The Blair Witch Project
Today’s request is an oldie but goodie. Thanks, James, for suggesting The Blair Witch Project. We had to get to it eventually, right?
We break down this classic found-footage project, which is certainly a project of its time. How does it hold up today? Listen and fine out what we think about that.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Episode 218, 2 Guys and a Chainsaw.
Todd: Hello and welcome to another episode of Two Guys and a Chainsaw. I’m Todd.
Craig: and I’m Craig.
Todd: Today’s film is 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, submitted to us by James as a request. I think both Craig and I are going to have a lot to say about this movie because we were in college. Uh, when this came out, it was big, big news all over the place and it. Broke a lot of convention set some records and surprised a lot of people at the time.
For a lot of reasons we’ll probably get into, I got to see it in the theater. I think you got to see in the theater too, right? Yep. I saw it with my, uh, girlfriend at the time. Who’s now my wife. So, you know, happy memories there. But I do remember that she threw up, uh, after watching it. She literally couldn’t watch the movie after about 15 minutes watched most of the movie through sideways glances, and mostly with her eyes closed.
I think today, if we’d gone in to see it, she would have just left the theater in a Huff, but, uh, it must’ve been real love at the time. Right. Um, But, uh, yeah, she threw up and not because, you know, everything that was happening on screen was so disgusting, but because the camera work, uh, was so shaky because this is a found footage movie.
It’s not the very first found footage movie ever to be shot, but it’s probably one of the most notorious and certainly one of the first modern day ones to get huge box office success. And it therefore spawned a whole genre really. Have a found footage, filmmaking. I mean, this movie cost about, depending on who you listen to $25,000 to $75,000 to make it was shot on a 16 millimeter camera and a high eight camera, which is not even digital.
It’s like. Uh, it was just, this is the video camera shot off of a 35 page script that had no dialogue. All of the dialogue was intended to be improvised. It was in fact improvised by these three actors walking around in the woods for eight days. Uh, this was packaged up and taken to Sundance and because of a very clever marketing campaign on the part of the producers of the film who went to great lengths to try to convince people that this.
The events of this movie, the found footage in this movie actually happened. It did get quite a bit of notoriety. It was picked up very quickly by lion’s gate. It was one of their early successes and distributed and made hundreds of millions across the world. By the time it was all over. So. Very very notorious, but was a very brand new thing for a lot of us when we went out to see it.
So at the time we saw, it seemed very fresh and original and interesting who everybody was talking about it. Right, Craig?
Craig: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s why I saw it. I was excited about it. And you know, like you said, these types of movies that have such name recognition, if you’re a horror fan, which I assume you are otherwise.
Why would you be here listening to this podcast? I imagine you’ve seen this movie, so we will I’m sure. Talk about some plot points and whatnot, but really when it comes down to it, it’s a very simple story about these three, I guess, kind of like student filmmakers, um, led by a girl named Heather. Uh, all of the actors in the movie used their real names.
Uh, Heather Donahue is her name, uh, and she wants to do kind of this documentary project about this local legend, I guess, from either the town that she’s from or, or nearby in Maryland. And she recruits a couple of guys, Josh, who it seems like she’s friends with and Mike. Who it doesn’t seem, Heather doesn’t seem to know him in the beginning.
It’s like they meet in the beginning, but I guess he maybe had some connection with Josh or something. But anyway, she basically just pulls along these two guys to operate cameras for her and they go out, well, first they go to this town, uh Burkittsville, which is an actual town in Maryland. And they do some.
Interviews with the local townspeople. And that’s some interesting stuff which I want to talk about, but eventually they get into the woods, uh, and, and spooky things start happening. And that’s pretty much the whole movie, but what made the movie so interesting to me at the time? Was that I was one of the people, and I’m not ashamed to say this because they did such a good job with the marketing.
I was one of the people who was duped into believing that these events were real, that this was actual documentary footage that had been found, uh, and that these three student filmmakers were missing prior to the movie’s release. And upon the movie’s release, if you went. The IMDP page. Um, all of the principal actors were listed on IMD be as, as missing.
They even had aired a couple of weeks before the release of the movie. They had aired a documentary about the Blair witch legend on the scifi channel. And they had presented that as being factual as well. And I had seen that, um, and it looked legit as legit as any of those. You know, supernatural documentary type things look.
And so when I went to the theater to see it, I too saw it with my then boyfriend. Who’s now my, whatever you want to call him, the guy I’ve lived with for the last 20 years.
Craig: We went and saw it together. And, um, he’s not even a big fan of horror as I’ve said many times, but, uh, we both were freaked out because we thought that what we were seeing on the screen was real. And we went and saw it in a different town because it didn’t play. I don’t, well, maybe it played in our town, but if it.
Did we went and saw it in a different town. And on the ride home, we were just talking about it the whole time, like, Oh my gosh, what could it have been? What, you know, where people messing with them? Was it really supernatural? Um, and of course, weeks later, uh, it came out that, uh, it was fiction, but the experience of seeing it, believing it to be real was a really cool experience that anybody who will see it now, We’ll never have.
And so I think that going into it, knowing that it’s a piece of fiction drastically alters your reactions
Todd: to them. I think you’re absolutely right. I it’s. Okay. It’s a product of its time and what a time it was really. Now it’s almost laughable today to think that we would consider a movie that’s released as a big feature across the country.
That’s been produced by some people made money off of somebody’s tragedy in this mysterious, crazy ass way. Right? And even with the backing of some documentary on TV and a website, they put together a website with all these interviews. We’re a little more sophisticated. Now I would say because of all of the internet, that’s come in the last 20 years and God, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years and this kind of thing happens all the time.
We really don’t know what to believe. We’ve almost become so cynical now because we see so much fakeness around us. That the stuff we even want to believe is true is sometimes needs verification, like 30 times, right. I just saw the tiger King documentary on TV. And I was just like stunned at how this could actually be true, you know,
Craig: but you’re right.
