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30 for 31: “THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT” (1999)

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The Season of the Witch is upon us, ye ole FANGORIA Readers! And to many, Halloween means candy, costumes and creepshows of all sorts. But to the staff at FANGORIA, Halloween can mean something more entirely. Therefore, we present 30 FOR 31, in which FANGORIA recounts the cinema that most strongly represents what Halloween means to us.

Perhaps it’s weird, but I’m unsure Halloween was ever about movies for me.

Maybe I spent each year of my adolescence, teenagedom and young adulthood trying to be out on October 31st. In my mind, there was a whole spooky season to watch films and Halloween itself was when to soak it up externally in the wicked night, or whatever. Not that anything I ever did was in retrospect all that exciting (standing outside of a house party being shut down on the Upper East Side is surely a highlight); which is why now, a slew of movies on the holiday itself sounds about perfect.

I still feel the movies are about the season however, and which pictures best reflect the autumn air. Being the young idiot that I am (to quote my colleagues and peers), I remember pre-ordering THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT on VHS with chore money, and the sheer excitement that wrought. Though a late summer release, I remember BLAIR WITCH hitting video the following year’s October (holy shit, remember those lengthy screen-to-tape windows), and almost certainly, the film carries the fall spirit with it.

Forget the current crop of found footage, of which Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s debut is the contemporary godfather of, for a second. The baggage and undeserved hate of the faux doc medium has surely colored BLAIR WITCH sour for a few. That’s incorrect.

The aesthetic is utilized tremendously, both viscerally and in a more mannered, atmospheric way, as well as cementing us in the shoes of amateurs prodding the beyond.  THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is about the unseen and the unknown driving us mad. It’s the possibility of what’s out there altering what’s in us and the suggestion of old-timey folklore, despite the present, still getting the better of you. It does so in a terrifically impenetrable forest, with fear and doubt externalized by the crackling of leaves and branch. The film’s lo-fi visuals still capture the scene and the season in perfect form, as if you yourself can’t navigate this place. The Blair Witch navigates it for you, leading the audience/Josh/Heather/Mike to an ultimate, eerie final image.

In October, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is essential to making perfectly pleasant evenings unseasonably cold.

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
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