31 Days of Halloween Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project

31 Days of Halloween – Day 25

The Blair Witch Project (directed by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sànchez, 1999) Whether you like it or hate it, The Blair Witch Project is a polarizing film. Being promoted as a “true event” found footage film, this is the first movie I remember using the internet as the main promotional vehicle. The story was mysterious, aided by a vague website and a television “documentary” to hype the release of the film in theaters. Being made for a modest $60,000 and raking in $250,000,000 world wide, BWP is a true independent film success story. Three students set out into the Black Hills of Maryland to film a documentary on a local legend, Elly Kedward, a “witch” who was banished from a village after being suspected of practicing witchcraft. Events over the next two hundred years have led the residents of Burkittsville (formerly Blair) to believe that the area is cursed by Kedward, who is now simply known as the Blair Witch. The students, Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, and Mike Williams become disoriented and lost in the woods during their investigation. Each night, increasingly bizarre events take place, and the trio begin to unravel. The fear of what is in the dark takes its toll and the film makers, becoming more and more hostile to one another. After one of them vanishes during the night, the remaining members break down and lose hope. What happens on the final night of their nightmare journey is unexplained and shocking. Whatever opinion you take on this movie, it has undeniably made an impact on film making. Cheaply made, promoted expertly, and kick-starting the found footage genre, BWP has made it possible for anyone with a good idea and some editing software to produce a film. This is a great example of guerrilla-style film making at its finest. A lot of the acting is genuine reaction, as the directors only kept in contact through radio, and had the actors kept in the dark as to what would happen next. There are some really creepy scenes, such as the voices and shadows of children outside the tent during the third night, and the final sequence which leads to the abandoned house. The camera work is very shaky, and the actors do a lot of yelling, but if you can look past that, it really is an effective film. I buy into the theory that less is more when it comes to atmosphere and effects, and BWP is bare-bones in this aspect. It’s not what you see that scares you; it’s what you can’t see that you have to worry about. The film makers did a great job of leaning on this to create the unnerving nature of the movie. Fifteen years later we all know that the story isn’t true, and although it isn’t perfect, it is original and worth a little attention this Halloween.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project

THE GALLOWS – One man’s thoughts…

The Gallows (Production Company Blum House Productions, Distributed by Warner Bros.)

Release date: July 10, 2015

Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford

Brief Synopsis: In 1993, tragedy strikes a town when a high school play called “The Gallows” goes terribly wrong. In an attempt to honor the twentieth anniversary of the incident, the present day students of Beatrice High try to recreate the production.  Needless to say, things don’t quiet pan out  the way most of the students anticipate.

My Take:  Studios will release a trailer or two, run some T.V. spots prior to a films release to drum up interest and create a hype so people will go see their film. Some movies live up to the hype created by these two-minute miracles of editing. Some films, however,  do not. The Gallows looked really good after I watched the theatrical trailer. Seemed like it would be creepy, some decent atmosphere and at the very least, nooses and hanging, to me, are freaky. Good horror films are far and few between. This particular scare fest (or lack of) falls far, far between. I am not one to spoil a film for anyone, so I will not give away any plot twists or anything of that nature.

Here is a real basic rundown of The Gallows. Student Charlie Grimille is accidentally hung to death during a high school stage production in 1993. Twenty years go by, and Charlie’s death is part of school folklore. For some reason (which sort of makes sense by the end of the film), the current students of Beatrice High School attempt to honor the tragedy by holding a performance of the same play, “The Gallows”, for one night only. Three students, Reese, Ryan and Cassidy (all played by the actors of the same first names) plan to break into the school to sabotage the play by trashing the set. This plan is hatched in the name of a crush that leading man Ryan has on his leading lady Pheifer. It is a really forced reason as far as the writing of the movie goes and makes it hard to take the whole thing seriously. Anyways, the four main characters end up getting trapped in the school by mysterious forces, which leads to supernatural events and a lot of shaky camera work. Although it is a “found footage” style movie, I still found it kind of bouncy. Usually with found footage stories you get a few good jump scares, some creepy images and some tension build up. Unfortunately with The Gallows, I got eighty some minutes of distracting dialogue, telegraphed and predictable startle scares and a lot of questions. Questions like ‘why are these kids filming this whole thing?’. Put the damn camera and cell phones down, come up with a plan, and run. Why go down the weird secret corridor? You know it is just going to lead to trouble. Also, are you aware that the supernatural can control your cellular service? No matter who your provider is!

In case you don’t know what gallows are, it is a structure used to hang criminals. A noose is placed around your neck and the floor falls out, leaving you to hang. It’s not cool, and quite frankly it is something that gives me chills. The thought of hanging by my neck, suffocating is horrible. This way of murdering teenagers should have been more primal and disturbing. It was actually more of an after thought once you have to sit through the rest of the nonsense. Predictable and cliche. The acting was decent enough, with the actors being relatively unknown by Hollywood standards. The Gallows did mark a milestone in cinematic history though. Cassidy Gifford, daughter of Cathy Lee and Frank Gifford, made her major motion picture debut. To be honest, she was far from the worst thing in this film. She did a good job of acting terrified. Scream Queen in training?

My friend Scott (moviedrivel.com) counted 4 or 5 people leave the theater halfway through the screening, and I don’t think it was because they found the movie terrifying.

To conclude, please do not be fooled by the trailer television spots for The Gallows. It is not as startling and scary as the ads would make you believe. I can recall being more scared during episodes of Ghost Adventures. And we know that isn’t very scary at all.  I am aware that found footage, low-budget films are a profitable cash grab for studios, but The Gallows falls a mile behind its predecessors like Blair Witch Project, REC, and even Paranormal Activity. Alas, like in all things I discuss, I will let you decide for yourself.

T.