Home » That’s Me in the Corner: 20 Years of the Blair Witch

That’s Me in the Corner: 20 Years of the Blair Witch

Twenty years ago The Blair Witch Project was released in cinemas, jumpstarting the “found footage” subgenre and introducing the mainstream to a whole new way of experiencing terror that further blended the line between fantasy and reality.

Taking the reins from earlier trailblazers like Man Bites Dog, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, The Last Broadcast, and even Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project stormed into cinemas on a paltry $60,000 budget and left with a worldwide take of over $200,000,000.

Hollywood, both mainstream and underground, took notice.

Suddenly, video store shelves were flooded with found footage horror, the great majority of which took note of the perceived technical simplicity of making a film like The Blair Witch Project (no cinematographer, no score and no full script? NICE.), but little else. As a result these films largely failed to tailor their stories to fit the strengths of the format, and the found footage subgenre was dragged down by a slew of Blair Witch knockoff that tended to take three steps back for every one they took forward.

One impressive aspect of The Blair Witch Project that has often been overlooked over the years, was the strength of the tie-in material created for the first two films, particularly the various mockumentaries shown on television and the books written by D. A. Stern. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these stories are presented as either non-fiction, or fictionalized accounts of real events. What is surprising, however, is how well it all ties together across mediums in a way that hadn’t really been seen at the time. Sometimes this material can even add to the films themselves… 

The house that appears at the end of The Blair Witch Project and 2016’s Blair Witch? While you might read between the lines and figure out that it’s the house that belonged to Rustin Parr, 1940’s Burkittsville child killer, the fact that the house was burned to the ground in 1941 – and therefore its appearance in the films is a supernatural occurrence in and of itself – isn’t revealed in the original film. It first comes out in the Curse of the Blair Witch mockumentary that premiered on the Sci Fi channel two weeks before The Blair Witch Project hit cinemas.

Or remember the tunnels in the basement in Blair Witch (2016)? A character in that movie hints at their existence early in the film, but the first time the tunnel system is mentioned comes from D. A. Stern’s The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier, published in 1999.  

Sure, in a world where Darth Maul was killed in one movie, resurrected in a cartoon, and then popped up in a later film with no explanation, this might not seem like such a big deal. But in 1999? Doing this kind of stuff was pretty revolutionary. Even more so when you consider how relatively small of a property Blair Witch is compared to the kinds of franchises you see doing this sort of thing today, like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Twenty years on from the release of The Blair Witch Project I managed to track down and experience all of this supplementary material for myself (“I’m finally finished” as Rustin Parr might say). The main result of my having done so can be read elsewhere on this site in my series of “in-universe” Ghost in the Darkness “history” articles about the legend of the Blair Witch, but I also wanted to provide a bit of a guide for those of you who would like to experience the stories for yourselves.

So consider this a roadmap of sorts for any future explorers anxious to set out on their own Blair Witch adventure. The assortment of books, comics, television specials, films and video games that follow contain the grand totality of a legend and lore that’s been around for twenty years, and which helped change the way horror stories could be told forever…     

CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH

Premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel on Jul. 11, 1999

Included in the Special Features of DVD and Blu-ray releases of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and available on several streaming platforms 

Curse of the Blair Witch is a must see for any fan of the Blair Witch franchise.

I’ve heard whispers over the years that this mockumentary was originally intended to be included as part of the actual The Blair Witch Project film, but that it was ultimately cut out due to its inclusion making the end product too similar to The Last Broadcast. I’ve even heard it said that Curse of the Blair Witch was where the majority of The Blair Witch Project’s reported $60,000 budget ended up, rather than in the film itself.

Now, I have no idea if those things are true or not, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they were, because I have always considered Curse of the Blair Witch and The Blair Witch Project to be two halves of one story. I can’t remember the last time I watched the latter without first viewing the former, because that’s how integral they seem to one another.

Curse presents the Blair Witch legend in fake documentary fashion, filling it’s running time with a combination of scholastic talking heads somberly discussing the events of Burkittsville’s past and shots of ye olde journal entries and letters to the editor that mention the legend. It’s pretty effective stuff, and not at all surprising that so many people bought into it hook, line and sinker when it premiered on the Sci-Fi channel. 

