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Devil's Advocates: The Blair Witch Project - Book Review
By James Whittington, Sunday 14th June 2015

The Blair Witch projectThe Blair Witch Project

 

Peter Turner

 

Auteur

 

ISBN 9781906733841

 

£9.99

Even though it was far from being the very first found footage movie, The Blair Witch Project from 1999 redefined this horror sub-genre so perfectly that the cast and crew have struggled to match its success and impact. This superb book from Peter Turner details this movie from conception to production to aftermath and tries to piece together exactly why it spoke to the horror loving public so much.

Born at a time of self-referential slashers such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Blair Witch Project was released the same year as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and went to prove that you didn’t need to have a huge CGI budget to produce effective and unforgettable movies. The mockumentary took advantage of developing recording equipment and proved exactly what you could do and then it played its trump card; it used the power of the internet to help whoop up the publicity for itself.

The movie concerns three film students; director Heather, soundman Mike and cameraman Josh who go Burkittsville to explore an urban legend and somehow fall foul to some unseen presence. And that is basically it but it’s executed in such a way that you just can’t help yourself getting caught up in the mystery of it. The entire movie is “made up” from the footage found from their investigations meaning there are very few camera tricks here and sound and darkness are used to push the horrific happenings.

Author Peter Turner holds our hands all the way through the story of this low budget masterpiece, describing the history of the mockumentary and how the improvised and spontaneous camerawork help built up on the atmosphere and experience. This atmosphere was made even more credible as Turner details exactly what the actors went through all in the name of trying to achieve authenticity. He dissects the diegetic camera, where we can only see the point of view of the person holding it and how it increases the tension without really having to do anything. If scenes were edited together it would lose credibility and lose impact. The interplay between the cast and the secrecy that the director created between them helped build up the rawness of the film, something other found footage movies lack. The author also looks to where the movie sits within the cinema of post 9/11. Does it represent us all being lost in a forest or does it go deeper than that? The section on the viral marketing, something which is so common now, makes us realise just how many new levels this film tried in the name of authenticity.

The whole book is a very authoritative read and one that should be done in one setting just after re-watching the movie. Another “must buy” from the Devil’s Advocate range.


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