Blair Witch and ‘authenticity’ 20 years on

blair witch

blair witchOK, this site is more about sex than horror, but there are certain links between horror and porn as genres and not just the physiological.ones. Both genres are often disapproved of and misunderstood, particularly by those who either have a superiority complex bigger than mine, or are into controlling others in non-consensual mass ways. I was thinking about it today after discovering that The Blair Witch Project was released twenty years ago. Like That Book, you know the one I mean, it was phenomenally hyped… and not very good.I remember being excited and enthusiastic about going to see it, intrigued by what I was hearing and the very positive coverage it got, but finding it fairly disappointing. It took me a while to realise that you probably only ‘got’ the whole thing properly if you had been following the ‘project’ online. The real genius of the BWP lay in the way its creators used the Internet, which was still a new-ish thing at the end of the last century: no Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to build a brand with. No one has, so far, pulled off an equivalent piece of viral marketing, though I think that some of the promotion for the (actually very good) horror novel The Last Days of Jack Sparks was a bit of a tribute to it, even namechecking the film-makers in the novel itself.

blair witchThe film itself is still an overlong mess and, without all the background stuff, doesn’t really pay off. It’s just a lot of running about in wet woods and howling, and the supposedly most terrifying ending ever just… isn’t. Most of the gushing reviews now read like a classic case of Emperor’s New Clothes. But there’s another aspect of it that I still find even more irritating and that is the wholly unnecessary mistreatment of the cast.I’m not at all impressed by gratuitous authenticity. While it’s fair enough that Myrick and Sanchez wanted to hire unknowns in order to make it seem more plausible that this was a ‘true’ story (and presumably so as not to have to pay the going rate for name actors) I remember reading interviews where they boasted about frightening the cast, keeping them in constant discomfort and short of food. I’m with Laurence Olivier on this – try acting, it’s much easier.

It’s also worth noting that, as was maybe more common around the turn of the century, a porn parody was rapidly produced. Probably, the cast of that movie were better paid and better looked after…

 

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