Sure, it’s a little heavy on the SPOOOOOOOOKINESS sometimes, but everyone here, from actor Buck Buchanan playing a fictionalized Private Investigator version of himself, to Michael Williams’ real life brother, Tom, deliver completely convincing performances as regular people caught up in horrible, mystifying events.

Curse of the Blair Witch also acts as an overview of the legend as a whole, and, along with The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier, is one of the most important pieces of supplementary material there is when it comes to experiencing everything this franchise has to offer. 

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

Released in cinemas by Artisan Entertainment, Jul. 30, 1999

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and several streaming platforms

As with most iconic films, it’s hard to come into a movie like The Blair Witch Project with anything fresh and new to say. Especially when your own opinion tends to agree with that of the mainstream: The Blair Witch Project is a smart, well crafted, and terrifying piece of horror storytelling.

Having said that, I can understand some of the issues that people may have with the film (motion sickness aside). I expect more casual viewers are unlikely to find much to enjoy here, as most of the entertainment value of the movie comes from experiencing the actors breathing life into their namesake characters, empathizing with them and their situation, and then getting the holy snot scared out of you by putting yourself in their shoes.

I also think that, in the end, the same thing that makes many dismiss The Blair Witch Project also lies at the heart of its success: restraint. It’s harder to really empathize with the characters in more blatantly explicit and/or fantastic horror tales. Sure we can try and imagine how scary it would be to be hunted down by a Jason Voorhees, or nightmared to death by Freddy Krueger. We can try to imagine how much it would suck to have Cenobites show up and stick hooks in our junk. But, ultimately, the degree of separation between those situations and reality allows us to feel more safe with those movies. Like a rollercoaster ride, they have all the surface elements of real terror… but none of the danger.

The Blair Witch Project felt dangerous in 1999. Not just because of the ingenious marketing campaign that left some viewers wondering if they’d just walked out of a supernatural snuff film, but because the dangers faced by Heather, Mike and Josh don’t feel as removed from reality as the over-the-top menace of a Michael Myers or a possession by Pazuzu. 

It’s easy to imagine yourself in the same situation as these kids. We’re already wired on the primal level to find the woods at night scary and mysterious and The Blair Witch Project plays on that fear brilliantly. Unnerving snapping sounds coming from the woods around you, phantom children laughing outside your tent, strange and weirdly upsetting totems found in a clearing, piles of rocks left for you to find… This is all a far cry from the scarred, invincible madman leaving piles of corpses around the place for you to find, because The Blair Witch Project delivers a more subtle, psychological approach to horror. One that worms its way into your brain if you let it, but which could, admittedly, seem dull and uneventful to those that don’t.

On a technical level, The Blair Witch Project is, of course, crude in many ways. Shot by the actors themselves with one black and white 16mm camera and one color video camera, the most surprising thing about the film is how well the actors managed to effectively capture the story pieces that they need to convey. There are several shots throughout the film that are impressive, and even iconic, in their framing. Additionally, unlike the third film in the franchise, 2016’s Blair Witch, which “cheated” just a little bit and threw a very subtle (but effective) musical score into the sound mix, The Blair Witch Project has no music to speak of (aside from a tiny bit of a song that plays from a car radio early in the picture). But, once again, what’s surprising here is how well the film works without one.

Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard didn’t so much act in The Blair Witch Project as they lived it for a week, filming their experience as they did so. But cast this movie with actors less skilled at realistic improvisation and the whole thing crashes and burns. It is their willingness to quickly and honestly react to the situations presented to them, no matter how that may make them come across sometimes, that makes the film work. And none of the scares in the film’s second half would land if these three characters weren’t so funny and likable in the beginning. 

Another thing the movie excels at is crafting a backstory and lore so successful in its execution that, to this day, many people remain unaware just how much of the Blair Witch story is pure fiction (Spoiler: The answer is all of it. All of it is fiction. There’s a town called Burkittsville in Maryland, and that’s about it). While most know that the movie itself is, you know, a movie, many don’t realize that the legend is just as invented. Which is a real testament to what the filmmakers have done here. After all, the “based on a true story” aspects of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist have been largely dismissed over the years, and those films, while inaccurate and exaggerated to be sure, were at least somewhat based on real life happenings. Not so with The Blair Witch Project, yet some people still believe that the Blair Witch legend predates the film.

