The Making of The Blair Witch Project: Part 1 - Witch Pitch - Dread Central
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The Making of The Blair Witch Project: Part 1 – Witch Pitch



The early 1990’s sucked for horror movies… I mean, really sucked. Movies like Dr. Giggles (1992), Man’s Best Friend (1993), and Cemetery Man (1994) failed spectacularly, for me, to scratch the itch unlike the 1980’s or the 1970’s. Sure, we had The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Army of Darkness (1992), and In the Mouth of Madness (1994); but you get my point.

And in Orlando 1996 as a recent graduate of the UCF film program and an occasionally-working SFX makeup artist (mostly on Alabama-based David A. Prior movies), I was both excited and concerned about my filmmaking future. Would I end up having to take a “respectable” job one day in lieu of chasing a dream which probably started the first time I watched John Carpenter’s The Thing or The Howling on HBO?

Blair Witch Making Of

At the time I was living near downtown Orlando, about a block away from my film school friend (and graduate of Army Survival School) Gregg Hale. We’d attended two different film schools together, he’d produced my first short film, and we’d both made thesis films with genre aspirations. Gregg had taken a job in LA in the art department on the first season of “MADtv,” and he’d come back cash-rich (to me, anyway) to Orlando during the hiatus. One night I was over at his house (a short walk from where I lived at the time) catching up on what we’d been up to. I probably told him about The P.A.C.K, another Alabama-based low-budget monster movie for which I’d just designed the monster for Dave Prior again –  and Gregg stopped my yammering with an intriguing question:

Have you ever heard of ‘The Blair Witch?‘” He said.

Do you mean ‘The Bell Witch,'” I asked, assuming he’d gotten it wrong and meant the famous spook story from Adams, Tennessee. He hadn’t.

No,” he said. “‘The Blair Witch.’

Myself and Gregg, circa 1996. Photo by Keith Hudson.

Gregg and myself, circa 1996. Photo by Keith Hudson.

In addition to being horror-obsessed from childhood, I was also paranormal-obsessed. I was a subscriber to Fortean Times, occasional reader of Fate Magazine, and even sometimes delved into Paranoia: The Conspiracy Reader. I was a pre-“X-Files” obsessive about alien abductions and had rarely encountered the creepy piece of folklore or a labyrinthine conspiracy tale I didn’t want to tell everyone about. So this was a new piece of folklore I’d never heard of, but it sounded like a lot of folk tales: familiar, but in a fresh and unexpected way.

Gregg proceeded to tell me a very loose version of the mythology familiar to Blair Witch Project fans now, but there were no names, no specifics. In the late 1700’s, an old woman was ejected from a city named Blair in Maryland, then the crops died, then everyone disappeared, but there were traces of atrocities. Then a book called The Blair Witch Cult is published. About 40 years later a girl is pulled into a river by an unseen hand. Then about 60 years later the hunting party goes out looking for the missing girl and is massacred. On and on. Gruesome, mysterious, horrific.

I was hooked.

Then Gregg said, “So here’s the crazy part: Ed Sanchez has some friends he went to community college with up in Maryland before he came to UCF. You know Ed, right?” I didn’t know Ed personally, but there were only sixty people in our film school. Along with Dan Myrick, he was two years ahead of me.

Sure,” I said.

Gregg said, “Well Ed’s friends decided to make a documentary about the Blair Witch two years ago.

Really? Cool,” I said.

Yeah,” he said. “But the crazy part is that while they were making it, they disappeared in the woods. Nobody’s seen them since.” I got an actual chill. Poor bastards, did they get lost? Eaten by a bear? This felt like it could have happened to me or anyone I knew.

No shit,” I said.

Yeah,” he said, baiting the hook even further. “So a year later, their footage turned up, buried under the foundation of an old house. Cans and cans of film,” He said.

NO FUCKING WAY,” I said. “What’s on that footage?

Gregg smiled.

Well, that’s what we’re going to find out. Dan, Ed and I are going to analyze that footage.

