Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`Blair Witch Project' Is Sneaky, but Not Quite Certifiably Creepy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`Blair Witch Project' Is Sneaky, but Not Quite Certifiably Creepy

Article excerpt

As a study in group dynamics gone awry, The Blair Witch Project is pretty illuminating. It convincingly shows three not particularly talented student filmmakers falling apart as the legendary witch they seek begins to turn her dark powers on them.

And as an example of innovative guerrilla filmmaking gone unbelievably mainstream, it's downright great. Bravo to the two University of Central Florida film-school grads who cleverly shot this thing on the cheap and made it a sensation.

But as a horror movie?

Well . . .

It depends on what effect bundles of sticks and little piles of rocks have on you. They're the little warning taunts given by the witch, placed oh-so-carefully outside her victims' tents on spooky nights in the Maryland woods.

They didn't do much for me.

And -- apart from a sneaky/clever/terrific chill at the very, very, very end -- that's about it for out-and-out chills.

It's easy to admire The Blair Witch Project's restraint, its willingness to go for more cerebral, psychological scares, its knowledge that what's not shown is often scarier than what is.

Take The Haunting, now showing in the multiplex auditorium next door, as a handy example. That big-budget blowhard got less scary as the rampant ghoul-effects kicked in.

But it's a delicate balance.

Think of Jaws, one of the scariest movies ever dreamed up. Sure, Steven Spielberg hid the shark for long stretches at a time. But he eventually showed it -- to much good use.

Frankly, The Blair Witch Project is too restrained for its own good. Too bad, because the tale of how it got to screen is a good one. Helped by a clever Web site (blairwitch.com) and good word-of-mouth, the ultra-lowbudget film was No. 2 in the country last weekend, at $29.2 million, behind only the combined power of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere and their gooey Runaway Bride.

If you've somehow missed the story of The Blair Witch Project and don't want to know it before seeing the movie, then skip the following paragraph. …

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