The Blair Witch Project

Return of the Jedi

In what universe could Minnie Mouse fight crime with The Hulk? In our own. This week on the show, Geoff and I will toss around a few ideas for movie universes to collide — legally based on which global conglomerate owns which intellectual properties. Get ready to see Donald, Darkwing and Howard the Duck team up for an adventure with a terrible title. Plus, since we’re retuning from break, we wanted to talk about the phenomenon of and meaning behind adding “The Return of” to your hero’s sequelized journey. What kinds of movies boldly ask us to return and why? Double plus, we’ll speak with Landon Palmer about The Blair Witch Project and how we’ve been judging it unfairly all these years. You should follow Landon (@landonspeak), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #67 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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The Blair Witch Project

On July 30, 1999, The Blair Witch Project expanded to a wide theatrical release and raked in over $25,000 per screen on over a thousand screens, thus becoming the first sleeper horror hit of that late summer, one week before The Sixth Sense opened. The weekend of July 30th solidified Blair Witch’s status as a phenomenon, but to recognize it as a defining date of the film would be to misrecognize what Blair Witch did. Rather than come about as an instantaneous cinematic event (in the way that the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain or the 25th anniversary of Batman have been nostalgically reflected upon this summer), Blair Witch’s reputation manifested as a slow unraveling over many months of speculation and word-of-mouth, from its chilling first-screening at Sundance to an Internet-based fury of speculation to a teaser attached to The Phantom Menace of all things. The film represented a first in many respects – transmedia marketing via the web, a jumpstart of the modern found footage subgenre – but it also bears its young age in surprising ways, whether in its analog aesthetic or the particularly 20th century character of its word-of-mouth circulation. Despite that the film set the supposed standard for viral buzz-creation and found footage horror, The Blair Witch Project remains an important anomaly for a shaky tent-full of reasons.

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The Sacrament

While some horror fads like Asian remakes and torture porn burned out their popularity relatively quickly, one fad continues to dominate the genre: found footage. Part of the reason that it’s so widely used is because the movies are extremely cheap to make and can result in pretty large profits. However, with this sub-genre’s continued popularity, there are many people (like myself, for example) who don’t like it on the whole. Our biggest complaint is that, for using presumed realism to increase fear and anxiety, found footage movies are simply not realistic. But the concern got me thinking: how realistic are found footage movies?

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26-siberia

Last night, NBC debuted yet another new series with a documentary style structure. The network is no stranger to the format, but this show is apparently more confusing for viewers than, say, The Office and Parks and Recreation. The difference is that this show, Siberia, is not a comedy. It’s a fictional show that plays like a reality game show. Any blurbs calling it “Survivor meets Lost” are unnecessary praise because that is literally what is intended. The premise is a more anarchic take on a Survivor-type show, dropping contestants in the middle of the notorious Russian region, while the pilot is nearly a play-by-play of a crash-less version of the Lost pilot, complete with a male version of Shannon (he even sunbathes while everyone else works together as a team) and an unidentified creature in the woods, a la “The Smoke Monster.” By the time Siberia starts to get deadly, the audience should be fully aware that this is not a real reality show. That is if they aren’t already keen enough to see the impossible camerawork (common to other doc-style fiction series) or haven’t bothered looking up the program on IMDb or NBC’s website. But why would they go looking if they believed it to be just another nonfiction show? There’s not much that indicates otherwise in the opening credits (no writers are listed and the cast is listed by first name only) and while the network isn’t necessarily trying to dupe viewers, its marketing of the show […]

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The Coroner

I don’t try to hide my disdain for found footage films. I think that the people who make them often do so as a shortcut – it provides an excuse to avoid spending money on special effects and laying down tracks and setting up shots, which are all expensive and time consuming. Found footage is often a shortcut, and a cheat, if it’s not done specifically to tell a very unique story. Ghost Encounters almost tells that unique story. The initial concept is pretty cool – a group of reality TV show makers lock themselves into a haunted sanitarium, and stuff goes wrong. The idea is that these guys were the first “ghost hunters” before our cable television has become saturated with them. It opens with a producer telling you this isn’t a movie, but rather culled found footage. Mmhm.

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Aural Fixation - Large

Who wouldn’t love to have their own personal soundtrack playing wherever they went? An epic theme song that announced your arrival when you walked into a room or a electric guitar riff whenever you might need an extra rush of adrenaline – these touches would make every move you made seem movie worthy. And sure, you can throw in your iPod ear buds as you walk around town or crank up your car stereo as you hit the gas to get a similar effect, but without having someone follow you around with a boom box, having a personal soundtrack is not very likely because (unfortunately) that is not how things work in real life. In normal, everyday life music isn’t always playing, underscoring our more emotional moments and highlighting the intense ones. With the emergence of found footage films bringing a new style of filmmaking to the industry (with mixed results and reactions), the idea that these films are made up of footage anyone could capture if they were to pick up a camera and hit record leaves these films (as is the case in life) without much music. Real life is full of ambient noises, awkward pauses and people accidentally talking over one another so a film capturing these moments would break that unedited feeling if it had perfectly scored music fleshing out scenes because that is simply not true to reality.