Dead serious, I said:

You guys are gonna fucking die.”

All I wanted was to see that footage. To know what was on it.

He shifted. “Everything I just told you is made up.” I deflated a little, knowing I’d been taken in. I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for it, and at the same time, I’d fallen for it. It all sounded just plausible enough to be a real folktale, and one with a modern connection I could almost touch. Familiar in an unexpected way.

He then read me into the plan for “Phase 1” of a film called The Blair Witch Tapes. Actors would be cast, taken out into the woods, and basically agree to be in an improv exercise inspired, in part, on Gregg’s experiences in the Army Survival School where participants were deprived of food and forced to exercise a great deal, woken up in the middle of the night, and basically broken in the same way a theoretical enemy would break you if they wanted to get you to spill secrets. My inner paranormal nerd, theater nerd, and horror nerd all loved this idea. If it could be done right, this would be better than any horror film I’d seen in years; plus the story of making it would be one of actual danger.

Phase 2” would be more straightforward, documentary-style analysis of the footage the actors were going to create in the woods, which I will talk about in a later post.

“Please,” I said. “Let me work on this with you. I’ll sweep the floors. I love this idea. I will do anything.” There was no money yet. I didn’t care – I was working as a substitute teacher by day/waiter by night. The resulting film? Maybe it would play a festival or two; maybe it would get released on home video like literally every David Prior movie I’d worked on.

So a year before the movie would shoot (we didn’t know if it would ever shoot), I was on the team.

Because of my nerdiness around folklore, mythology, and the paranormal, my first task was to write the mythology. The backstory. To take the yarn (twine?) Gregg had spun and flesh it out, name the characters, put hard dates on things, maybe create photos or pull images. I was a little obsessed with anagrams back then, so I started with the witch herself – Elly Kedward, which is an anagram of famous British occultists Edward Kelly (who, along with John Dee, was said to bring dead people back to life). Rustin Parr’s name began as an anagram for Rasputin… You get it.

In 1996, this involved a lot of research at an actual library (there was no Wikipedia!). I had to create the only archival copy of the book The Blair Witch Cult, so Jay Bogdanowitsch and I went to a local history museum and asked if they’d let us put our old prop book under their display glass. I delivered these elements to Gregg, Dan, Ed, and our friend Mike Monello, who – using an application I didn’t understand at all called Adobe After Effects – built something we’d call a “rip reel” today, using the copy I’d written, images I’d copied and snapped myself with a disposable camera, some video they’d shot, and some actual footage from Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922).


That June, indie film impresario and Sundance Kingmaker, discoverer of Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and Michael Moore, John Pierson was at the Florida Film Festival shooting an episode of his IFC show “Split Screen,” and the same Mike Monello who’d edited the rip reel, working his day job as the marketing director for the festival, paired Pierson up with a great cameraman he knew, Dan Myrick. They shot for several days together, and at the end Dan asked John if he would look at a tape for a film he was working on, handing him the reel we’d made. John smiled and agreed to watch it and went back to New York. Who knows what John thought an unknown cameraman in Orlando might have just slipped him? How bad must he have assumed our homespun horror movie could be?

Then, about a week later, Dan got a call from John Pierson.

He said, “This footage? You have it? You’ve seen what’s on it? What’s on it?!



Part 2 – Getting to the Woods

Part 3 – Doom Woods Preppers

Part 4 – Charge of the Twig Brigade

Part 5 – The Art of Haunting

The Blair Witch Project




Leprechaun Returns to Syfy Next Year; Warwick Davis Does Not



You can always tell when it’s St. Patrick’s Day by Syfy running a Leprechaun movie marathon. But this St. Paddy’s Day, Syfy surprised everyone with a teaser for a new Leprechaun sequel set to premiere on the network next March.

Leprechaun Returns appears to be taking a page from the forthcoming Halloween reboot by positioning itself as a direct sequel to the original film. Sorry, Lepre-fans… looks like those excursions to Las Vegas, outer space, and the hood never happened.

