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Teen Movie Critic

Jamey Hughton

August 4, 1999

Jamey Hughton is a 15 yr old student in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has written a weekly published column, MOVIE VIEWS for The StarPhoenix, the Saskatoon daily paper, since November, 1997. He was honoured to be a 1999 Writing Finalist in the Canadian YTV Achievement Awards.

He maintains a Web site MOVIE VIEWS by Jamey Hughton.

His reviews are now also found at: IMDb, MRQE and the Newsgroup.

The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project, a low-budget horror movie that scared audiences silly at the Sundance Film Festival, has been receiving incredible acclaim among moviegoers. Certain critics have dubbed it "the scariest movie since The Exorcist." Iíll be honest with you: it ainít. But what director tag-team Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick have achieved here is nothing short of extraordinary: opening the imagination to a world of frightening possibilities. Tell yourself calmly "It isnít real" before you enter the theater, and all should go smoothly.

The Blair Witch is a mythical creature said to live in the backwoods of a small town called Burkitsville, Maryland. There have been many campfire stories told about the murders of children and other frightening occurrences, but no solid proof that the witch in question ever existed. Three young college students - Heather (Heather Donahue), Mikey (Michael Williams) and Josh (Joshua Leonard) - have set out to make a documentary of the Blair Witch. Food and supplies have been packed for a 2 or 3 day venture into the woods. They interview the locals and find it to be common knowledge. However, neither three show any particular respect toward the legend; they merely view it as a fun trip into the woods and a chance to get very drunk.

Sanchez and Myrick have made this film as real as humanly possible. The actors use their actual names, and the shoot was supposedly composed largely of improvisation, brought on by fear of the dark woods. When things become scary for the characters, the tension begins to build in the audience. They find themselves lost in the woods, stumbling upon frightening crosses and stick figures dangling from the trees. Things become creepier than creepy when the group begins to hear childrenís voices, and other mysterious sounds, echoing through the woods in the night. Weíre very thankful when daylight hits.

As spooky as all of this sounds, it is much scarier in the aftermath. You will go over certain scenes in your mind - in fact, one characterís helpless screams are still repeating themselves in my head. The performances are air-tight, especially by Williams and Leonard. Occasionally, Heather Donahueís cries and outbursts of profanity seem forced. But, she also owns the most effective scene in the movie, in which she records her apologies to the groupís parents while holding back sobs of terror. "Iím too scared to close my eyes, and Iím too scared to open them," she says, quivering with fear.

Sanchez and Myrick have wrung this great premise for every ounce of possible fear. It is not so horrific that youíll find yourself quivering in your seat, but it is scary. The ending contains one of the most frightening frames in movie history. And, with only one scene of brief violence, the directors have largely succeeded in proving one fact: that images the imagination can conjure up are far more frightening than anything shown on film. The Blair Witch Project is no phenomenon, but it is very, very well done.

My Rating = Three Stars

Jamey Hughton can be reached directly at movieviews@hotmail.com.
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