It was a different time. Like, it’s not like we were in the dark ages in 1994, the internet existed, you know, we used it for school and work and all those types of things, but,
Todd: but we didn’t have YouTube. We didn’t have Facebook
Craig: and we, we didn’t have smart phones. And like, I was a poor college student. I couldn’t afford to have internet at home.
Like I had to go to a computer lab on campus, uh, to use the internet. So it’s not like we had it at our fingertips, the way that we do today. I’m sure that, you know, somebody who really wanted to do some sleuthing even at the time could have figured it out. And I’m sure that there’s probably a part of me that was very excited about it.
And didn’t. He didn’t want to believe it all about it. Yeah. I wanted to think it was real and I’m glad I did. I mean, it was a really fun experience.
Todd: I’m a little jealous of you actually, Craig, to be honest, I was thought I was going to make fun of you for this, but the way that you put it, I actually feel a little jealous because um, I went into this fully knowing full well, it was a movie and actually.
There were people in the parking lot could have been you and Alan, who knows, but they were people in the parking lot leaving that theater not far from where your town is, they were talking about, Oh my God, the movie, like, and did you see online how that girl did this? And this guy did that. And Beck and I, and our companions were just kind of shaking our heads going.
They are so dumb that they think this is real and coming into the movie at that time with just knowing that this couldn’t possibly be real in my mind. Anyway, I found that very tedious. I was really hyped up for this very scary experience. And yes, people had even said, look, the movie scary, even though it doesn’t show you anything, you know what you don’t see, it’s just, this is scarier than what you do see.
And I bite and I buy that hook line and sinker, you know, I mean, we see a ton of movies and I, and I completely understand that. So I wasn’t even expecting to be able to see the witch on screen or to get these. Big, you know, gross reveal or whatever, kind of see violence or whatever. It’s a shock me, man.
Even with that, I just felt like it was about an hour and a half of people wandering around the woods, swearing at each other. And, and that was kind of how I left it. I was, I would say it was a little chilled by the ending because I thought it was kind of clever and unexpected and. Maybe that was about it.
Craig: You haven’t seen part of that is what made it feel even more real to me now, you already said it was, it was unscripted. You know, they were given basic plot points and they were basically dropped in the woods. The crew, the very small crew and the director were always in nearby, but out of sight and the.
The three actors had handheld walkie talkies that they could communicate with. The crew if they needed to, but basically what happened was the crew would go set up just like these crates with equipment that the people were going to need for the day and with the instructions and a map for four locations.
So they would show up in the morning, they would find this. Uh, instructions, you know, they would get new film reels. There would be instructions inside the tens for the film reels. And they would be given, you know, an idea of where they were supposed to go. And then they would just, you know, walk to those places throughout the day.
There were things in place like they had a GPS. System in case they got lost. Um, they, I don’t believe they were allowed to have their cell phones on them. And in fact, uh, though they were guaranteed that they were at no risk of being lost. They did get seriously lost a number of times. And one of those times they actually had.
Take shelter at just some random strangers house, uh, until they could call the crew and say, come get us, we got lost. And they took them back to a motel for that night and then set them back loose in the forest the next day. But all of the dialogue. Though they had, you know, they were given directives like, okay, this is your relationship.
Like initially Heather and Mike were supposed to be Antigony antagonistic towards one another. And you can see that Andy and Josh and Heather were supposed to be friendlier because they had an established relationship. Well, when they got out. They’re in the woods. I mean, these three actors, they weren’t friends in real life.
They just auditioned for these roles. So when they got out there, it was actually Heather and Josh who had a lot of tension between them, um, so much so, uh, that the filmmakers actually had to step in at one point, you know, they said they weren’t going to do that. They were just going to let things play out.
The way they played out, but it got so tense between, uh, Heather and Josh at one point that they had to step in, um, to, to bring it down a notch. But that’s part of what I think made it feel real was that it didn’t feel scripted because it wasn’t. And, and yeah, you said they walk around the woods swearing a lot.
They do. They say like 160 times through the movie, but. That’s how the people that I know
Craig: you know, not, not necessarily in mixed company, but if I were out in the woods, lost with a couple of my friends, you bet your ass, you would hear the F word probably about every other second. You wouldn’t normally find that in a scripted piece because they’d be worried about ratings and, you know, being able to air it on TV.
These guys who made the film, you know, just two guys getting started out, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. They had no real aspirations for this. They hoped. Their, their big wish was that maybe they could get it on cable TV. Um, and it just so happened that it did so well at Cannes. It was cans, I think, where it premiered
Todd: the Sundance, I think
Yeah, it did so well that there was a bidding war for it and, and the rights were, uh, Sold for just over a million dollars and it got this big, a theatrical release. So I guess it’s just kind of that grassroots feel of it, the kind of, and it feels amateur the, the whole film. Well, the vast majority, I think 90, some percent of the film was filmed by the actors on location in real time.
Uh, and it, and it feels like it, um, they ended up with something, I don’t know. 20 to 30 or something. Hours of footage. Uh, the original cut of the film was two and a half hours. It ends up, I think it’s just over, if you don’t count the credits, it’s just over an hour and 15 minutes, um, that we see, but I think that it’s, it’s well edited.
Uh, but at the same time, the F the cinematography seems amateur enough that you believe that it was shot by amateurs, because it was on all of those points. It works, but your right, knowing that it’s not real, it’s kind of boring to watch people walk around the woods for. An hour and a half.
Todd: Yeah. Well, I mean the, nowadays I think that’s how people are gonna watch this movie.
So it’s really, you know, we have to talk about it in context as well as today. Right. We have to kind of measure those two things. That’s why we’re going to talk so much about the history of this movie. They had set up a website where they had used footage that they actually had shot for the movie, but decided to leave out there’s a hole.