The Blair Witch Project suffered a weird backlash after it left cinemas, despite its massive box office haul being indicative of repeat viewings. In the years since, the most common complaint one hears is that the movie “doesn’t show anything” or that “nothing happens.” Putting aside the fact that I would take a terrifyingly presented implied threat over a doofy looking onscreen one any day, this complaint is just factually untrue. Lots of things happen in The Blair Witch Project which, while sometimes subtle, gradually ramp up in intensity as the film goes along, and end up painting a truly terrifying picture by the end.

This complaint also largely ignores the fact that, at its heart, The Blair Witch Project is a ghost story. And ghost stories have a long and proud history of manipulating the audience with implication and suggestion rather than with a non-stop body count or monster mash. The Blair Witch Project belongs on the same branch of the horror tree as films like The Haunting, not with slasher or possession flicks. 

The movie isn’t perfect: it was filmed virtually non-stop for hours and hours every day, meaning that the filmmakers had to edit those hours and hours down into a 90 minute narrative, and, as a result, some of the edits end up hurting the final product. Things like Josh yelling at Heather about taking one of the witch’s stickmen – an event never shown on screen – can be a little jarring. And the fact that the subject of what Heather saw as she repeatedly screamed “what the fuck is that?!” is never broached (you’d think you’d bring up that thing which made you absolutely lose your shit) seems odd. 

But those tiny niggles aside, The Blair Witch Project is a great little “something bad in the woods” movie that, due to the methods the filmmakers used to craft it, the quality of the performances provided by its leads, and the deep and disturbing lore that was crafted for it, rises up to become something greater. 

Despite two sequels, numerous spin off products, and twenty years worth of imitators, The Blair Witch Project is still a fascinating, well made and scary experience that holds up as one of the best examples of the found footage subgenre.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: A DOSSIER

Written by D. A. Stern and Published by Onyx, Sep. 1, 1999

Available to buy from third party sellers on Amazon

Probably more than any other single piece of Blair Witch storytelling, The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier was what took hold of my imagination and made me see the potential that this property had as a franchise.

Purporting to be a collection of reports compiled by Private Investigator Buck Buchanan and his team for the Donahue family (combined with author D. A. Stern’s own research into the Blair Witch legend), the Dossier is, of course, a complete work of fiction. Duplicating the feel of a true crime book, the Dossier succeeds by carefully walking the same line that the mysteries which fascinate us in real life walk. The one between monsters and magic and science and skepticism. The people in the Dossier are all very aware of how crazy everything they are discovering is, and how hard coming to any sort of rational conclusion about this subject will be, so that’s not what they, or the book, are there to do. Instead, the Dossier just lays out all the evidence for the reader and allows them to draw their own conclusions.

What it also does is greatly enhance most of the other existing Blair Witch material, dropping nuggets of backstory information that tie into every aspect of the franchise. Within the Dossier you’ll find things that enhance your appreciation of The Blair Witch Project, bits that tie into the YA novels, things that expand upon the information from Curse of the Blair Witch and tie into the later mockumentaries, and even a couple of tidbits that foreshadow events from the third film.

But, all lore connections aside, the bottom line is that the Dossier is a breezy, but captivating, read, providing all of the pleasure of reading a well written true crime story about a particularly fascinating case without any of the guilty feelings one might experience from there being actual victims involved.

An absolutely integral addition to any Blair Witch fan’s collection.

THE BLAIR WITCH CHRONICLES

Published by Oni Press, Nov. 6, 2000

Available to buy from third party sellers on Amazon

The comics within The Blair Witch Chronicles collection were originally published in issue form as The Blair Witch Project #1 and The Blair Witch Chronicles #1 – 4. 

Like most Blair Witch fiction, Chronicles ties itself into the “real life” events of the Blair Witch legend. And like all the best Blair Witch fiction, it does so effectively and unobtrusively, claiming to be partially based on the homemade comic strips of Cece Malvey, a disabled college student who disappeared for six hours in the Black Hills Forest back in 1983.

The writing, by Jen Van Meter, is solid throughout, providing the reader with a variety of creepy stories that capture that Blair Witch “feel” perhaps more effectively than any other piece of straightforward fiction based around the franchise. The artwork, provided by Guy Davis and Bernie Mireault, is effective and evocative, and the style fits very well with the Blair Witch stories being told.

Lore wise, these comics provide a trickle of unique information and original tales that easily fit into the mythos, but there’s not a lot here.

