Directed By: Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sanchez
Before the biggest independent movie of all time was released in the summer of 1999 we got this documentary released on the Sci-Fi channel. Does it have anything new to offer, or is it just a poor promotional tie-in?
Thankfully it’s more the former than the latter. The actual worst promotional tie in is either the ‘soundtrack’, which came with the highly suspect hook that it was a mixtape found in Josh’s car, or this toy created by Todd Macfarlane:
There you will observe the witch in her natural edgy 90s habitat.
What we have here instead was a documentary broadcast on the eve of the movie’s release and has more or less never aired since (Though it is on the special edition DVD). It’s also something that really could’ve only been created for this movie being as, along with the website, so much of the success relied on the idea that all this was actually real. It was a real flash in the pan moment, and though they tried to replicate it since, most bizarrely with The Buried Secret Of M Night Shyamalan in which the director tries to create his own mythology by suggesting he could, on some level, communicate with the dead; it never really worked the same way again. Hell, they even tried something similar for Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows but by then the cat was already out of the bag. Plus no one liked that movie anyway. Except me.
What’s pretty remarkable about this, and something worth highlighting after our previous entry the WNUF Halloween Special, is just how well they manage to pull it off. There’s really not a foot put wrong here, and had you found someone with no knowledge at all of The Blair Witch Project and sat them down in front of this then they could easily be convinced it was a real thing. Part of the documentary is used to set up the characters; one thing I liked in particular was how it filled in their relationships, casually getting across the idea that Heather was headstrong and dedicated to filmmaking, whereas Josh wasn’t all that interested and something of a slacker. It’s something that enhances what plays out in the movie. The other thing the documentary does is to fill in the entire history of the Blair With mythos. But it’s not just about what it does, but how it does this. There’s a convincing array of talking head interviews, of newsreel footage, of old photographs and torn book fragments to make all of this seem entirely real. In one instance we see clips from something called Mystic Occurrences that was so convincing I had to look it up just to be sure if it existed or not. Picture a washed out look, bad sound and most of all, this guy:
It might seem funny coming from a promotional documentary made for a movie but I know there was no real Ellie Kedward who sailed from Ireland to Boston, who was accused of witchcraft and left to perish in a harsh winter, that a year later her accusers were dead or that a group of men were found on Coffin Rock bound together and disembowelled, that there was a Rustin Parr who murdered children because a witch told him to, or that three student filmmakers went missing in 1994 shooting a documentary. I know all that isn’t really true, but it’s almost enough to make me believe it was.