There was supposed to be a whole section of the movie at the beginning. Or maybe at the end where they had set up the missing people with interviews stating that the kids had gone missing and fake news footage and all that. And instead, all we get at the beginning of the film is an October, 1994. Uh, three filmmakers went into the woods to film a documentary about the Blair witch and were never seen again.
And this footage was found, uh, years later, basically they decided that that stuff would be a little too cliche and too. Um, too scripted for they’re mostly unscripted film. Really good decision, by the way. Yes. They were able to use it in the marketing campaign, but the fact that the movie begins with just a title, the Blair witch project, that, and then cuts right into their project right into their footage and then ends.
And just gets pretty much silent credits for the ending is also powerful. Right? It feels gritty. It feels like something you happened upon. It feels like that tape in the ring or in what was that one Christmas movie we saw where the kids pop a tape and that they find in,
Craig: Oh yeah, no, it was a Halloween movie.
It was one of the anthologies, the one with. The scary clown, I think.
Todd: Yeah. The
Craig: clown, I dunno. I’ll remember.
Todd: Yeah. Yeah. The scary clown, but yeah, I mean it has that feel to it and you’re right. They were very successful at what they set out to do. It’s very convincing as a. Found footage, film and, and the higher Josh, because he could run a camera.
They said it, they were like over 2000 actors that audition for this. And they had a bunch of people improvise together, narrowed them down. Josh had experienced running a camera. And so that was one of the big reasons he was picked to be one of the people here. And then there were all kinds of ideas that they had, like they were going to maybe have a romantic angle between Josh and Heather, but then they kind of decided not to go with that.
And then the, the instructions that they got in the film cancers throughout the eight day shoot, where were specific to each character. So each character would read them. You know, it’s like an improv game really like today you need to question, you know, today, lose the map today. You decide that you need to walk South and you’re not going to take no for an answer for that kind of thing.
Right. And so these actors were just given little bits of things to play off of, but very talented in their ability to do that. I mean, 20 hours of footage were shot for this movie and, you know, we’re edited down eventually to get the, the 80 minutes that we have. And it’s not even a particularly tight. 80 minutes.
Right? I think the movie would actually do well if it were even shorter, but that’s not something you can put in a movie theater, you know, you can make money from. So I understand why they didn’t the part, the first part of the movie, I think, and the last bit of the movie where the were the best parts for me when they’re in the town of Burkittsville, which is where this Blair Lich legend actually supposedly comes from and they’re interviewing townspeople.
And that part also feels really genuine even though. Most of the town, the people they’re interviewing are actors. Right.
Craig: And they are, but the, but the act, the three principal actors didn’t know that that was something else that, you know, these, the filmmakers are so clever. They were so clever in their planning.
I can’t think of another. Example of where something like this has been done, where they went out of their way to establish this mythology of the Blair witch, which they totally made up. Like it was, it was inspired by some other things, but. Really it’s entirely made up by them, created by them, but they convinced the three principle actors that it was actual lore.
And so when the three actors went into the town and were interviewing these townspeople, they believed that this was actual lore of this town. And they believed that all of the people that they were talking to were genuine citizens of Burkittsville and a couple of, and a couple of them were. But most of them weren’t, you know, they were paid actors as well.
Um, but the footage for the most part comes across as really genuine and some things, and it’s not just in this early footage, but things throughout, like there were just these happy accidents, um, that turned out so well for them. One of my favorite interviews, uh, is it just, it looks so genuine, a very normal looking middle-class.
Mother, uh, outside of a store holding her kid, who’s probably two, or maybe even younger than two. And she’s talking about the lore of the Blair witch and the kid for whatever reason, got kind of upset and kept trying to put his hand over her face and like started crying. Like he didn’t want her to talk about that.
About that I ever heard was the two men were out hunting and they were camped near though. Cabinet or something that she’s supposed to horn and they disappeared off the face of the earth. Really. Okay. All right. Ingrid, I’m just telling a scary story, but it’s not true now that could only be an accident.
There’s no way that they coached that kid to do that. Um, but it played so well. That was so creepy. I thought
Todd: that was the second creepiest part of the movie. I was that kid. Yeah. That whole bit is great. And the setup is good and they even get to an older woman. Who’s. I think played up to be a very religious old ladies is sitting in a trailer, comes out and is very free to talk about an encounter that she had with the witch, where she encountered this woman in this figure in the woods.
And, and she had hair on her arms and the woman opened her. She was wearing a blouse or something and opened up her blouse and she had hair all over her body. And also clever in that none of it is really complete. Right. Nobody sits down and says, let me tell you the legend of the Blair witch of Burkittsville.
No. And just lays out the mythology for you. It’s exactly like folklore and legends and things get passed down to generation to generation. This, person’s got a bit of it that person’s got a bit of it. This person has a bit that contradicts what that person says. This person says they’re full of shit.
Half of them don’t believe it. Some of them are telling it jokingly one, one person, only one person really tells it in a serious way. And then there’s this stuff about rusty par in there and somebody being murdered and. I have to admit, even after watching the movie the first time and the second time through, I still don’t have a grill clear concept of what this actual Blair witch legend is.
I would be compelled to go to the internet to research more. Right. It’s just so real in that way, too, right? It doesn’t feel like a movie, right?
Craig: Yes. I totally agree. I mean, basically I think what the Lord boils down to is there a, was this, which, you know, for whatever reason, I don’t remember if they said that she had originally been a townsperson and she had been out cast or something.
I don’t remember, but for as long as anybody can remember, there’s been this witch that haunts the woods. But beyond that, she. This, which makes other bad things happen. So like, um, you mentioned, uh, Rustin par Rustin Parr was this guy who moved out there into the woods. He had a house out in the woods and all of a sudden, all these kids went missing.
Like seven kids went missing eventually one day they said, this is all coming from a townsperson interview. He came back into town and. I said I’m finished and nobody knew what he was talking about, but they went out to his house and they found all these dead kids. Um, and he said that he had been compelled to do it.