Overall, though The Blair Witch Chronicles is a solid anthology that, while maybe not adding too much to the legend, certainly manages to entertain and effectively capture that creepy Blair Witch tone.

STICKS AND STONES: AN EXPLORATION OF THE BLAIR WITCH LEGEND

Released on VHS by Artisan Entertainment, Oct. 1999

Available to buy from third party sellers on Amazon

This was a Blockbuster Video exclusive back in the day, and mostly consists of alternate takes from the Curse of the Blair Witch mockumentary. 

That having been said, there is a trickle of new information presented here, including a deleted scene from The Blair Witch Project that can’t be found anywhere else. So for completists it may be worth your time to track down a copy. 

But as a piece of entertainment, there’s really just not enough new stuff here, and the material that we’ve seen before has all been presented more effectively elsewhere.

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2

Released in cinemas by Artisan Entertainment, Oct. 27, 2000

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and several streaming platforms

It’s not hard to understand why mainstream audiences didn’t like Blair Witch 2

There’s no denying that, in a lot of ways, Book of Shadows feels like a broken promise. The Blair Witch Project teased and tantalized and implied… and audiences expected that, should there ever be a sequel, those teases would be paid off therein. But in Blair Witch 2, Elly Kedward doesn’t just have less of a presence than she did in the first film, arguably she doesn’t have any presence at all.

The second problem is that this is a film that is obviously being pulled in two directions, one by the man crafting it, and the other by the studio releasing it.

Writer/Director Joe Berlinger has repeatedly stated that it was his intention to make, essentially, the Wes Craven’s New Nightmare of Blair Witch films. A sequel where the previous movie was just a movie, and nothing more. But even in the director’s own, unaltered vision for the film, that wasn’t quite the truth. Berlinger still has characters staying at Coffin Rock and talking about the Parr house foundation as if those were real things. Therefore, Berlinger must have always intended for some aspects of the legend to be “real” (within the context of his story). Which does make sense, as the ambiguity that he appears to be going for in the film is completely lost if the Blair Witch legend was just something created for a movie. 

So, frankly, I think the studio interference that stopped Berlinger from labeling The Blair Witch Project as definitively fake in Book of Shadows, as he originally intended to do by including the footage of Heather, Mike and Josh appearing at the MTV Movie Awards in the opening of the film, actually helps the movie. Had the director gotten his way, the most interesting thing that the film is doing – making you question how much of what you are seeing is due to mental illness/obsession and how much of it is due to the Blair Witch – would be… if not completely lost, at least significantly lessened. 

As it stands, the question is really whether or not Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is a good film. And yeah, I think it is. Mostly.

Acting is pretty great across the board, with future Burn Notice star, Jeffrey Donovan, and Tristen Skyler as the standouts. Donovan’s gradual breakdown over the course of the film seems very authentic and Skyler’s transformation, from sweet to crazed to malicious, convinces.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from some late 90’s character cliches, with an over the top psychic goth girl that likes to lounge around in graveyards and a Wiccan who can’t stop talking about persecuted witches. Due to no fault of the actresses delivering the lines, most of the dialogue that comes from these two characters is fairly cringeworthy (although I do always get a chuckle out of Kim’s deadpan “I hate nature” line). 

The film also has that late 90’s early 2000 slickness to it that a lot of the horror movies from this era possess. It has a little more edge to it than something like, say, Urban Legend or the remake of The Haunting, but it’s still pretty jarring because the visual style seems more like a reaction to the simplistic look of The Blair Witch Project than like something that was chosen to help tell this story. 

Overall though, while the film is trying way too hard to be different from the original (sometimes to its detriment) if there was one word that I would use to describe Book of Shadows, it’s “ambitious.” It took the A Nightmare on Elm Street series six films and ten years to reflect on what the popularity of Freddy Krueger might have to say about society. Blair Witch goes there right with the very first sequel.

Unfortunately, it was an approach which utterly failed to connect with audiences and, as a result, the franchise disappeared into the ether for sixteen years.

One of the many nice things about 2016’s Blair Witch movie coming along, however, is that now that Book of Shadows is no longer the franchise killing entry that it used to be, it’s become much easier to judge the film on its own merits. And honestly? I think it’s a pretty enjoyable flick that’s doing a lot of interesting things over the course of its running time. Heck, I even think that the central ideas at the core of the film are actually quite “Blair Witchy,” and fit nicely within the franchise.