Twenty-five years after the Leprechaun terrorized a pre-“Friends” Jennifer Aniston and experienced his first defeat via a four-leaf clover down his gullet, the little fellow gets revived in modern times when a group of college girls unwittingly awaken him while tearing down a cabin to build their new sorority house.

The new installment in the Leprechaun series is written by Suzanne Keilly (“Ash vs Evil Dead”) and directed by Steven Kostanski (The Void). There’s an interesting combination.

Taylor Spreitler (“Kevin Can Wait”), Pepi Songhua (“Ash vs Evil Dead”) as Katie, and Sai Bennett (Lake Placid: The Legacy), along with Emily Reid, Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins, and Ben McGregor, are among the potential new victims of silly limericks and supernatural slaughter. Mark Holton reprises his role as “Ozzie”, the goofball friend from the 1993 original who narrowly survived his first encounter with the Leprechaun. He might not be so lucky the second time around.

One bit of casting that may prove controversial to fans of the franchise is Warwick Davis, who will not be returning to the iconic horror role he played in six films (the less said about the misguided prequel Leprechaun: Origins the better). Replacing him as the pint-sized monstrous Irishman with a lethal taste for gold wil be Linden Porco.

Even though we won’t be seeing Leprechaun Returns until around St. Patrick’s Day of 2019, Syfy has already premiered a teaser with Porco’s first appearance as the Leprechaun, giving us a year’s advance warning of what’s to come. Check it out above, and then let us know what you think!


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SXSW 2018: Reviews, Interviews, and Wrap-Ups!



Dread Central was out en masse at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival, and we came back with some of the best damned coverage you could ever hope for. In case you missed any of it, we have a full index of coverage for you right here!

Big thanks to both Dark Sky Films and Shudder for their sponsorship of our media village content. Also big kudos to Jon Condit, Jonathan Barkan, Shaked Berenson, and Josh Millican for their tireless work.



Daily Wrap-Ups


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Dread Central Presents

2018 Saturn Awards Horror Nominees Include Get Out, The Shape of Water, IT, The Lodgers, The Walking Dead, Ash vs Evil Dead, and Lots More!



The nominees for the 2018 Saturn Awards (now in their 44th year) have been announced, and while of course Black Panther and his fellow superheroes lead the fray on both big and small screens, our beloved genre is very well represented in all its various forms…

The nominees include “pure” horror and thriller movies and TV shows, horror/sci-fi hybrids, and of course fantasies such as recent Oscar winner The Shape of Water. Our own Dread Central Presents film The Lodgers also made the cut as Best International Film!

This year’s Saturn Awards will be handed out in June in Burbank, California. It’s a tough choice in several categories; let us know your picks below! And if you want to make your votes official, visit to learn more about how to join The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.


Best Comic-to-Motion Picture Release
Black Panther
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Wonder Woman

Best Science Fiction Film
Alien: Covenant
Blade Runner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Fantasy Film
Beauty and the Beast
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Kong: Skull Island
Paddington 2
The Shape of Water

Best Horror Film
47 Meters Down
Annabelle: Creation
Better Watch Out
Get Out

Best Action or Adventure Film
Baby Driver
The Fate of the Furious
The Greatest Showman
Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Best Thriller Film
Brawl in Cell Block 99
Murder on the Orient Express
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Wind River

Best Director
Ryan Coogler – Black Panther
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman
Rian Johnson – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Matt Reeves – War for the Planet of the Apes
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049

Best Writing
Black Panther – Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Blade Runner 2049 – Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Get Out – Jordan Peele
Logan – Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Rian Johnson
Wonder Woman – Allan Heinberg

Best Actor
Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther as T’Challa / Black Panther
Ryan Gosling – Blade Runner 2049 as K
Mark Hamill – Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Luke Skywalker
Hugh Jackman – Logan as James Howlett / Logan
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out as Chris Washington
Andy Serkis – War for the Planet of the Apes as Caesar
Vince Vaughn – Brawl in Cell Block 99 as Bradley Thomas

