Denver Bar Association
October 1999
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Blair or Bland Witch?

by Karen Bries, Dennis Walker


By Dennis "Dead Man" Walker and Karen "Corpse" Bries

Many have been intrigued by this mystery, the movie, The Blair Witch Project. What you hear makes you wonder whether it really happened. At a recent Docket meeting, Doug McQuiston, Docket Committee Chair, and Karen Bries, Assistant Editor, were urged to reveal their uncertain findings.

Filmed for what it costs to buy a used Suburban, The Blair Witch Project does not lend itself to a simple review. The lines at the Mayan were too long for that.

The plot goes like this: Three college film students search out a 200-year-old witch in the Maryland woods. They venture to make a documentary about the Blair Witch, purported to live in the fictitious Burkittsville, Maryland. They interview townspeople and tromp through the woods to various grave sites, where the witch was rumored to haunt. The woods’ sights, sounds and movements suggest there may be some truth to the legend but still fail to discourage them. They lose their way and get hungry and tired, but continue filming, until a climactic, or anti-climactic end, depending on if you believe Doug or Karen.

Karen: They say the footage is everything; they shot it with camcorders and 16-millimeter cameras. This gives the film an eerie, real-life effect. It was a nice change from the overdone, Hollywood special effects everyone expects these days.

Doug: The hand-held cameras bounce as they run along in the woods. My wife became vertiginous. She closed her eyes to avoid getting sick.

Karen: I don’t know about vertiginous, but it was scary. Since you see the movie through the lens of the camcorder, that small window with no peripheral vision offers a fearful view of the woods and whatever is in it.

Doug: These two guys and a girl are in a tent and hear a startling bump from the woods, which leads them to run out to discover the source. One of them disappears and later seems to be the source of savage cries as if his finger nails are being pulled out. No monster or evil force actually appears on camera. The noise that makes them jump out of the tent could have even been a badger.

Karen: The acting is not that good, although there are some funny lines.

Doug: The "Heather" character has the whiniest voice I have ever heard. I felt almost bad for them when they were wandering lost. But the movie sticks to horror film convention. When a noise signifying a violent attack occurs in one room, the others run to that room. At one point, there appears to be a person or body; the camera action is so quick it is like a flash. A body might have been lying on the floor, but my 17-year old son said it was a body hanging. He said he would never camp again after this movie, but he has gone camping.

Karen: (When I went) The theater was packed.

Doug: (When I saw it) Some people got up and left mid-way through.

The film may have achieved some surprise and mystery by drawing you to suspend disbelief, but only so far. Perhaps a generational difference was evident in the reactions of Karen and Doug. Maybe none of this happened, unless you want it to, and being teased by clever marketing won’t dispel your desire for crude intrigue.

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