In the end, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 remains a divisive film, both in terms of the events that happen within the movie itself and regarding its place within the Blair Witch franchise as a whole. But I think it delivers a pretty entertaining ride if you just go along with where it wants to take you.

SHADOW OF THE BLAIR WITCH

Premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel on Oct. 22, 2000

Released on VHS by Artisan Entertainment, Aug. 2001

Currently Unavailable

Shadow of the Blair Witch is a decent little mockumentary that focuses on the “real life” Jeffrey Patterson (one of the lead characters from Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) and the Black Hills Murders (the “in universe” name given to the killings in BW2).

While interesting in its own right, this laser focus on the part of the mockumentary is a little off putting. Very little time is spent on the Blair Witch legend, and almost nothing is said about the “real life” counterparts of the other characters in Book of Shadows, instead painting a picture of Jeffrey as the sole mastermind behind the killings. This contradicts not only the Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 film, but also the more in depth examination of the Black Hills Murders given in the Blair Witch: Book of Shadows companion book by D. A. Stern.

It’s not terrible, but given the choice between this or Blair Witch: Book of Shadows, I’d just stick with the D. A. Stern book for your Blair Witch 2 backstory needs.

BLAIR WITCH: BOOK OF SHADOWS

Written by D. A. Stern and published by Pocket Books, Nov. 1, 2000

Available to buy from third party sellers on Amazon

While not quite the Holy Grail of all things Blair Witch that the original Dossier was, the Book of Shadows companion book is still a wonderful addition to any Blair Witch collection.

Pulling from the same backstory for Jeffrey Patterson also used in the Shadows of the Blair Witch mockumentary, but expanding it to include articles and other assorted bits of history revolving around the other main characters from Blair Witch 2 as well, Blair Witch: Book of Shadows is an invaluable asset for anyone trying to wrap their heads around just how, exactly, the second film fits into the franchise.

Throw in a couple of “vintage” short stories involving the Blair Witch, and some excerpts from period newspaper articles about the cult of hippies that ran around the Black Hills in the late 60’s, and you’ve got a pretty solid little package.

It’s not as great as the Dossier, but Blair Witch: Book of Shadows is still a fun read in the same vein, and an important piece of the Blair Witch puzzle.

THE BLAIR WITCH FILES

Written by Cade Merrill and published by Bantam Books, Jul. 2000 – Jul. 2001

Available to buy from third party sellers on Amazon

The Blair Witch Files were a series of eight Young Adult books with a central premise that, if handled with the same level of care as the rest of the franchise’s “expanded universe” material, could have worked wonderfully as an anthology series: Heather Donahue’s cousin, Cade Merrill, obsessed with her disappearance and the legend of the Blair Witch, starts a website called blairwitchfiles.com where anyone with a Blair Witch related story can go and tell it. The most compelling tales then become case files, some of which are then used as the basis for the Blair Witch Files books.

Unfortunately, none of the authors chosen to write these books seem very interested in approaching the stories from a Blair Witch mindset. Sure, some of them break up the narrative once or twice so that “Merrill” can throw in an excerpt from a newspaper article or whatever, but these elements are never used as effectively as they are in the D. A. Stern books or the mockumentaries. 

Additionally, when you consider that, within the universe of the Blair Witch, the Black Hills Murders were considered to be a big enough deal that filmmakers based Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 around them, some of these stories seem a little too crazy to just be small, practically unnoticed blips on the radar. At one point during the series, it’s revealed that some dude has been killing teenagers in Burkittsville since 1996, and has a half dozen bodies hidden under the floorboards of an abandoned factory.

You’d think that would have made a bit more of an impression.

The books do, at times, feature some surprising connections. Book 4 ties into the PC games, utilizing the legend of Hecaitomix as a key part of the story it’s telling. Book 8, with its… interesting… version of the Elly Kedward story, picks up on hints about Virginia Blair, wife of town founder Colonel Nathan Blair, that D. A. Stern dropped in the Dossier

But the bottom line is that these books have very few connections to the other parts of the franchise, don’t much capture the Blair Witch feel, are often just not very well written, and will almost certainly not play any part in the story going forward. 

BLAIR WITCH: DARK TESTAMENTS

Published by Image Comics, Oct. 2000

Available to buy from third party sellers on Amazon

This is a one off comic, produced by Image, with art by The Walking Dead’s Charlie Adlard and a script by Ian Edginton. 

