Metropol: Flowers For Elly Kedward

In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary


…A year later their footage was found.

And with these few words, thus started one of the most influential films for the 21st Century.

In 1999, a small independent film rocked the movie world out of it’s very core. Made on a half a million dollar and almost all improvised, The Blair Witch Project went from being the darling of the independent film circuit to making over 250 million dollar nationwide and becoming the highest grossing independent horror film in history. But how did this happen? How did Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s idea of film students lost in the woods blossom into this?

The big thing that really stands out is the use of the Internet for viral marketing. Creating a website detailing the vanishing of three film students, third parties secretly creating independent sites and the creation of Missing posters and plastering them all over Sundance helped push the detailed history of this “event” into almost urban legend like proportions. Many people thought that the unraveled footage of events were actually real. It literally got to the point that Scopes.com, the investigation site for urban legends had to make a post proving that it all was just hype.

Another thing that really sold it was it’s documentary style cinematography. While this wasn’t a new idea (see Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust), it somehow did bring something that brought you in. Sucked you in. You were the “4th person” watching this group of three unravel during their final moments before your very eyes. The total improvisation (and a bit of food and sleep  deprivation) was at that level of believability. Might I also add that the film is much more creeper on VHS. While I can’t say anything about my theatrical experience (I did go see it at theaters. It’s just that the whole experience was ruining by two old ladies who thought the movie was the right place to seriously talk about the recent “out of the closet” announcement of a relative and the whisper volume between the two would even make Dwight Frye want to sock them in the mouth), but when I bought the tape and watched it in the evening, there was no way I was going to sleep. Think about it. If you took off the label and the PSA warning, show it like it is, you could possibly have people call the authorities because of the chilling improvisation. It’s that good.

The third biggest thing is all the advertising Artisan Prods. put behind it. It was crazy! Not only were they running advertising on the hour, by the hour, but there was tie ins from TV Shows (The Curse of The Blair Witch, a Sci-Fi Channel tie-in special was one of it’s most highly rated programs), comics further expanding on the “mythology” of the Blair Witch to even trading card and computer games. It was borderline ridiculous to the point where the town of Burkitsville, Maryland, though briefly in the film, were holding guided tours even before the film went into wide release.

Sadly, nothing came out of it. It seemed that after everyone realized it was just a movie made by actors and directors, they came a slow hate on the film. The sequel, Book of Shadows, directed by master Documentarian Joe Berlinger, bombed in the theaters. A lot of critics and fans pretty much said it was pretty generic, others believe it was residual due to the hate on the first movie. The directors, who you would think would be the new wunderkinds of Hollywood are just lately have returned to directing Direct to Video movies. Some say their refusal to direct squeals to franchise horror films had bewildered them, but I’ve yet to see proof of that. Out of the three stars, Heather Donahue is the only one whose cut ties to the film due to the backlash.

Love it or hate it, no one can deny it’s overall influence. The narrative along with the way it was marketed has made it somewhat a mutant child of Jacques Tourneur and William Castle. The Movie’s viral marketing has shown the movie companies the true power of the internet and while there have been many misses, the effect of a viral market is now starting to hit it’s stride with films like Cloverfield and the upcoming District 9 as well as the TV show Fringe. The narrative part has had a harder time, but has reasonably caught up with Cloverfield. To be honest, if the production of Cloverfield was halted for a year and then released this year, it would have been one of the coolest things even and would somehow bring things full circle. To me, Cloverfield is the demonic evolved bastard child of the Blair Witch attacking and attaching itself upon the collective zeitgeist of the US.

So…if your not doing anything this week, rent The Blair Witch Project and buy your favorite beverage. Put the movie in your DVD player. Turn off the lights. Get comfortable in your favorite chair and raise your glass to the memory of Elly Kedward.

Happy ten years girl.

*********************

Inspired by this occasion, I will embark on my first themed set of film reviews. The collection that I shall label The Black Hills Project, will look at the films that possibly influenced The Blair Witch Project as well as the misses and hits that resulted into the Camcorder subgenre of horror after The Blair Witch. I hope you will all read and enjoy.

Hey! If you have any comment or you’d like to ask a question or two feel free to either leave it in the comment box or email me at [email protected] Love to read from you

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