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Boiling Point

The Devil Inside is the talk of the town for two reasons: number one, it made around $35 million in its opening weekend, which is big no matter what qualifier you tack on, but when that qualifier is a reported $1 million acquisition cost, it’s gigantic. Number two (heheh), it sucks. It sucks bad. That’s nothing new, really, as everything about The Devil Inside screams shitty movie. First of all, it’s from the team that brought you Stay Alive. Second, it’s found footage. Third, it’s an exorcism movie. I’m surprised that people went to see it, because you list those three qualities and I am about as far from interested as possible. But rather than just throw another voice on the “what the fuck” bonfire, I wanted to take a few minutes and examine what we can learn from this situation.

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If the notion of another Blair Witch movie exhausts you, try to imagine mustering up the energy and excitement for returning to the project that put you on the map creatively. After the film came out in 1999, it represented a grand shift in thinking, but it didn’t really lead to success for co-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Both have languished in the tepid world of indie horror filmmaking, which may be why they’re so eager to get back to the woods. However, Sanchez is coming off the heels of a critically praised Lovely Molly – which played at Toronto. Still he’s championing a return to Blair Witch and waiting on Lionsgate to stop dragging their feet. “It’s completely up to Lionsgate,” Sanchez told Bloody Disgusting. “Dan and I are ready to do it. We’ve been toying around with a sequel idea that we really like. It’s just a matter of getting our schedules in line and having Lionsgate sign off on the idea. We’ve been ready to do a ‘Blair Witch’ movie for a long time. We’re as close as we’ve ever been to making it happen but it’s still not a guaranteed thing.” The silver lining is that Sanchez and Myrick want to move away completely from the awful, no good, very bad sequel Book of Shadows. Plus, there is no plan to include first-person filmmaking in the new project. But at the root of it all, this would still be a years-later sequel to a property […]

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Welcome back to Commentary Commentary, where we dive into the shiny backside of your favorite DVDs and bring you the magical insight that comes from hearing filmmakers talk. This week we’re going back to the woods, trekking through miles and miles of uncharted forest area, and looking for some lost film students. Not necessarily film school rejects. You can’t really be rejected if you wind up dead in the woods, right? Doesn’t matter. This week we’re listening to the commentary track for The Blair Witch Project, the infamous, no-budget shocker that became a cultural phenomenon in 1999. It also remains a sure-fire way to scare your friends or making them violently ill from all the shaky cam. Here’s what we learned from the commentary on this, the movie that kicked off the latest trend of found-footage moviemaking.

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Movies We Love

You did it, godammit. They just invited us to dinner. Synopsis A small band of American filmmakers departs for the Amazon to document the lives of warring cannibal tribes. Two months after they’ve vanished into the so-called Green Inferno, a rescue team led by anthropologist Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) discovers the documentary crew died at the hands of the Yanomamo tribe. Monroe retrieves the crew’s footage and brings it back to New York. The found footage depicts an orgy of shocking sadism – perpetrated by both the cannibals and the “civilized” Americans.

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This week’s Culture Warrior is getting its bunker ready for Y2K.

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AlfredHitchcock

To movie critics (including myself): yer doin’ it wrong.

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Discuss-DVDTheater

Despite this being highly unscientific, I’m curious to know whether to base my new bootlegging business in theater lobbies. (FSR does not condone bootlegging or standing around in theater lobbies).

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cw-foundfootagefilmmaking

This week’s Culture Warrior talks fake movies that look real but are fake, from Paranormal Activity to Blair Witch to old people getting in it with garbage.

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blairwitchsequel

Ed Sanchez and Dan Myrick want to take us back into the woods. Is there anyway on earth we should trust them again? Should we leave bread crumbs behind?

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The Objective

A CIA spook and a team of Special Ops drive deep into the Afghanistan desert to find a religious leader who may have stolen nuclear warheads or in possession of something far more dangerous.

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Jennifer Carpenter in Quarantine

Horror movie fans can enjoy the visceral experience presented in Quarantine.

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Zombies attack again in Diary of the Dead

It’s been 40 years since George A. Romero introduced the world to his special brand of flesh-eating zombies, and the landscape of American cinema hasn’t been the same since.

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