Dark Testaments doesn’t contribute too much to the Blair Witch mythology, other than revealing a bit more of Rustin Parr’s history. The story focuses on Parr and his twin brother Dale (previously featured in one of the YA books), who died when they were both nine.

It’s a creepy and effective tale with a solid script and compelling art, so while it may not add much to the legend it’s still worth your time. 

BLAIR WITCH VOLUME. I: RUSTIN PARR

Released by Gathering of Developers, Inc. on Oct. 4, 2000

BLAIR WITCH VOLUME II: THE LEGEND OF COFFIN ROCK

Released by Gathering of Developers, Inc. on Oct. 30, 2000

BLAIR WITCH VOLUME III: THE ELLY KEDWARD TALE

Released by Gathering of Developers, Inc. on Nov. 25, 2000

No longer commercially available

These PC games, released over a one month period in 2000, are pretty much just barebones Resident Evil clones: all tank controls and jump scares.

The first game indulges in some storytelling by allowing you at least the pretense of an investigation, but Volume II and III pretty much toss away all of those aspects in favor of focusing on the janky, action elements. While controls do slightly improve as the series goes along, they never actually achieve “good”, and instead top out around “mostly playable.” 

Graphics, for the time, are pretty decent, at least as far as the backgrounds go. There is definitely a thrill to be had wandering around the Black Hills forest for Blair Witch nerds like myself. But the character models aren’t great, and the mouth movement for the dialogue seen in the first two games is so awkward that they just ditched it altogether in the third one.

The decision to tie Volume I into the game Nocturne is also truly bizarre, and one which the latter two games completely ignore. There is something seriously surreal about watching characters in a Blair Witch story discuss things like Vampires and Demons like they’re just a thing that exists, n.b.d.

And the possessed humans who float in the air, say things like “I’M COMING FOR YOU!” and are called “Daemonites”?

Come on now, game. 

There’s just not much to see here, really. There are a ton of better Resident Evil clones out there that don’t seem utterly at odds with the feel of pre-existing franchises, and what little the games add to the Blair Witch mythos is both incidental and, like the Young Adult novels, very unlikely to ever be referenced again.

THE BURKITTSVILLE 7

Premiered on Showtime on Oct. 3, 2000

Released on VHS by Artisan Entertainment, Aug. 2001

Currently Unavailable

Released on Showtime, ostensibly as a tie in to Blair Witch 2, oddly The Burkittsville 7 has nothing to do with the Black Hills Murders, and instead focuses on the Rustin Parr case. Approaching it from the angle that maybe it wasn’t the old hermit what did all of them killings, maybe it was that creepy looking Kyle Brody kid all along.

So, to summarize, this is a fake documentary theorizing that a fake solution to a fake crime is wrong, and that a different fake solution to that fake crime is, in fact, how it actually went down. 

Except that we, the viewers, know that in the fake world where this fake crime happened, there is a fake Blair Witch monster woman thing that is almost certainly the one responsible for committing the fake crime. Therefore making all this theorizing about whether it was fake Parr or fake Brody what done it seem kinda… pointless?

And, of course, the whole thing was produced to tie into a film which has nothing to do with any of this.

From an entertainment perspective The Burkittsville 7 is the weakest of the mockumentaries (Sticks and Stones aside). This is largely due to the fact that, really, it just doesn’t have much to do with the Blair Witch. When you get right down to it, this is a TV special about a bunch of talking heads arguing over which dude killed a some kids in the 1940s.  

The only real reason to seek this out and give it a watch is how closely it ties into D. A. Stern’s Blair Witch: The Secret Confession of Rustin Parr novel, as, in a lot of ways, this special feels like a prologue to the story featured there.

BLAIR WITCH – THE SECRET CONFESSION OF RUSTIN PARR

Written by D. A. Stern and published by Pocket Books, Aug. 1, 2000

Available from Amazon

This is a slightly more traditional novel from D. A. Stern than his other, pseudo-true crime Blair Witch stuff, but one which is presented via a combination of first person accounts and journal entries, and which therefore still possesses a bit of that nonfiction vibe.

The Secret Confession of Rustin Parr largely focuses on the priest, Dominick Cazale, who took Rustin’s confession shortly before Parr was hanged for killing the Burkittsville 7.