He couldn’t take the eyes watching him from the woods anymore or something like that when Heather and the boys are out in the woods, the first location they go to is this place called coffin rock. And she tells this story about this group of hunters, I think who, uh, went out into the woods and she’s very dramatic.
I love all of them. Her, especially early in the movie, when she’s doing the narration for this documentary, she puts on this totally affected voice. And like, yes it’s. So it’s, it’s an, Oh my God. She’s terribly annoying through the whole thing. Like, she’s lucky that those guys didn’t kill her. Like
Todd: I might
Craig: have in the torso of each man, the intestines had been torn out crudely on each man.
Sun bleached base was inscribed and decipherable writing. Cut into their flesh with an eerie precision. The men still entranced by the horror of what had happened, left the scene to find the sheriff and did not sketch the writing and did not remove the bodies from the rock upon the turn vultures were seen at the rock, but upon inspection, the bodies had been removed by persons unknown.
The search body claim to the stench of death was still thick and whomever had taken the bodies had done so in a matter of hours, That happened here at Coppin rock.
Todd: She’s the real Blair
Craig: witch. Oh my gosh. She is awful. Uh, sorry, Heather Donahue, but you were really annoying.
Todd: I mean, she intentionally played it that way though.
She said she based the character off of a director. She had worked with who thought she thought was just this pretentious asshole. So yeah, she did a good job at that. You’re right. Super annoying through the whole thing.
Craig: It comes across. But, you know, in this totally, it’s what you would expect. Somebody who’s trying to sound like a reporter or a documentarian to sound like it’s totally affected and stupid.
So there’s tons of lore for them to play with and explore. And you’re right. It’s disjointed. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but again, to me, that added to the realism of it. Cause you didn’t know what to believe. You didn’t know what app, you know, the story was. So broad, you know, you didn’t know, are we, is there really some sort of supernatural, which, and these are the things that they go through the, in the movie too, you know, they, at first, when they start hearing weird noises in the night, they think that somebody’s sitting with them, you know, like locals or somebody who doesn’t want them out there.
And then they start to wonder if it’s supernatural or whatever. Another one of my favorite things. Another one of these accidents that I think worked to their advantage so much is, uh, you know, they’re camping and they get lost. I mean, that’s the biggest concern right away is that they’re lost in the woods.
And Heather is, you know, feigning this confidence that she’s going to get them out, but tensions are growing as, um, you know, they, it becomes increasingly clear that they’re lost, but, uh, they start hearing strange things in the night. And at one point, and this was so scary to me in the theater, they’ve already heard the noises one night and the noises sound like breaking twigs and branches.
And then maybe also some kind of like animal noises or voices. It’s all very obscure, which is good. I wouldn’t, you know, you don’t want it to be too clear because you want it to be a mystery for us too, as much as it is for them. But, uh, I think the second night they’re all huddled. In the tent thinking, what are they going to do?
And something attacks the tent. Ultimately in real life. What it was was the director was just standing outside the tent, hitting it with his hands, but we’re seeing it from the inside and it looks really scary. The actors didn’t know what was going to happen there. Reactions are genuine. They decide to get at well, decide.
It all happens very quickly. They, they jump out of the tent and go running. Um, and so the footage is super shaky cause they’re running and it’s dark. And so you can just see in the beam of the light, the light on the camera. And at one point you hear Heather. Say you don’t see her because we can only see her back, but she looks over to the left and she says, bye, bye.
Gosh, who was filming from behind was supposed to pan left to where she was looking. And we were supposed to see the Blair witch. And it was somebody I don’t know. Part, one of the crew members dressed in like all white with pantyhose, uh, over his head. And we were just supposed to get a fleeting glance, but Josh forgot to pan and they didn’t reshoot it.
So we never get a glimpse. Of the, which, which I think is so much better than if we had,
Craig: I don’t, I mean, you know, maybe, maybe that would have been creepy imagery, but I just, in my mind, the way that it was described, what it was supposed to be, it, it sounds hokey. I mean, maybe they could have pulled it off and it would have looked weird and creepy.
Um, But I think that I prefer that a, a mistake was made and we didn’t actually ever see the, which
Todd: I think you’re probably right about that. We’d probably be saying about how it would have been better if they had not had the witch at all, rather than see this white, this weird white figure running by like, what the heck was that?
But on the same sense. It was a bit of a disappointment for me in the movie. And maybe it’s because again, I went in there not really believing all this, so my imagination, maybe wasn’t working over time, but seriously, like a, as I was watching it, I really wanted so badly to see. Something. And really when we do get to see what we do get to see are, are not figures and not people, but weird things, right?
Yeah. They come across a piles of, of rocks along their path. One of them, at one point there was a pile of seven rocks. And I think that was supposed to reference maybe seven of the kids who were killed. At one time in one of the stories,
Craig: seven piles of rocks. Yeah.
Todd: When they wake up from, I think the first night that they’re kind of molester, they’re hearing things or their tent is something, uh, when they wake up, they step outside and there are three piles of rocks out there.
And it’s obviously a pile of rock for each of them and that’s creepy. Yeah. And they think it’s creepy too. But then they press on and it’s, you know, 20 more minutes of them arguing about who lost the map. What, where are we, how are we going to get out of here fighting, not fighting it, yada, yada yada, then they camp again.
And there’s some mysterious noises. And then. They wake up and they go around some more and then they come across one of the more iconic things from this movie. And that is this little part in the woods, kind of a mini clearing, where there are all of these stick figures. They’re hanging from trees and they’re stuck to trees and they’re tied to trees and they’re on the ground.
And this is pretty well freaking them out because. Well, of course, a pile of rocks isn’t natural, but these clearly tied together, stick, figure somebody or something did this, and it’s creepy as hell. Right. So that freaks them out and it would freak me out too, if I were out there in the woods. But as a theater goer, wasn’t really freaking me out too much.
