The Blair Witch Project ★★★★

I never saw this in 1999 (or after), but I distinctly remember the hype machine that built up around it. I remember the backlash less, but, honestly, I get it. If you were a horror fan going to this movie because you were told it was terrifying, you'd be sorely disappointed.

In that sense, it now plays in the same way the original radio version of War of the Worlds might—as a curio relic, best used to document the public hysteria of the era in which it debuted.

Way back in 1999, audiences seemed to grow tired of Blair Witch the moment it doubled its screen total, but it probably also didn't help that the even-more-horror-adjacent Sixth Sense arrived hot on its heels, giving fans of jump scares something to compare it to, unfavorably.

The trick Shyamalan pulled on his audiences is maybe more jaw-dropping, but honestly, I think this one's aged better? To my eyes, on this first-time viewing decades later, Blair Witch works really well as an existential horror movie in a sort of Russian lineage. The acting—or, given the manner in which it was made, should I say "acting"?—is excellent, especially Heather Donahue.

The oft-imitated, never duplicated concept was genuinely novel and fresh, even without all the viral marketing voodoo designed to mask its origins as something written and directed. I was prepared to be pretty blasé about this, but hey, it's quite good. Better late than never, I guess?