I have to say, this book is a pretty fun little ride. Never scary, exactly, but off-putting and creepy in that particular Blair Witch sort of way. The only real fault to be found, and I hesitate to call it that, is that anyone who has read or experienced all of the previous Blair Witch material is probably going to be pretty sick of hearing about Rustin Parr by this point. Yes, this book adds a lot of new information and nuances to that tale and isn’t just a simple retread, but, regardless, I would have preferred the Blair Witch franchise to be focusing on different stories by the time that I read this.

Incidentally, as I mentioned previously, The Burkittsville 7 mockumentary (while a wee bit boring and pointless on its own) really does work quite well as a sort of prologue to this book. Not only is it specifically mentioned several times during the story, but it also serves as an introduction to main character Dominick Cazale, and his role in the legend. 

In the end, The Secret Confession of Rustin Parr is a captivating and disturbing little slice of Blair Witch fiction. Which is nice because, twenty years on, it remains the only proper novel written for the franchise.   

BLAIR WITCH: GRAVEYARD SHIFT

Written by Dave Stern and published as an e-book by Pocket Books, Sep. 28, 2000

Available from Amazon

D. A. Stern (here going by Dave Stern) returns with a straightforward short story this time around.

Sure, there are a couple of vintage letters here or there (primarily about the Eileen Treacle incident), but for the most part, this is just a simple, entertaining little horror tale focusing on the Native American aspects of the Blair Witch legend (and seeming to take some inspiration from the Hecaitomix stuff found in the PC games and YA novels).

Graveyard Shift doesn’t add much of anything to the lore, really, but it is a well written and enjoyable read, nevertheless.

BLAIR WITCH

Released in cinemas by Lionsgate, Sep. 18, 2016

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and several streaming platforms

Blair Witch is the sequel that the original film promised.

Whereas films like the Paranormal Activity series contributed to the found footage genre by refining its methods and adding a gimmick now and again to try and keep things fresh (much like Friday the 13th did for the slasher genre, post Halloween), Blair Witch feels like an honest-to-god evolution.

The addition of earcams on each of the main characters is an inspired choice, as it allows the movie to remain solidly in the found footage subgenre, but because there are so many cameras in play to cut between, it also gives the illusion of, you know, being an actual movie in a way that none of the other found footage films have managed to pull off.

The acting is uniformly great across the board, with Callie Hernandez as Lisa delivering the stand out performance and putting it all out there on the screen. Like Heather Donahue before her, this is a woman more than capable of convincing an audience that the terror she appears to be experiencing is very real.

My favorite thing about this sequel, however, is the way that (once it really revs up in the last thirty minutes or so) it feels like you’re riding on the most messed up haunted house carnival ride imaginable. Barely glimpsed misshapen things coming out of the dark and disappearing just as quickly. A character briefly seen standing in the corner like Mike from the end of The Blair Witch Project… They rapid fire stuff like this at you during the film’s ending and it is pretty dang effective (especially when watching it in a dark room with a nice pair of headphones on). It also stays true to the spirit of the Blair Witch franchise while managing to add its own unique flavor to the mix.

Some might find fault with the abundance of loud, audio based jump scares, but their inclusion serves to keep the viewer constantly on edge. Between the freaky things happening on the screen and the frequent blasts of noise, it becomes impossible to ever relax and get comfortable with what you are watching.

My only real problem with the picture is the character of Lane, who perhaps needed a little bit more screen time for the audience to better understand his motivations, and maybe could have been realized on screen in a somewhat more threatening manner, given how his character arc plays out.

Overall, I think Blair Witch’s reputation suffered from some prominent horror sites overselling it a bit. It’s not the second coming of zombie Jesus, but neither is it the forgettable rehash that some labelled it as. What it is, is a fun, scary and thoroughly unnerving ride through the cinematic equivalent of a haunted cornfield maze that brought some much needed innovation and style to found footage horror. 

And who better to push that subgenre forward than the franchise that popularized it in the first place?

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Written by R. K. Stewart
A mad poet of Sanaá, Yemen, who flourished around 700 A.D, R. K. Stewart visited the ruins of Babylon and spent 10 years alone in the great southern deserts of Arabia - the "Empty Space" of the ancients - long held to be inhabited by evil spirits and monsters of death. He died in 731 A.D., devoured in broad daylight by an invisible demon (but you can still follow him on twitter @rksdoom)
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