And, uh, you know, so then they go and they argue some more and they’re lost. Some more. And this time around, I was really trying hard to get in the heads of these kids. Like, okay, I’m lost in the woods with them. Wouldn’t I be scared too. Wouldn’t I be scared too, because that seems to be the scariest part of the movie is they’re lost a, night’s going to come at some point and mysterious things are happening at night and these ominous signs are.
Along their path. They’re coming across one point, they think they’ve been walking South the whole way, but they come across the same Creek with the same log that they previously crossed and that’s frustrating. And they had these moments of breakdown, which are also really good. Right. Yeah. And, and convincing.
Craig: Well, because, because they are genuine, you know, they had some idea of what was going to happen, but there were also tons of surprises along the way. Plus you also have to just consider, you know, all of this tension, the infighting it’s real because they really are sleeping in the woods for eight days. Um, and you know, they’re.
They really are walking through the woods all day, every day. Um, they were given, you know, limited food, you know, they were given some snacks and things, not like they were being starved, but they, they were exhausted and hungry. And so, you know, they’re given these directions, these maps to follow and they walked through the forest all day.
And they end up back exactly where they started in the morning. And so, you know, Heather at first doesn’t want to admit it. And when she finally realizes that that Mike or whoever it is, that’s telling her it’s the same tree across the Creek. When she finally realizes it’s true. She falls to the ground and weeps.
And I think that a lot of that. You know, she’s an actress, but I think a lot of it is genuine. Like Jesus, we just walked through the woods all day, carrying these huge backpacks, all this camera equipment, just to end up where we started. Um, so some of that frustration, uh, is real and you can see it in. The tension when they fight too.
I just thought it was really kind of hilarious that, you know, in the beginning, Heather and Mike are kind of, um, sparring with one another. Uh, and Josh is playing the peacekeeper and that’s the way it was supposed to be. But as the movie goes on, you just see Josh getting more and more angry at Heather.
And eventually Mike has to step in and be the peacekeeper.
Todd: That’s right.
Craig: And it just works for me. I mean, I I’m going on and on about all these great things, I, none of that in the Gates, what you say, the fact that if you know, it’s not real, it’s just not as compelling, but I also think that it is more compelling if you know about the production, which is why I think we’re focusing so much on that, because I think it’s more interesting than just talking about people walking around in the woods.
Todd: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of sad, right? It’s like something that we’re kind of, you get a lot more fun out of watching and analyzing it nowadays than you get out of actually experiencing it. Really, maybe the way it was intended to be experienced in the beginning. You know, it’s more of just like a cultural Relic that we can examine.
Like it’s sitting in a museum somewhere, you know, but that’s not necessarily bad. There are a lot of movies like that too. Um, that we just can’t enjoy so much today, but we can still appreciate them.
Craig: And you said cultural Relic in many ways. It is. And I think in that way, that hurts it too, if you are a first time viewer, because like even those, those stick figures there’s so.
Iconic at this point, you know, they’ve popped up in other movies. They’ve popped up in television shows. They’ve you know, that, that imagery, you, you see it video games, you see it all over the place, these creepy stick figures. I don’t recall ever seeing them before this movement. And so. You know, when I was seeing it for the first time, they’re very simple.
They’re just these very rustic made out of twigs and things from the forest tied together to kind of be representative of like a human figure. And they’re hanging from the trees. And I had never seen anything like that before. And it was very ominous. Young people, especially, or anybody going in and watching it now they’ve seen it, you know, like, Oh yeah, I’ve seen that before.
That’s scary. Well, I hadn’t seen it before and it was scary.
Todd: So younguns. Yeah. But they had that like Wicker man, quote, you know, quality to them, like, um, evocative, maybe of some old religion or some people, you know, witchcrafty thing in the forest. So like you said, even though at the time. Uh, it was the first time we’d seen them.
They were super creepy and now we’ve seen that kind of thing all over the place. So it doesn’t really feel it doesn’t have that impact. I think another scene that I really enjoyed and I hadn’t even remembered from before. Was, uh, when Josh is super frustrated with Heather and they’re definitely lost and Heather’s frustrated too.
I think she’s had her breakdown. She’s just leaning up against a tree and he has her camera and he is taunting her.
Craig: Well, you can do better than that. Okay. Here’s your motivation? You’re lost. You’re angry in the woods. And no one here is here to help you. There’s a fucking witch and she keeps leaving shit outside your door.
There’s no one here to help you. She left little trinkets. You fucking took one of them. She ran after us. There’s no one here to help. 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.
Todd: Tears are welling up in her eyes and.
That’s gotta be a little genuine too. There’s a bit of Metta going on there as well. I think cause he, as an actor is taunting her as an actor in the same sense that she’s, you know, but it makes sense in the context of the movie as well. That seems really powerful and I felt really sorry for her at that moment, but I could also understand Josh his frustration, especially because she’s such a tool.
Yeah. Nothing’s more annoying. Well, there are a lot of annoying things, but there are a few things are more annoying than being in a situation with somebody else. Who’s pretending that everything’s all right. And pretending that they’re in control and trying so hard at it that they’re not even good at it.
And you know, they’re not in control and you just hate that, you know, it’s like, who are you to. To, to be so arrogant also, we’re all responsible for each other here. We’re all part of the situation. Well, how can you claim all the time that you’re in control is like, I can’t trust you anymore. And you’re supposed to be the one who’s leading this project.
It’s a really interesting dynamic between the three of them, even though it is rather
Craig: simple. Yeah. I don’t remember if it was right before that part or right after, but Josh is still behind the camera. Heather. Doesn’t like being on camera for whatever reason. But Josh is behind the camera and things have calmed down.
Uh, and he says, I think I figured out why you liked the camera so much. And she’s like, Oh yeah, how come? And he says, because it’s, it’s not reality. It’s filtered reality. When you’re behind the camera, you can kind of, um, convince yourself that it’s not real. Um, and that’s kinda. Netta. Yeah. Yeah. I, I liked that moment.
