction, and eventually begin to tear at each other’s throats. All of that, and the sun hasn’t even gone down yet. That’s when the real terror begins.
What’s just as interesting as The Blair Witch Project‘s innovative filmmaking, captivating performances, and use of horror through the unseen, is how uniquely the film was produced as well. $60,000 (a rough estimate, of course) is a bargain, considering the film was bought for $1.1 million and another $25 million was put into the marketing by Artisan Films—a campaign that many believe led to The Blair Witch Project becoming the first-ever film to “go viral.” Taking a gamble on such a genuinely original idea paid off, though, as the film also went on to gross nearly $250 million, becoming one of the most profitable film concepts of all time.
In the end, though, The Blair Witch Project is more than just a gimmick that proved to be successful; it’s a full-blown phenomenon. For better or worse, it inspired a lot of good and a lot of bad in the realm of modern day cinema. Without The Blair Witch Project, there would be no Paranormal Activity, no Cloverfield, no V/H/S, no REC, or The Last Exorcism. It is one of the truest pioneers of what’s become known as found footage horror. Even though the film did spawn two sequels—the abysmal Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and the half-effective, half expendable Blair Witch earlier this year)—the impact of The Blair Witch Project still holds its own as an incredibly powerful film in its own unique, modest way.
And, to be truthful, how often do we see something this revolutionary come along?