Indie Horror Month Tip of the Scalpel: The Blair Witch Project

Post Thumb:


Indie Horror Month Tip of the Scalpel: The Blair Witch ProjectAs we wind down Indie Horror Month here at Dread Central, we’ve got one more Tip of the Scalpel especially saved for our indie friends. But before we get into that, there’s one more group that deserves a nod.

What better time than Indie Horror Month to salute the do-it-yourself filmmakers out there who are getting things done. These are the guys who slog through a 40-hour work week, then when Saturday rolls around they bust out the production equipment and spend their free time filming and editing for the sheer love of the game.

These are the people who bring us such entertaining productions as the Bloody Cuts series, The Chainsaw Sally Show, Night Terrors, The Social Media Massacre and the numerous other shorts and web series you see featured here on a regular basis and we can’t thank them enough for their efforts. Keep up your amazing work. You’re greatly appreciated. Now, onto the Scalpel …

Indie Horror Month Tip of the Scalpel: The Blair Witch Project

“…Okay, here’s your motivation. You’re lost, you’re angry in the woods and no one is here to help you. There’s a witch and she keeps leaving shit outside your door. There’s no one here to help you! She left little trinkets, you took one of them, she ran after us. There’s no one here to help you! We walked for 15 hours today, we ended up in the same place! There’s no one here to help you, THAT’S your motivation! THAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION!”

Taken by itself, The Blair Witch Project was a good indie film. But when you consider the impact the film had, and continues to have, on the horror genre, one must name The Blair Witch Project as one of the most influential indie films in the last 20 years.

The creators behind the film, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, knew one very important fact when it came to making a scary movie…the more the images on the screen seem to be genuinely real, the more disturbing it becomes for the audience. And a disturbed horror audience is generally a satisfied horror audience. The simple question they faced is the same that every horror filmmaker must tackle. How do we make it seem more real? The answer they came up with was brilliant.

Myrick and Sanchez decided to go with the basically new concept of the found footage movie. Yes, filmmakers had experimented with the recovered footage concept before The Blair Witch Project, most notably in 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust, but it didn’t become a mainstream technique until others saw just how powerful an approach to creating a movie it was. Some amazing films would later follow suit. Movies such as [REC], Paranormal Activity, Troll Hunter, Cloverfield, August Underground’s Mordum and Diary of the Dead all owe a debt of gratitude to The Blair Witch Project for breathing life into the found footage sub-genre of horror.

Indie Horror Month Tip of the Scalpel: The Blair Witch Project

But what would make found footage even scarier? If you could get at least some of the audience to believe it was real, and at least put a question of doubt into the minds of the others the film hits even harder. The way The Blair Witch Project did this was another stroke of genius. Spearheaded by Artisan Studios executive Steven Rothenberg, the marketing team went all out to make the footage presented in The Blair Witch Project seem absolutely real.

The first effort was the release of “The Curse of The Blair Witch” on what was then called the Sci-Fi Channel. This mockumentary lead viewers to believe the upcoming film was, in fact, real. And in case that wasn’t enough to sway the opinion of the potential audience members, Rothenberg and crew attacked from an entirely new angle…the internet. The Blair Witch Project was the first film to use the power of the internet in such a creative and effective way. A viral marketing campaign was set up to add to the rumors that this film was indeed found police footage. It worked really well, as this film that was put together for pennies became the highest grossing indie film of all time, taking in nearly $250 million worldwide.

The Blair Witch Project was a true case of indie filmmaking scoring a huge win. From the wonderfully suspenseful film, to the unique way it was shot and the absolute master class in marketing, The Blair Witch Project was a perfect storm for success. The film paved the way for future indie filmmakers to have a chance to break the bank at the box office as audiences proved they would respond if given a quality product. It showed indie filmmakers that the right combination of creativity and smarts could cash in big time as the makers of films like Saw, Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside quickly found out.

It’s for the absolute lasting impact the film had on our beloved horror genre, the implementation of the first-person camera angle and found footage approach to filmmaking and the use of the internet to give the movie even more power…things that have been replicated continuously ever since…that we give this week’s Tip of the Scalpel to The Blair Witch Project.

Indie Horror Month Tip of the Scalpel: The Blair Witch Project

Got news? Click here to submit it!
Be part of the project in the comments section below!

Image Type 1:

Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!

Scott Hallam

We all go a little mad sometimes...haven't you?

Get Your Box of Dread Now
*US Residents Only .
  • Hakk Wylde

    Found-footage films are as polarizing as reality TV so right off the bat BWP is not for everyone. Indeed, just by design, It has less rewatch value than most. For me it was the consistently claustrophobic atmosphere of it all that had me transfixed. I’m on the fence about the main young actors but I felt the interviews at the beginning were believable enough to set a palpable ominous tone to work with. Admit it, we’ve all seen those done way worse! }:] I think BWP would have a better perceived legacy if other movies of this type to follow had improved upon the format instead of making us tire of it. I’m Hakkin’ at YOU, Paranormal Activity! LOL~

  • Vanvance1

    Definitely one of the top 3 most overrated horror films I’ve ever seen. I found it to be horribly dull and it’s legacy of 0 story combined with endless shakey cam has spawned a million imitators.

    This is the film equivalent of people painting squares on a canvas and calling it art.

  • kiddcapone

    No, it was really that bad of a movie. But you know what, after watching the string of copycat found footage flicks which seemingly will never end, it’s not AS bad as I original thought.

    I never for one second thought it was real, I just thought I’d see more than 3 annoying people I didn’t like screaming at each other over a lost map, twigs snapping in the distance, and an unrewarding finale. Especially after all the hype surrounding it.

    It just wasn’t proportional. If it had a lot of shit going on, then that ending, I would have liked it. If it had nothing going on, then an explosive type ending, I would have liked it. But it was nothing going on and unspectacular ending…not exactly something worth watching more than once. Zero replay value.

    • Doctor Gash

      I’ve got to agree on the lack of replay value with Blair Witch, Kidd. The reason I held it in such high regard was the fact that it inspired thousands of copycats. Now, in hindsight, whether that is good or bad for us as viewers can be debated. However, the big thing was the viral marketing of the film. Now that is something we can all thank The Blair Witch Project for.

      The film is great at building suspense, but the question is, is the suspense worth it if there is no payoff? Is it about the journey or the destination? That’s a question each viewer must ask of himself. But looking for an indie topic to pitch in for Indie Horror Month, I think The Blair Witch Project, and earlier Indie Scalpel honoree, the lovely Debbie Rochon, are more than worthy. Thanks for the comment, kiddcapone. Always like to hear what you guys are thinking.

      • kiddcapone

        I’m never lost for an opinion. 🙂

        I appreciate BWP for what it is, it’s just not for me. I have lightened my stance against it over the years. BWP had the potential to knock it out of the ballpark but it just never had enough juice to be more than a lazy fly ball…which is still how I feel about Paranormal Activity too. Both were so heavily hyped before I saw them, who knows if they truly had a legit chance to live up to it if I went in with zero expectations…

  • Hakk Wylde