Todd: It’s really clever. It makes you wonder. And that’s another fun thing about this movie makes you, well, obviously they all came up with this dialogue themselves, right. It’s just really pretty smart. I mean, they deserve a ton of credit for, for this movie. They should get writing credits for this film.
Really? Yeah. I think they all did pretty well by the time it was over, they had to sign. Releases, um, stating that they would help keep up the fiction for a while that they were dead and missing. And even though, you know, they had missing, missing posters up at, at one of the film festivals, they had played like a, they were handing out flyers, like, let us know if you have information, any information about these actors or actresses who have disappeared, but it turned out there was a television executive who really had disappeared a few days before that.
And when they found that out, They’re kind of like, Oh, this is kind of a bad taste. So then they, they took those down and he was found later. Apparently. So, um, that was that’s nice. Um, but yeah, so to get back to the movie, uh, they want to run in the woods some more and uh, eventually one night they go to sleep and wake up and Josh is gone.
I think you said it earlier, that the dynamic between Heather and Josh in real life was getting so bad that the directors made the decision that they were going to pull Josh’s character out of there entirely.
Craig: It was supposed to be Mike, Mike was supposed to and, and S and Heather and Mike didn’t know that Josh was gonna disappear, that the film makers told him.
Wait until they go to sleep and then sneak out. Um, and so that’s what he did. And I read that the actor who played well, Josh Leonard, he snuck out and he found the filmmakers and they were like, okay, you’re dead now. And he was, he was actually relieved because there was a concert that he wanted to go to.
Todd: He said he liked took a shower, got stone, went to Danny’s and did a concert good for him. Yeah.
Craig: But yes. Right. And they wake up in the morning. They don’t know where he is. Um, but right outside the tent. And I don’t remember if this is. You know, and there had already been something established where like a previous morning, um, the, their camp had been messed with, and it was only Josh’s stuff that had been messed with.
And like, there was some kind of weird slime on his backpack or something. So they had kind of projected that maybe Josh was in trouble, but after he disappears, uh, right outside the tent, she finds this bundle of sticks. And I hadn’t put this together. Um, and, and I don’t know if this was the end. But there, there is, uh, an old story called.
The devil and Tom Walker, I think there’s two different. The devil there’s the devil and Tom Walker and the devil and Daniel Webster. I don’t remember which one it is, but in one of them, this guy goes into the woods and he makes a deal with the devil. Um, and he comes back and his horrible wife, uh, scolds him for not making a better deal.
So she goes out into the woods to make a deal with the devil and she never comes back. And later he goes out. The woods and he finds her apron all tied up. And when he opens it up, he finds like her heart and liver in there. Um, and in this, uh, she finds this bundle of sticks. And at first she just throws it away.
But later when she can get away and Mike isn’t around, she goes and she opens it up. And first of all, it’s bound in strips of. Josh’s shirt. And when she opens it up, there’s a packet made from the fabric of his shirt. And it’s, she can tell that it’s bloody from the outside. And when she opens it up, there are teeth in there.
Uh, and she freaks out. And I remember in the theater. Just being disgusted and just absolutely having no idea what was going on. Um, but that imagery, um, was pretty scary and gross and just the mere idea of it when they have no idea what’s going on.
Todd: Well, it’s the first time some harms come to a character.
And then at that point it’s verifiable harm, right? Somebody tore his shirt into strips. Bud took the time to put this bundle together with his teeth and blood and whatever else in it. And so, uh, I mean, at that point, you know, you just have to be over the moon, scared for your life.
Craig: Right. And they’ve heard his agonizing screams in the night for at least one night.
And then that kind of. So, you know, they hear his screams all through the night. She finds the bundle. They’re still lost. There’s uh, another nighttime where we get the infamous scene that was in all the trailers. That’s probably the most recognizable scene from the movie of Heather doing this nighttime confessional after Mike has gone to sleep.
And it’s just an intense closeup of her face, which again was another message. Steak. Yeah, she was supposed to be fully in frame, but she accidentally zoomed in too much. Um, so you can only kind of see her from her upper lip up. She goes on this whole monologue where she apologizes to her parents and to Josh’s parents.
I am so, so sorry for everything that has happened because in spite of what makes us now, it is my fault. Because it was my project that I insisted. I insisted on everything. It’s really effective because she’s ugly crying, you know, like
Todd: a lot of
Craig: actresses vanity wouldn’t allow this, um, you know, the, the tears are falling.
Snot is rolling out of her nose. Um, and it feels authentic.
Todd: It’s also gross to watch. I remember. Is it one of the scary movies, the parody film? Probably just stuff like snot, continually gushing out of the character’s notes during the seat. It’s hilarious. Oh God man. Yeah, but it’s effective and it’s a turning point for her character to really this person who’s acted.
So in control this whole time. Uh, suddenly fessing up to responsibility for it all. Um, and that she doesn’t know what’s going to happen, but she knows it’s going to be terrible. But once again, we don’t have a lot of time for character development in this. Anyway, she’s maybe the, the strongest personality.
I think, I don’t know for, for me like Mike and Josh, obviously Josh gets angry and Mike ends up being the calm one and then Josh disappears and Mike’s kind of still seems to be the calm or one, right? Yeah. But. As a sense of like who Mike really is or what his, you know, dreams or aspirations or motivations, or, you know, what he’d be like to have a beer with.
You really don’t get a feeling for any of that. You know, I just know, I just know, I wouldn’t want to have a beer with, with Heather. I’d want to stay the hell away from her.
Craig: She is, she’s really awful. Um, just, just obnoxious, but yeah. It’s not like I felt a strong connection to any of them, but I legitimately felt bad for them.