Best Actress
Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water as Elisa Esposito
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as Mildred Hayes
Lupita Nyong’o – Black Panther as Nakia
Rosamund Pike – Hostiles as Rosalie Quaid
Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Rey
Emma Watson – Beauty and the Beast as Belle

Best Supporting Actor
Harrison Ford – Blade Runner 2049 as Rick Deckard
Michael B. Jordan – Black Panther as N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
Michael Keaton – Spider-Man: Homecoming as Adrian Toomes / Vulture
Chris Pine – Wonder Woman as Steve Trevor
Michael Rooker – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Yondu
Bill Skarsgard – It as It / Pennywise the Dancing Clown
Patrick Stewart – Logan as Charles Xavier / Professor X

Best Supporting Actress
Ana de Armas – Blade Runner 2049 as Joi
Carrie Fisher – Star Wars: The Last Jedi as General Leia Organa
Danai Gurira – Black Panther as Okoye
Lois Smith – Marjorie Prime as Marjorie
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water as Zelda Delilah Fuller
Tessa Thompson – Thor: Ragnarok as Valkyrie
Kelly Marie Tran – Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Rose Tico

Best Performance by a Younger Actor
Tom Holland – Spider-Man: Homecoming as Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Dafne Keen – Logan as Laura Kinney / X-23
Sophia Lillis – It as Beverly Marsh
Millicent Simmonds – Wonderstruck as Rose
Jacob Tremblay – Wonder as August “Auggie” Pullman
Letitia Wright – Black Panther as Shuri
Zendaya – Spider-Man: Homecoming as Michelle “MJ” Jones

Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast – Sarah Greenwood
Black Panther – Hannah Beachler
Blade Runner 2049 – Dennis Gassner
The Shape of Water – Paul Denham Austerberry
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Rick Heinrichs
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Hugues Tissandier

Best Editing
Black Panther – Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello
The Fate of the Furious – Christian Wagner and Paul Rubell
Get Out – Gregory Plotkin
Logan – Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt
The Shape of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Bob Ducsay

Best Music
Black Panther – Ludwig Göransson
Coco – Michael Giacchino
The Greatest Showman – John Debney and Joseph Trapanese
The Shape of Water – Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – John Williams
Wonderstruck – Carter Burwell

Best Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast – Jacqueline Durran
Black Panther – Ruth E. Carter
The Greatest Showman – Ellen Mirojnick
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Michael Kaplan
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Olivier Bériot
Wonder Woman – Lindy Hemming

Best Make-up
Black Panther – Joel Harlow and Ken Diaz
Blade Runner 2049 – Donald Mowat
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – John Blake and Brian Sipe
It – Alec Gillis, Sean Sansom, Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Shane Zander
The Shape of Water – Mike Hill and Shane Mahan
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Peter Swords King and Neal Scanlan
Wonder – Arjen Tuiten

Best Special Effects
Black Panther – Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, and Dan Sudick
Blade Runner 2049 – John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover and Gerd Nefzer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island – Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould and Neal Scanlan
War for the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Joel Whist

Best Independent Film
I, Tonya
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Super Dark Times

Best International Film
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion
The Lodgers
The Man Who Invented Christmas
The Square
Wolf Warrior 2

Best Animated Film
Cars 3
Despicable Me 3
The Boss Baby
Your Name


Best Superhero Adaptation Television Series
Black Lightning
The Flash
Legends of Tomorrow
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Best Science Fiction Television Series
The 100
Doctor Who
The Expanse
The Orville
The X-Files

Best Fantasy Television Series
American Gods
Game of Thrones
The Good Place
The Librarians
The Magicians

Best Horror Television Series
American Horror Story: Cult
Ash vs Evil Dead
Fear the Walking Dead
The Strain
Teen Wolf
The Walking Dead

