Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Curse of the Blair Witch (1999)

I had just taken the disc from the tray and turned the TV off when the phone rang. it was a market research firm to ask about my movie-going habits. I was glad to oblige the interviewer 10 minutes of my time. but all the films the caller mentioned I have absolutely no interest in wasting 90 minutes of my life on. that doesn't mean I haven't used up 90 minutes or even several hours of my precious time on earth on wasted film stock. I have and will do again presently.

so this little ditty aired on the SciFi Channel in June 1999 as a promo for the film The Blair Witch Project. it is now an extra on the DVD version of the film. let me stop here and confess to you my rabid love of these types of films and TV shows. do you recall the 70s Leonard Nimoy vehicle In Search Of? ol' Spock hosted this show that sought out the paranormal, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster for example, in a faux-documentary style. the 1970s abounded with this type of stuff. I recall one popular book on the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, and films that went straight to the Drive-In on subjects like a contemporary search team finding Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat.

a boy in 1970s America had this type of caca coming out of his ears. and I dug it. I still do.

Curse is done in the same faux-documentary style as Nimoy's show but better produced. here we are given the history of the Blair Witch (a woman named Ellie Kedward accused of witchcraft and banished from the township Blair, Maryland in 1785) and her alleged acts of evil that occurred every 50 or 60 years. there is the skeptic Professor of Folklore, there is the local town historian, there is the Professor of Archeology who found the missing footage, there is the town (later renamed Birkettsville after the original inhabitants of Blair got scared shitless and abandoned the town) sheriff, there is the P.I. who looked for the missing film students, and there is, to my great delight, an In Search Of type show called Mystic Occurrences with the guest being a Wiccan in 1971 explaining the origins of witchcraft in general, and Ellie Kedward in particular. the makers of Curse got the tone down just right for Mystic Occurrences from the washed-out film stock to the opening Theremin-style theme music.

what gives this show the veneer of authenticity is how the director uses alleged archival materials, such as letters and drawings. the letters are recited in accents that attempt, I assume, the times of the mid-19th century in relating the mythos of the witch. we have Ken Burns to thank for that style of letter recitation, so thank you Ken, it works for horror films too. instead of acoustic guitar and banjo music, the letters are read over layered whispers and droning ambient noise. it works, for me at least, as very creepy. the producers of Curse did a grand job in putting together many little pieces in the creation of a very silly concept: an investigative report on three missing film students and their encounters with the Blair Witch.

but this short film is market driven. it was meant to intrigue a potential audience into seeing the main film. it worked. I have seen the movie and I loved it. but between you and me I've seen this little film more times than I have seen the main feature. deliriously, gloriously wasted 45 minutes of my life.