Like, Oh, this, this is really awful. Like, you know, even
Craig: yeah, right. Putting yourself in their shoes, be even just beyond the supernatural stuff, just being lost in the woods. I mean, that is scary enough. You know, I live in a rural area. I’ve spent lots of time in the woods, uh, and, and the woods that they’re in look like the woods that I’m accustomed to, and it’s all fun and games until you get lost because, you know, they keep saying one of my favorite parts in the movie is.
They keep talking about getting lost. And Heather says we can’t get lost. This is America. We have destroyed all of our natural resources. We are bound to find civilization if we just keep walking. And in most places that is true, but there are certainly still places in the United States where you could very easily become lost and it would be.
Potentially deadly. You know, if you can’t find resources, you can’t find shelter. People can’t find you. People do die in America every year from getting lost and from exposure. And so even just that I sympathized with them. And then when all this weird shit starts happening, I felt bad for them. Uh, yeah.
Even if even Heather who I didn’t like, like you said, who, I wouldn’t want to be friends with. Um, I felt bad for her too. And I, you know, I felt when she’s giving that confessional and she’s saying, you know, Mike says it’s not my fault, but I know it is, this was my project. I told them I knew what I was doing.
I even felt bad for her then, because I can see myself in that position. I’m probably more like her than I would like to admit. In that I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong. And it’s really difficult for me to have to do that. And so when she has to admit to the camera and to herself, I screwed this up and it’s really my fault.
I felt bad for her.
Todd: And there’s also kind of a net naivete here to the situation that we can all relate to. You know, we’ve all had our moments where we’ve just had these fun projects, right? It’s this innocent, fun, little project. You’re getting a group of people together. You’re going to go do something.
And for that to end in tragedy is. Is a tragedy, you know, it’s this wasn’t like we went off to war. This wasn’t supposed to be some serious situation. We were just going to spend a few nights in the woods and I have a map and a GPS and you know, we’re just investigating this legend. It’s probably bullshit.
Cause we don’t believe in it. Blah, blah, blah. Right. And, uh, and you know, I’ve done projects kind of like that, where you just get together and you do things, and then something happens. Somebody falls off a cliff and now it’s not fun anymore. And that’s, that’s what this is. And so just the situation itself, being lost in the woods, being on this fun project, that ditch was just supposed to be nothing and turns out to be, you know, terrifying.
Those are things we can relate to. Right. And we can, in that way, put ourselves in some of these characters shoes, even if we can’t always relate to these characters or really know them, Or necessarily care what happens to them. We care what happens to them because we can easily see ourselves in their
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
Todd: I totally get that.
Craig: And you know, it all leads up to this ending, which again is also a very iconic and has been spoofed and referenced in many other things. But, um, Uh, the night after Heather finds the bundle with the teeth in it, which were real teeth, by the way, in case you’re curious, they got it from a dentist.
They, again, in the night they hear Josh screaming. So they run out looking for him and they come across this house, which we are led to believe is the house that they were talking about in the beginning of the movie, this Rustin pars house, where these child murders took place and they go in and. You know, I don’t know how much of it was done in mixing, but they do a good job in the final film of making it very disorienting.
Like, it sounds like the voice is coming from upstairs, or, and then it sounds like it’s coming from downstairs. And I, you know, I know that in production, all of the screams were prerecorded and they had, uh, speakers, you know, uh, strategically placed in the woods and indifferent. Places, so they could change the output.
Um, and it would be disorienting, but you know, the, the directions for Mike were to get in the house and run around really fast and run up and downstairs and try to keep Heather as far behind you as you can. Um, and, and he does, and you hear her. Screaming for him. And it sounds so real. Like she really sounds terrified.
Yeah. And according to her, she was eventually, she catches up to him and they, they go upstairs and they don’t really find anything up there, but then he thinks he hears something downstairs. So he runs off without her. And again, she’s yelling after him to wait and he goes down into the basement and we see, I think maybe, actually it was upstairs.
We had seen. Runes and like hand prints on the walls, all very creepy stuff. Uh, and then he gets down to the basement and we’re just seeing from his camera’s POV and it just, we hear like a thud and the camera drops to the floor. And then the perspective cuts to Heather’s camera and she’s running around, still screaming for him.
And she runs downstairs and the light of her camera pans across the room. And you see Mike standing in a corner with his face to the wall, which was part of the lore. This Rustin Parr would take the kids down into the cellar in pairs and he would make one of them face the wall while he killed the other one.
And then he would kill. The other one. So Mike is down there with his face to the wall. Again, we CA I guess kind of hear some sort of scuffle Heather’s camera falls to the floor. And that’s it. Again, these actors, you know, Mike was instructed to run downstairs. He did, when he got down there, two crew members, all.
Completely in black, grabbed him and directed him to stop talking and they put his camera down on the floor and they told him to stand against the wall. And then Heather ran in. She had no idea what she was going to see. She saw him and very calmly. They grabbed her and motioned for her to stop screaming.
They laid her camera down. So what seems very chaotic and fast and brutal was actually really well choreographed. And I just think that the ending. It remains very chilling. Um, even if you know, it’s fake, I still think it’s a good ending.
Todd: It is, is pretty shocking. Cause it’s not what you expect. Well, first of all, you don’t know the movie’s gonna end here.
Right? Second of all, it’s all very chaotic scene. So this chaotic scenes clearly building to something, it may be, it’s going to be our bigger showpiece, something grand. And when she runs down into the basement and you see him with his face against the wall, right? The it’s just a dissonant image. It doesn’t jive with, right.
It’s totally shocking to your brain. And it’s creepy in that way. Like what the hell is going on? And you hardly have time to react to that when her camera falls. Right. That’s the end. Uh, and so yeah, of course your brain’s going, what the hell is going on? And, Oh my God, is this it? Like, this is all we get.
And in any other movie you’d be super disappointed. Like, Oh, they screwed up the ending. Like they, they chickened out. They didn’t know what to do. And in this movie, well, it’s found footage, what are we going to do? This is all the footage we got. Right. Right. So, so they have an excuse for it. And that, and that was something that did haunt me a little bit as the, as I replayed the film in my mind, like what was that?
