The Blair Witch Project rocked horror cinema when it arrived in 1999.
Shot on a shoestring budget of $60,000 with unknown actors and newbie directors, the movie became a box office smash and helped pioneer an entire horror sub-genre: found footage
Another aspect of Blair Witch that was unique at the time was its marketing. Filmmakers Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez and distributors Artisan went to great lengths to create a faux legend surrounding the Blair Witch.
If audiences believed their shaky hand-held camera footage was the real deal, wouldn’t that make it all the more terrifying? A mockumentary called The Curse of the Blair Witch aired on the SciFi Channel prior to the film’s 1999 release, while in the nascent days of the web Myrick and Sánchez ran the official Blair Witch website.
It’s a basic black background with the iconic Blair Witch wooden figure and options to explore the film’s mythology, aftermath and legacy. Intriguingly, the filmmakers section lists actors Michael Williams, Joshua Leonard, and Heather Donahue, maintaining the ruse that it was all real.
A trip to the Internet Archive also throws up a page that links to a chat section on the site. Here, years before social media took off, was a place where like-minded fans could come together to discuss all things Blair Witch.
Films like Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield have picked up the found footage baton and ran with it, with both trying to conjure up backstories and mystery beyond what was presented on-screen.
Blair Witch, though, got there first. It was a viral sensation before the term even existed.
A follow-up to the film will be released in cinemas on September 15 – and it’ll have it’s work cut out to induce the same kind of terror viewers felt when watching a snotty-nosed Heather Donahue record her last transmission.