3 Aug 99
Two weeks ago I wrote about my desire to see THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Definitely swayed by all the hype I called it my only must see film of the summer. Well, I have seen it, and I am almost at a loss for words.
Overrated does not even begin to sum up my feelings on this movie. If you haven't paid to see this movie, than you are the smart one.
This is not Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, this is not Rodriguez's EL MARIACHI. To even name it with those great films is to do them a disservice.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT fails as a movie, and it fails even as the pseudo documentary it tries so hard to be. At best it only succeeds as being a school project, as the forerunner to a film. As a film exercise rather than a true film. This is truly an example of a big fish in a small pond having delusions of Grandeur and thinking it can swim in the ocean. On the local public access channel or a college campus THE BLAIR WITCH might be award winning, but not on the larger campus of commercial film.
Don't get me wrong, there is feeling here in this movie, great performances, far better performances than we usually get from so called "stars". It is a great idea, an intriguing premise, well shot. But it fails as a movie, fails as a pseudo documentary, and above all fails as what so many critics called it ... a great vehicle of horror. I've seen great horror movies, William Friedkin's EXORCIST, Authur Penn's DEAD OF WINTER, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, Richard Attenborough's MAGIC(last movie I saw in the theaters to really scare me, clowns and dummies have always held some special... dread for me. This idea of humanity disguised. Almost. The idea that our mockeries might be something more... sinister), Edgar G. Ulmer's BLACK CAT (perhaps the greatest horror movie, from the age of horror movies), Erle C. Kenton's ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (a thousand times better than the two remakes),and Cavalcanti's unbelievable DEAD OF NIGHT (perhaps the greatest horror movie of all time, a must see).
THE BLAIR WITCH is not scary. It is eerie, it has moments that can lead to fear, but never do. THE BLAIR WITCH is a one note, one act movie, that drags too long, and does not so much end as run out of tape. And I understand that this is a plot device they want, in order to be true to the nature of the film. But its a plot device that ultimately fails. A plot device that might be intriguing over a couple of brewskies, but when you're the one shelling out the cash, simply seems... like a waste of time.
I feel well duped by this movie and the numerous critics who called it the scariest thing they have ever seen. Critics who had the audacity to compare it to movies like Exorcist. I truly feel these critics must be the same ones who praised NATURAL BORN KILLERS (One of the worst movies of all time, one of my most hated movies. One of those movies you leave not just wanting your money back , but those moments of your life back ). Not to say that THE BLAIR WITCH is another NATURAL BORN KILLERS, it's a thousand times better than NBK, but than most movies are, rather it's about the reviewers. Reviewers of such a different moral, and artistic bent, that only their birth and upbringing on a different Bizzaro world; where right is wrong, and black is white, comes close to explaining their reviews.
People, reviewers, I thought I could trust gave this movie 3 and 4 stars. Such grading is mystifying. A grade of 3 or 4, out of 4, is saying not only is this a viewable movie, but is worth your viewing dollars. I paid $5 for THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, matinee price, and I honestly wanted my money back. The best thing about THE BLAIR WITCH was the previews. I know that might sound a harsh thing to say, but that is exactly what I was thinking when I left the theater. Plus the previews were pretty good,
We had Al Pacino and Russell Crowe (from LA CONFIDENTIAL, now that's a four star movie) in THE INSIDER a movie about the 60 minute expose on the tobacco industry, which sounds incredibly stupid, but it stars Al Pacino and is directed by Michael Mann of MANHUNTER fame so it looks real good. Then we have George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Walhberg in THREE KINGS, not familiar with the director but the preview gripped me. Next was Kevin Bacon in STIR OF ECHOES, I'm not a Kevin Bacon fan, but David Koepp is the director of this movie, and his TRIGGER EFFECT made my best of list for 96. And finally we have Forest Whitaker in GHOST DOG:WAY OF THE SAMURAI; not a fan of Jim Jarmusch, haven't cared for any movie he's directed but this one has a good preview and Forest Whittaker (always a good actor) going for it. So all in all I was pretty impressed with the previews.
Do you know how rare it is for someone to leave a theater thinking about the previews rather than the movie they just saw. Well with THE BLAIR WITCH scheduled to be on an additional 900 screens this Friday, for a total of 1700 screens, I think a lot more people will have a greater appreciation for previews.
80 minutes of previews would have been as enjoyable as the 80 minutes I gave to THE BLAIR WITCH (Well as long as the previews didn't include Eddie Murphy's latest travesty BOWFINGER. It makes me sick to see him mugging, making ugly faces for the camera and call it comedy. He really is better than this shucking and jiving he's been doing lately. Movies like the hugely underrated VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN which was both his and Wes Craven's best movie in years, and NUTTY PROFESSOR showed there is a real actor in Eddie Murphy. Much as FISHER KING showed there was an actor in Robin Williams, and CABLE GUY , another hugely underrated movie, showed there's a real actor in Jim Carrey, something deep and substantial beneath the tomfoolery and plastic face. It has always been my contention that comedians make some of the best dramatic actors. They have some reservoir of pain, they use humor to deal with, and when they put away that crutch of humor, their dramatic performances are stirring. John Ritter in IT, proved a huge dramatic actor, as did Michael Keaton in COLD AND SOBER and BATMAN. So to see Eddie Murphy reduced to degrading performances, just the previews are like watching some sick minstrel show. I'm just waiting for him and Chris Tucker to break out in a round of "Oh Lordies" and "yes massars". Money is fine, but dignity is better.)
In summation THE BLAIR WITCH is a one note movie, the idea of a movie, a school project that by some miracle ended up playing at your Cineplex.
Are the young filmmakers talented, without a doubt. But the world is full of talented failures. These young filmmakers were lucky. They have become overnight sensations and millionaires on a dead man's hand. They stared Hollywood in the eye, and Hollywood blinked. And with a $10 to $12 million dollar cable deal with FX channel, the filmmakers and distributors are laughing all the way to the bank. And again I'm not here to disparage what these filmmakers have done, with a shoestring budget they produced intense moments, at times great moments, I just don't think the moments combined to form a movie. I applaud their good fortune, but I can not help but think it comes less on the merits of their work, and more on the merits of media hype.
My recommendation if you haven't seen THE BLAIR WITCH... wait for video; 2 out of 4 stars.