- For the 2016 film of the same name, see Blair Witch
|Films and television|
Blair Witch is a horror film franchise distributed by Artisan Entertainment (now Lionsgate) and produced by Haxan Films that consists of three feature films and various merchandise products. The development of the franchise's first installment, The Blair Witch Project, started in 1993. The filmmakers Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick wrote a 35-page outline of a story with the dialogue to be improvised. Filming began in 1997 and lasted eight days. The film follows the disappearance of three student filmmakers in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary on the local legend known as the "Blair Witch".
After premiering at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, the film was released on 30 July 1999 after months of publicity during a controversial promotional campaign. The film went on to be a massive commercial success, and a sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, was released on October 27, 2000. A second sequel, Blair Witch, was released on September 16, 2016. Series of video games, books, novels and comic books were released to accompany the films.
- 1 Faux legend
- 2 Films
- 3 Mockumentaries
- 4 Cast members
- 5 Books
- 6 Novels
- 7 Comic books
- 8 Video games
- 9 Reception
- 10 References
The backstory for the movie is a faux legend fabricated by Sánchez and Myrick which is detailed in The Curse of the Blair Witch, a mockumentary broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1999 prior to the release of the The Blair Witch Project. Sanchez and Myrick also maintained a website at BlairWitch.com which added further details to the legend. It is now the official site of the 2016 installment.
The fictional tale describes the murders and disappearances of some of the residents of Blair, Maryland (the fictitious former name of Burkittsville, Maryland) from the 18th century to the 20th century. According to the legend, residents always blame these occurrences on the ghost of Elly Kedward (also a fictitious person), a Blair resident executed in 1785 by exposure for practicing witchcraft. The mockumentary presents the legend as real, complete with manufactured newspaper articles, newsreels, television news reports, and staged interviews, all in an attempt to deceive viewers.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard, student filmmakers, set out to shoot a documentary about the Blair Witch. In the Black Hills forest near Burkittsville, Maryland, many children have vanished in the 1940s and people still avoid going too deep into the woods. The party sets out to look for facts that prove the legend, equipped only with two cameras and a little hiking gear. First, they find little piles of stone that must have been arranged artificially, later, they find themselves lost in the woods. Eerie sounds at night and more piles of stones in places where they have not been before cause the already desperate group to panic. One night, days after they should have been back home, Josh disappears. While searching for Josh, Heather and Mike find a derelict house in a clearing and go inside, where they see runic symbols on the wall next to child-sized handprints. Josh's voice seems to be coming from somewhere inside the house, and Mike rushes upstairs. Mike then realizes that the voice is now coming from the basement, and rushes down the steps. Suddenly, Mike is rendered silent and the camera falls. A hysterical Heather follows and sees Mike in the corner of the room, faced against a wall. Suddenly Heather's camera is knocked down and she too is rendered silent. The film runs for a few seconds, then dies.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Blair Witch 2 returns to Maryland's Black Hills region in the wake of The Blair Witch Project and the prodigious media coverage devoted to its conflation of documentary style and supernatural legend, fans and curiosity-seekers have descended upon the movie's real-life setting of Burkittsville, Maryland. Jeff Patterson (Jeffrey Donovan), a black-sheep "townie" only recently released from a mental institution, has turned his obsession with the Blair Witch into a business and has lured four young people to Burkittsville for a tour of the Witch's purported Black Hills' haunts. Jeff's clients are also fixated on the film, for reasons they themselves may not fully comprehend. Erica Geerson (Erica Leerhsen) is a practicing Wiccan who has immersed herself in Blair Witch mythology, even though she decries the film's portrayal of her fellow witches. Grad students Tristen Ryler (Tristine Skyler) and Stephen Ryan Parker (Stephen Barker Turner) are writing a book about the Blair Witch, but disagree completely about the story's basis in fact, with folklorist Tristen arguing that it must contain some grain of truth while Stephen insists it's a textbook case of mass hysteria. Completing the group is Kim Diamond (Kim Director), a hard-edged, sardonic Goth aficionado possessed of striking psychic abilities.
After spending a strange and disorienting night at one of the most sinister sites in Blair Witch lore, the five campers awake to a scene of destruction and no memory of having gone to sleep. They return to Jeff's abandoned warehouse loft to try to piece together what happened. But as Jeff leads Erica, Tristen, Stephen and Kim across the rickety drawbridge and unlocks the metal door to a chorus of barking dogs, they are entering a place no safer than the woods they just left. Inside, the legend seems to begin to bleed into reality as their mass hysteria ensues. Erica mysteriously disappears and Tristen ends up hanging herself from the second floor railing of the warehouse.