I didn’t even remember. The rust and Parr law firm earlier in the movie. So I was super confused. In fact, I read that the filmmakers actually went back and added the rust and par stuff after the fact. So even they hadn’t completely planned that part out, but decided upon showing it to audiences that they needed some little explanation to tie that in.
And then when the distributor picked it up, Well, they had recommended a different ending. And so they dutifully went out and shot like four or five different endings, some of which, you know, had them like crucified on one of those stick things and some things which had Gore and all kinds of stuff in it.
And by the time they were all done, they said, look, I think the original ending’s probably better. And, uh, thankfully the, the distributors agreed and let them go through with it. And it turned out to be again, one of the most iconic endings in horror. Really? We still talk about it today. I think. Well, we are talking about today, right?
What I mean, like people referenced this all the time and it shows up on lists is like scariest moments in horror cinema, or top 50 scariest endings in a horror movie. You know, this is, this is definitely up there. So it’s effective. It really is.
Craig: And the movie was huge. Like there was so much hype around this movie.
I remember all the hype. Around it. That’s why I was so excited. I must have seen it opening weekend or really close to that, because again, I still was under the impression that it was real and it opened opposite the haunting, which was, I think it was the haunting I made. It was another, it was a huge budget horror movie.
Um, and it blew it out of the water. Like you said, there are varying reports, but, um, I read that they, the actual production of the movie, these guys didn’t have any money. Um, so the actual production was only 20 to $25,000. And like, they were so strapped for cash that they bought. I think the 35 millimeter camera or whatever it was that they used, they bought it at like a circuit city.
And after they filmed, they took it back. They took it back and got their money back for it. That’s how it. Strapped, they were for cash. So the production was like 20 to 25,000. Somebody put in 500 to 750,000 for post. It got sold for distribution for one point $1 million. They did $25 million in marketing.
Uh, and it made worldwide over $250 million. So, I mean, it was just insane. How well this little movie by these nobody. Directors starring these no name actors who nobody had ever heard of just was a worldwide phenomenon and sparked a franchise. A couple of years later, Blair witch, two book of shadows came out.
Have you seen that?
Todd: No, I haven’t. I’ve always been curious.
Craig: It’s not very good. I mean, as a standalone movie, it’s fine, but they, you know, they abandoned the found footage thing. It’s it’s clearly like a Hollywood picture standalone. It’s okay. It’s not great. Um, there were, uh, there was a series of young adult books.
There were video games. Um, and then I think in 2018 there was a surprise sequel, which was just Blair witch. Did you see that in the theater? Alan and I went back to the theater,
Todd: a romantic,
Craig: and I liked that turned out. I liked the movie, but it just, without the hype and without, you know, it’s just not the same, you know, knowing that it’s and, and, uh, the third one is really kind of a direct sequel to the first.
They basically ignore the second one altogether. And the third one does what people. Wind and moaned about the first one not doing, which was not showing anything, not showing the, which you do see the witch in a Blair, which you do see a lot of these supernatural phenomenon. They play a lot with like, um, time jumps and, and weird stuff.
And it’s clever and it’s a well-made movie, but, you know, It just doesn’t stand up to the original, not necessarily in quality, but, uh, in, in hype and inexperienced. But nonetheless, I mean, it’s, it’s a huge phenomenon and I bet money will see more from it moving forward.
Todd: I mean, it has to carry the legacy of just a powerhouse original film that was so original at the time and did something that, you know, quite frankly, probably can’t be repeated.
Right, right now we watch a lot of found footage, movies. We know they’re found footage, but we still find reason to enjoy them. People thought this was going to be kind of a one trick pony in that way. That like, okay. You know, now a whole bunch of people are gonna rush out with their video cameras and make found footage, films, thinking they can do them all cheap.
Uh, but you know, it’s not really gonna work again. Well, it has, it has worked, uh, in big budget films as well as low budget films. Uh, we’ve seen people do really innovative stuff with this where they haven’t had to pretend that it’s real, right. We as the viewer just, uh, it’s just another way another format in their frame of telling a story and that’s.
That’s kind of neat and Blair, which in a way, opened that up for us a little bit, at least brought it mainstream. And I was super excited when it came out. It was so popular as a budding filmmaker who also at around the same time, ran out and shot a movie with a digital camera that I returned to Walmart when I was done with it.
I wasn’t above that either. But yeah, so, I mean, I was excited to see. Because at the time there was this huge debate among my friends and I like, yeah, these digital cameras and things are getting better and better all the time, but. You probably really have to shoot on film for audiences to accept it. And now of course, it’s not true.
20 years later, we’ll watch anything. Yeah. But back then to see a movie that was shot with a video camera up on the big screen, making a hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide was extremely inspiring. And I think it did inspire a whole generation of filmmakers that otherwise would have thought that they had to go to huge lengths and.
Enormous amounts of resources to put their vision up on the screen in front of people. And so, you know, in that way it did inspire me even if at the end of the day, I wasn’t as taken by the movies. I really wanted to be at the time. And still today, like I think we’re both kind of agreeing it doesn’t quite stand up to a.
A fresh viewing by somebody who’s never seen it before.
Todd: Thank you, James, for giving us the opportunity to talk about the Blair witch project. But if you have a request, you can find us online, just search for two guys and a chainsaw. You’ll find our Facebook page. You can find our website, two guys.red, 40 net.com.
You can also find our YouTube channel where you can now listen to us while you. It’s still image of our faces and it doesn’t sound entertaining to me. I think it’s more of a turnoff than anything, but apparently there are a dozen people who like to do that. So if you’re one of those, uh, go down there and make a 13 and subscribe to our channel, please so that we can do a little bit more stuff with that in the future until next time I’m Todd
Craig: and I’m Craig.
Todd: With two guys and a chainsaw.
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