Is TV the perfect medium for more Blair Witch stories?
Love it or hate it, The Blair Witch Project will go down in history as one of cinema’s most successful horror movies. The film’s premise captivated American audiences on its way to setting box office records and spawning a found footage film movement that is still going strong after nearly 20-years. There’s no way Hollywood would let a franchise with The Blair Witch Project’s name recognition and cultural impact go softly into the night, so it’s no surprise then that The Blair Witch Project’s co-creator, Eduardo Sanchez, is dropping hints about a Blair Witch series making its way to TV.
It’s being reported on Slashfilm (via Dimreturns) that Sanchez, the original film’s co-director, revealed that “there have been rumblings about a potential Blair Witch TV series that would help revitalize the franchise.”
Here’s an excerpt of the conversation.
Sanchez: For us, it’s a very natural thing to go and say “Hey, let’s do a frickin’ Blair Witch show and you can say it’s from the original creators and we can bring in a whole bunch of interesting directors to direct episodes.
Diminishing Returns: Would you see that as an anthology thing with prequel episodes or would it all be found footage stuff?
Sanchez: Well, you know. I can’t really discuss. I think that the idea of a Blair Witch anthology has always been very – just a really interesting thing. You’re close. You’re in the ballpark. You know, and I think it might be one of those things that might be – you know? The more you think about it, you’re like “That might be the perfect… a TV show. You know?” So, we’ll see what happens, but I think that’s the next big thing for Blair Witch. Probably TV.
A TV series showrunner is always going to play their cards close to the vest from when they’re shopping their show around right through to the early stages of production. What’s notable here is that it’s actually Lionsgate that holds the rights to the franchise so it’s possible that a Blair Witch series could move forward without Sanchez’ input. Most interesting, though, is figuring out how a showrunner would spin-off this unique property into a successful series.
The most compelling aspect of the Blair Witch series is the way it used the found footage format to place mainstream audiences under its spell. In 1999, the internet as we know it was still in its primordial stages, the average person didn’t have a cell phone, and unchecked rumors and gossip could spread so fast they would make a Russian hacker’s head spin. Many people believed The Blair Witch Project was real or at least went into the film open to the story being real. The film was unlike anything most moviegoers had seen before and The Blair Witch Project worked better as an experience than as a movie. The movie’s characters weren’t memorable, but their terror was, and people were left shaken by what happened onscreen. A TV series could never recapture the viral grip the film had on the public but that doesn’t mean a series is a terrible idea.
If Noah Hawley can adapt Fargo into an exceptional TV series then there is hope for The Blair Witch Project on the small screen. The found footage format may have lost its luster but the film’s mythology remains just as gripping. We have an innate fear of being lost in the darkness, of being hunted, and confronting forces that we don’t understand. And with a strong team of writers, a weekly series could tap into these fears without becoming beholden to the first film’s found footage format. The show could go the anthology route and explore different parts of the world inhabited by witches, shifting the focus to the people they haunt or the series could go back in time to the origin of the first movie’s eponymous Blair Witch.
Even if a TV series doesn’t come to fruition we haven’t seen the last of The Blair Witch’s world. Despite last year’s disappointing follow up, Blair Witch, the series’ name still holds value. The Blair Witch project ushered in a tsunami of knock-offs, but none have come close to matching its success. With a modest $60,000 budget the film brought in $140,539,099 and the three-movie series has earned $187,753,254. The film’s most prominent successor, the Paranormal Activity series, released six movies from 2009-2015 and has grossed $401,363,355 at the domestic box office. Whether we get it on the big screen or the small screen, it’s only a matter of time before the Blair Witch returns to put us under its spell.