The end of the film reveals that Jeff, Stephen, and Kim have been arrested. Each is interrogated separately, with the police showing each person footage of their crimes. Security camera footage shows Kim stabbing a cashier in the neck. Surveillance camera footage shows a naked Jeff killing Erica, arranging her clothes, and putting her dead body in the closet. Jeff's video shows Stephen assaulting Tristen, pushing her over the second floor banister, and accusing her of being a witch. All three, close to a nervous breakdown, proclaim their innocence.
Blair Witch (2016)
On September 2, 2009, Ed Sánchez and Daniel Myrick announced their intent to produce Blair Witch 3. The film would be a direct sequel to the first film, would potentially contain the actors from the first film in some context, and would not reference any of the events from Book of Shadows. In 2011, Sánchez remarked that further development on a sequel depended on getting Lionsgate to approve the idea and for his and Myrick's schedule to match up. The film went into development hell.
As of January 2015, Blair Witch 3 was still in talks. Sanchez stated that the film was "inevitable".
In July 2016, it was revealed at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con that the film marketed with the faux-title The Woods, actually turned out to be the sequel Blair Witch. The film was released on September 16, 2016.
Four mockumentaries on the Blair Witch were produced to promote the films. The first being Curse of the Blair Witch which aired on the Syfy Channel in 1999, prior to the release of The Blair Witch Project, and the second being Sticks and Stones: An Exploration of the Blair Witch Legend which overlaps quite a bit with Curse of the Blair Witch. The latter two documentaries, The Massacre of The Burkittsville 7: The Blair Witch Legacy and Shadow of the Blair Witch, both directed by Ben Rock, aired in 2000.
Curse of the Blair Witch (1999)
Before the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, the Sci-Fi Channel aired a 45-minute mockumentary about the Blair Witch called Curse of the Blair Witch.
The program offers firsthand interviews with several fictional colleagues and relatives of Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard and Michael Williams, including their Montgomery College film professor.
One of the highlights of the video is the first mention of Elly Kedward, the woman who would go on to become the Blair Witch.
Curse of the Blair Witch was created to give credibility to the idea that the events of The Blair Witch Project actually occurred, which was how the film was marketed upon its initial release.
Sticks and Stones: An Exploration of the Blair Witch Legend (1999)
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, considered for inclusion in the theatrical release of The Blair Witch Project and released to VHS as part of a special promotion that ran when The Blair Witch Project was released on home video, Sticks and Stones runs 30 minutes and overlaps with the mockumentary Curse of the Blair Witch. The mockumentary primarily consists of alternate cuts of many of the previous films’ interviews, but there is some new material to be found, including a brief 1995 conversation with Joshua Leonard’s father about his son’s disappearance.
The Massacre of The Burkittsville 7: The Blair Witch Legacy (2000)
When The Blair Witch Project premiered on Showtime, it was accompanied by a new 40-minute Blair Witch mockumentary named The Burkittsville 7, which delved into the murder case of Rustin Parr that was mentioned in The Blair Witch Project. Within the mockumentary it is theorised that Kyle Brody, the lone survivor of the murders, may have himself been involved in the murders. Within the mockumentary, it is mentioned that after Parr was hanged, Brody grew up to become a troubled adult who spent most of the latter part of his life in mental institutions before committing suicide in the year 1971.
Shadow of the Blair Witch (2000)
Directed by Ben Rock, and airing on the Sci-Fi Channel in conjunction with the release of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, the mockumentary Shadow of the Blair Witch takes an objective look at the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Running 45 minutes, it examines the troubled life of "the real Jeff Patterson" and his obsession with The Blair Witch Project. Within the documentary, the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are presented as a film adaptation based on the "Black Hills murders" that took place shortly after the events of The Blair Witch Project. This documentary presents Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 as a film within a film.
Shadow of the Blair Witch follows "the real James Patterson"’s defense team as the case prepares for trial and as the public reacts to plans to fictionalize the case’s events for the big screen. Protests of the film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are discussed coming from both the families of those involved with the case and from the Wiccan community as a whole.
- A dark grey cell indicates that the character was not in the film or that the character's presence in the film has yet to be announced.
- A U indicates an uncredited role.
- A V indicates an voice-only role.