Best Action-Thriller Television Series
The Alienist
Animal Kingdom
Better Call Saul
Into the Badlands
Mr. Mercedes

Best Television Presentation
Channel Zero
Descendants 2
Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time”
Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Return
The Sinner
Twin Peaks: The Return

Best Actor on Television
Jon Bernthal – The Punisher as Frank Castle / Punisher
Bruce Campbell – Ash vs Evil Dead as Ash Williams
Sam Heughan – Outlander as Jamie Fraser
Jason Isaacs – Star Trek: Discovery as Captain Gabriel Lorca
Andrew Lincoln – The Walking Dead as Rick Grimes
Seth MacFarlane – The Orville as Ed Mercer
Kyle MacLachlan – Twin Peaks: The Return as Dale Cooper
Ricky Whittle – American Gods as Shadow Moon

Best Actress on Television
Gillian Anderson – The X-Files as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully
Caitriona Balfe – Outlander as Claire Fraser
Melissa Benoist – Supergirl as Kara Danvers / Supergirl
Lena Headey – Game of Thrones as Cersei Lannister
Sonequa Martin-Green – Star Trek: Discovery as Michael Burnham
Adrianne Palicki – The Orville as Commander Kelly Grayson
Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story: Cult as Ally Mayfair-Richards and Susan Atkins
Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Fargo as Nikki Swango

Best Supporting Actor on Television
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – Game of Thrones as Jaime Lannister
Miguel Ferrer – Twin Peaks: The Return as Albert Rosenfield
Kit Harington – Game of Thrones as Jon Snow
Doug Jones – Star Trek: Discovery as Commander Saru
Christian Kane – The Librarians as Jacob Stone
Michael McKean – Better Call Saul as Chuck McGill
Khary Payton – The Walking Dead as King Ezekiel
Evan Peters – American Horror Story: Cult as Kai Anderson, Andy Warhol, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Jesus, Charles Manson

Best Supporting Actress on Television
Odette Annable – Supergirl as Samantha Arias / Reign
Dakota Fanning – The Alienist as Sara Howard
Danai Gurira – The Walking Dead as Michonne
Melissa McBride – The Walking Dead as Carol Peletier
Candice Patton – The Flash as Iris West
Adina Porter – American Horror Story: Cult as Beverly Hope
Krysten Ritter – The Defenders as Jessica Jones
Rhea Seehorn – Better Call Saul as Kimberly “Kim” Wexler

Best Performance by a Younger Actor in a Television Series
KJ Apa – Riverdale as Archie Andrews
Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things as Eleven
Max Charles – The Strain as Zach Goodweather
Alycia Debnam-Carey – Fear the Walking Dead as Alicia Clark
David Mazouz – Gotham as Bruce Wayne
Lili Reinhart – Riverdale as Betty Cooper
Chandler Riggs – The Walking Dead as Carl Grimes
Cole Sprouse – Riverdale as Jughead Jones

Best Guest Performance in a Television Series
Bryan Cranston – Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams as Silas Herrick
Michael Greyeyes – Fear the Walking Dead as Qaletqa Walker
David Lynch – Twin Peaks: The Return as FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole
Jeffrey Dean Morgan – The Walking Dead as Negan
Rachel Nichols – The Librarians as Nicole Noone
Jesse Plemons – Black Mirror as Robert Daly
Hartley Sawyer – The Flash as Ralph Dibny / Elongated Man
Michelle Yeoh – Star Trek: Discovery as Captain Philippa Georgiou / Emperor Georgiou

Best Animated Series or Film on Television
BoJack Horseman
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Family Guy
Rick and Morty
The Simpsons
Star Wars Rebels

Best New Media Television Series
Altered Carbon
Black Mirror
The Handmaid’s Tale
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
Star Trek: Discovery
Stranger Things

Best New Media Superhero Series
Future Man
Marvel’s The Defenders
Marvel’s Iron Fist
Marvel’s Runaways
Marvel’s The Punisher
The Tick


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