Blair Witch (franchise)
|Films and television|
Blair Witch is a horror film franchise distributed by Artisan Entertainment and produced by Haxan Films that consists of two 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 mere eight days. The film followed 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. Series of video games, books, novels and comic books were released to accompany the films.
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.
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 is currently still in talks. Sanchez has stated that the film is "inevitable".
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".
Three 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. The latter two documentaries, The Burkittsville 7 and Shadow of the Blair Witch, both directed by Ben Rock, aired in 2000.
Box office performance
|Film||Running time||Release date||Box office gross||Ranking||Budget||Ref(s)|
|North America||Worldwide||All time
|The Blair Witch Project||81 min||July 16, 1999||$140,539,099||$248,639,099||#318||$600,000|||
|Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2||90 min||October 27, 2000||$26,437,094||$47,737,094||#2,551||$15 million|||
Critical and public reception
|The Blair Witch Project||87% (154 reviews)||81 (33 reviews)||C+|
|Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2||13% (105 reviews)||15 (34 reviews)||D-|
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