- An A indicates an appearance through archival footage or stills.
|The Blair Witch Project
|Book of Shadows:
Blair Witch 2
|Heather Donahue||Heather Donahue||Heather DonahueAU|
|Michael C. Williams||Michael C. Williams||Michael C. WilliamsAU|
|Joshua Leonard||Joshua Leonard||Joshua LeonardAU|
|Rustin Parr||Raynor ScheineV|
|Kim Diamond||Kim Director|
|Jeffrey Patterson||Jeffrey Donovan|
|Erica Geerson||Erica Leerhsen|
|Tristen Ryler||Tristine Skyler|
|Stephen Ryan Parker||Stephen Barker Turner|
|Sheriff Ronald Cravens||Lanny Flaherty|
|Eileen Treacle||Lauren Hulsey|
|James Donahue||James Allen McCune|
|Lisa Arlington||Callie Hernandez|
|Peter Jones||Brandon Scott|
|Ashley Bennett||Corbin Reid|
In September 1999, D.A. Stern compiled The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier. Perpetuating the film's "true story" angle, the dossier consisted of fabricated police reports, pictures, interviews, and newspaper articles presenting the movie's premise as fact, as well as further elaboration on the Elly Kedward and Rustin Parr legends. Blair Witch: Book of Shadows was released in November, 2000.
Stern wrote the 2000 novel Blair Witch: The Secret Confessions of Rustin Parr and in 2004, revisited the franchise with the novel Blair Witch: Graveyard Shift, featuring all original characters and plot.
In May 1999, a Photonovel adaptation of The Blair Witch Project was written by Claire Forbes and was released by Fotonovel Publications.
The Blair Witch Files
A series of eight young adult books entitled The Blair Witch Files were released by Random subsidiary Bantam from 2000 to 2001. The books center on Cade Merill, a fictional cousin of Heather Donahue, who investigates phenomena related to the Blair Witch in attempt to discover what really happened to Heather, Mike, and Josh.
- The Blair Witch Files 1 – The Witch's Daughter
- The Blair Witch Files 2 – The Dark Room
- The Blair Witch Files 3 – The Drowning Ghost
- The Blair Witch Files 4 – Blood Nightmare
- The Blair Witch Files 5 – The Death Card
- The Blair Witch Files 6 – The Prisoner
- The Blair Witch Files 7 – The Night Shifters
- The Blair Witch Files 8 – The Obsession
In August 1999, Oni Press released a one-shot comic promoting the first film, simply titled The Blair Witch Project. Written by Jen Van Meter and drawn by Bernie Mireault, Guy Davis, and Tommy Lee Edwards, the comic featured three short stories elaborating on the mythology of the Blair Witch. In mid-2000, the same group worked on a four-issue series called The Blair Witch Chronicles.
In October 2000, coinciding with the release of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Image Comics released a one-shot called Blair Witch: Dark Testaments, drawn by Charlie Adlard and written by Ian Edginton.
In 2000, Gathering of Developers released a trilogy of computer games based on the films, which greatly expanded on the myths suggested in the first film. The graphics engine and characters were all derived from the producer's earlier game Nocturne. Each game, developed by a different team, focused on different aspects of the Blair Witch mythology: Rustin Parr, Coffin Rock, and Elly Kedward, respectively.
The trilogy received mixed reviews from critics, with most criticism being directed towards the very linear gameplay, clumsy controls and camera angles, and short length. The first volume, Rustin Parr, received the most praise, ranging from moderate to positive, with critics commending its storyline, graphics and atmosphere; some reviewers even claimed that the game was scarier than the movie. The following volumes were less well-received, with PC Gamer saying that Volume 2's only saving grace was its cheap price and calling Volume 3 "amazingly mediocre".
Box office performance
|Film||Release date||Box office gross||Ranking||Budget||Ref(s)|
|Opening weekend||United States||Outside North America||Worldwide||All time
|The Blair Witch Project||July 16, 1999||$29,207,381||$140,539,099||$108,100,000||$248,639,099||#345||$60,000|||
|Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2||October 27, 2000||$13,223,887||$26,437,094||$21,300,000||$47,737,094||#2,551||$15 million|||
|Blair Witch||September 16, 2016||$9,650,000||$20,777,061||$24,245,767||$45,022,828||#3,134||$5 million|||
Critical and public reception
|The Blair Witch Project||86% (155 reviews)||81 (33 reviews)||C+|
|Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2||13% (105 reviews)||15 (34 reviews)||D−|
|Blair Witch||36% (152 reviews)||47 (41 critics)||D+|
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