A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Blair Witch Project is a 1999 "found-footage" horror movie in which three film students attempt to film a documentary about the strange and terrifying murders that have taken place in some woods in rural Maryland. Groundbreaking for its time -- its use of handheld cameras "found" one year after the disappearance of the filmmakers caused quite a buzz upon its initial release -- the movie relies less on the outright blood, gore, and violence of so many horror movies and more on a psychological horror and tension that is slowly ratcheted up with each passing day and night of the characters' descent into the eerie terror that awaits them. There is a scene in which a bloody shirt, along with what appears to be a severed tongue and teeth, comes into view of one of the cameras, much to the horror of one of the characters filming. Some of the imagery, particularly at the end, is especially terrifying. Frequent use of "f--k." In one scene, characters act drunk while drinking beer and scotch in a hotel room.
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What's the story?
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is simply summarized: Three film students go into the woods to make a movie about a local legend and never come home. A year later, their footage is found, and what we see is supposed to be what they left behind. Knowing the end from the beginning, the audience is left with 70 minutes of growing dread as the three students become increasingly more panicky and the events turn increasingly more creepy. Then it is over.
Is it any good?
This horror film is more conceptual art and marketing phenomenon than movie. Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick drew from canny filmmakers such as Val Lewton and Alfred Hitchcock: People are much more scared by what they don't see than by what they do see. The filmmakers made a virtue of having no budget for special effects and left everything to the audience's grisly imagination. Like some sort of cinematic Rorschach test, as we watch this movie, we are each scared by whatever lurks in our subconscious.
Teenagers have always loved scary movies. On one level, they provide peer bonding -- you have to be friends with someone you grabbed in a moment of terror, and it's fun to have that shared experience. On another level, there is something cathartic for teenagers about seeing this graphic representation of an uncontrollable id on the loose. It's important for parents to remember that tolerance for scariness is highly individual, and, especially for teens and younger kids, highly suggestible. In concrete terms, there is nothing really graphically scary in The Blair Witch Project , but kids who see it need to be capable of understanding that it's entirely manufactured and fictional.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the filmmaking techniques of The Blair Witch Project. Did it feel real to you, and do you think other stories would work in this filmmaking technique?
How does this movie compare to other horror movies? How does it contrast with horror movies that rely heavily on blood, gore, and scary music to create suspense?
What do you think is the appeal of horror movies? Why do people enjoy feeling scared?
- In theaters: July 30, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: October 22, 1999
- Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams
- Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez
- Studio: Artisan Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: November 18, 2020
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