The Blair Witch Project ★★★★★

Heather Donahue's performance is up there with Shelley Duvall in The Shining in terms of communicating pure, hysterical terror—naturally, they were both targeted by the Razzies.

The Alien of found footage movies; not the first to do what it does, but undeniably does it the best, and immediately opened the floodgates to an unstoppable tide of imitators. Unlike its descendants, The Blair Witch Project succeeds because it never shows its hand—one can claim to see through its charade in hindsight, but even still, this is a first-person record of annihilation that really feels like one.

Brilliant use of the dislocation of sound and image throughout; Heather Donahue's screams echoing from afar, captured by someone else's DAT, as we see her own direct viewpoint via handheld camera. The tent attack is one of the greatest scenes in horror cinema; Heather tearing through the darkness, shrieking in blind terror at something we cannot see and she cannot understand. The Blair Witch Project remains frightening because the source of its high-strangeness horror is incomprehensible, like the "true" horror stories from tattered old Brad Steiger/John A. Keel paperbacks. Whereas your Paranormal Activities and the like lazily operate on tired cliches of ghosts and demons, the threat of Blair Witch is nebulous and unknowable—at bottom, all we can really be sure of is that a group of people are trapped in a hostile landscape stained with centuries of atrocity, from witch lynchings to child murders and environmental destruction. "America, America, God shed his grace on thee."

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