Pan & Scan Welcome to PAN & SCAN where you will find film reviews of some of Hollywood's latest productions.

These reviews were originally written for and hosted @ AbsoluteWrite. A terrific website run by Jenna Glatzer which focuses on all types of writing.


Blair Witch Project

  Genre: Horror/Thriller

  Running Time: 80 minutes

  Rating: R for language

  Video Release: 22 October 1999

  Tagline: In October '94, three student filmmakers disappeared in
   the woods near Burkittesville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary.
   One year later, their footage was found.

You’ve heard the hype. The questions is, "Does it live up to it?"

The answer is a resounding .... YES!

On the surface, The Blair Witch Project is a mockumentary (think This is Spinal Tap or Man Bites Dog) which follows the lives of three student filmmaker's who disappear in the Black Hills Forest near Burkittesville, Maryland while shooting a documentary on the legendary Blair Witch. While the trio never return, their gear is found a year later. This then, is the tale we are to witness.

What this film really is, is a haunting and ultimately very unsettling work of psychological terror which might start off as an enthusiastic quest to document the story of the mysterious witch -- but quickly becomes an agonizing look at three friends plunging slowly into hell.

While Hollywood’s standardized formula for the horror genre comprises of overblown scare tactics and graphic shock value, The Blair Witch Project utilizes the imagination of its audience. Its about the fears that are just out of sight and comprehension, gnawing at the deep recesses in our minds. It's whatever we believe is out there, in the dark. What makes this film even more terrifying is the filmmakers have invited a fourth member of this witch hunt to come along for the ride -- YOU.

Filmed in the first person, the camera lens becomes the audience viewer’s POV. In a typical movie, the audience viewer is situated outside the realm of the production, looking in as a detached observer. The film’s true success lies in how it forces us into the same reality these three filmmakers are experiencing. We, the audience, become an active participant in the nightmare --through their camera lens -- which creates a sensation of pulse-racing excitement and terror-strickening claustrophobia. There are several scenes during the film in which the screen is pitch-black. We see nothing, either because the characters just woke up and didn't turn on their light or because the camera is pointing in the wrong direction. All we have is our imagination (and boy, does it wander!)

The movie's original budget was a measly $22K, or $30K, or anything up to $65K (depending on which source you believe). Artisan Entertainment, which bought the indie movie after the Sundance Film Festival for $1.2 million, poured another $300K into enhancing the film's shaky production values. Another $15 million went into the ad budget.

As of this writing (10/28/99), The Blair Witch Project has grossed $140.3 million in the U.S. alone (this total does not include video sales/rentals) making it, not only one of the biggest hits of 1999, but the most profitable film of all time. A website created to hype the film received more than 650,000 visitors during it’s first week of the official U.S. release making, the 45th most popular site on the Internet.

Since it’s release, there have been dozens of tributes to the film in various forms of homage and rumors of a "The Blair Witch Project 2" lurk about the Web. But, according to an October 26th "Toronto Sun" article, The Haxan Five (Orlando filmmakers who created this film) state they have had it with horror movies. There may be one (or a prequel backgrounding the myth of the Blair Witch back to the 1700s) but it won't be made by The Haxan Five.

"At this moment, we are not involved," co-producer Robin Cowie said. "There's a possibility that Artisan Entertainment might do it.

My opinion? Don’t ruin a good thing. They’ve captured lightning in a bottle with this project. To make any attempt at recreating what they have done here (be a prequel, sequel, or even mimicking the same filming techniques) would only produce a product that cheapens the original.

What rating does The Blair Witch Project get? I give it 4 stars out of 5: "Definite Must Rent." Hey, for a real scare, rent this movie and watch it by yourself.
...maybe at night.
....maybe at night and in the woods.

© Terrence J. Brady

The ratings for "Pan & Scan" are broken down into a simple 1-5 scale as follows: 5 = "Forget renting it - BUY IT!"; 4 = "Definite Must Rent"; 3 = "Coin Toss" (Rent it OR wait for cable); 2 = "Wait For Cable"; 1 = "Ignore It!" (Even when it's on network TV).