Friday, September 14, 2012

Life's a Witch: "Curse of the Blair Witch" (1999)

This forty-four minute mockumentary was originally broadcast on cable television to take advantage of the soon to be released "The Blair Witch Project." In many ways, it is creepier than the film it was hoping to promote.

Done by the feature film's directors, "Curse of the Blair Witch" gives some much needed background about the now infamous story of three film students disappearing in the Maryland woods, with their footage found years later.

We start with pre-Colonial days, and the origin of the Blair, Maryland witch. Then, every thirty or fifty years or so, something happens in the region that triggers more Blair Witch talk. A child is missing, and her search party are hunted and killed. In the 1940's, a man hears the witch's voice and follows her commands, killing seven children. Then, the three students disappear in the mid-1990's.

Like the film, many of the actors in the documentary use their real names. The town's historian and a university folklore expert are interviewed, as is the sheriff who is in over his head. Family and friends of the three film students all talk about the last time they saw the trio. This is accented by readings from old documents about the witch, newsreel footage, and artists' renderings.

While I found the film "The Blair Witch Project" overhyped until the creepy finale, "Curse of the Blair Witch" is both informative and scary. Sanchez and Myrick do a great job making this footage look like a real documentary. The cast, actors and nonactors, are totally believable as interview subjects.

If we did not know that the Blair witch is fiction, this documentary might have persuaded me otherwise. Of course, "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" tanked, and I do not know if any other series entries are planned, but "Curse of the Blair Witch" is good for anyone needing a witch fix.

I am glad this was made, instead of just another behind-the-scenes, or making-of documentary, where shiny happy actors liken their experience on set as the best of their lives, then trash the work six months later in Movieline. (* * * *) out of five stars.