The Controversial Streaming Horror Movie That Would Never Be Made Today

By Robert Scucci | Published

We’re quickly approaching The Blair Witch Project’s 25th anniversary, and it’s high time that we celebrate how this found footage supernatural horror film changed the game through its storytelling about three missing filmmakers and its insane marketing campaign. Back in 1999, the internet was becoming a household necessity but wasn’t used for fact checking like it is today. By the same token, the internet certainly existed and was used to promote films like The Blair Witch Project in ways previously thought unimaginable.

The Blair Witch Project Revolutionized Horror

the blair witch project movie plot

Filmed almost exclusively by its three stars using portable cameras, The Blair Witch Project focuses on Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams. We’re taken on a hike into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland, so they can investigate the legend of the Blair Witch that has troubled the community for decades. Functioning as the main creative force behind the documentary the film students are trying to produce, Heather works alongside Joshua and Michael, who aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the project as she is.

Unlike Anything Else At The Time

Before stepping foot into the woods, Heather, Mike, and Josh gather intel through street interviews with locals and learn about a local hermit named Rustin Parr, who abducted and murdered seven children in his cabin. On their way into the woods, they encounter two fishermen who add to the lore by explaining how a young girl named Robin Weaver went missing back in 1888, only to return three days later talking about a mysterious floating old woman she encountered during her disappearance.

A Doomed Hike

Once we get through the first act of The Blair Witch Project, the camera work gets increasingly shaky and frantic as the film students get lost, lose their map, and encounter what they believe to be supernatural forces that are following their every move. Despite their efforts to locate their car, they never make it out of the woods alive.

Fooled The World

Leaning into the “this actually happened” vibe, missing person flyers were distributed at film festivals, and the film’s IMDb page originally listed the actors as missing or presumed dead. Back in 1999, this only added to the lore and allure of The Blair Witch Project because the stars of the film were unknown actors at the time.

One Of The Most Profitable Films In History

Over 20 hours of footage were shot before being whittled down to the tight 80-minute run-time that the final cut of The Blair Witch Project has to offer. Though the film’s final budget was reported to be $750,000, principal photography cost a modest $60,000, and the film went on to earn over $248 million.

A Critical Hit That Changed Horror

Though there were numerous reports of audience members leaving the theater because they experienced motion sickness because of the shaky found-footage filming style, The Blair Witch Project was a critical hit, garnering an 86 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. The frantic energy that The Blair Witch Project embodies makes for a terrifying viewing experience; though you never see a monster on-screen, you feel a form of second-hand fear through the grainy footage that was captured by its principal characters.

Found Footage Became Hot

In other words, The Blair Witch Project was met with mixed audience reviews upon its release, but it was celebrated by critics and has been credited for reviving the found-footage filming technique that would later be used in films like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and End of Watch. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, who wrote and directed the film, used the early days of the internet to their advantage by leaning into the idea that the events that transpired in the film actually happened and marketed it as such.

Watch The Original Today

The Blair Witch Project is very much a product of its time, but its narrative will still get under your skin today. If you want to experience the fear of the unknown that was so expertly captured by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, you can stream The Blair Witch Project on The Criterion Channel, Mubi, and Freevee, or rent it on-demand through Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play.