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the blair witch project

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said about this film.

Synopsis: Dumbass college kids get lost in the woods looking for the Blair Witch while trying to make a documentary about said Witch.

And so this is the second psychological, hide-the-killer thriller I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. And I must say that I’ve really grown to hate these films because they capitalize on the idea of what isn’t seen is far creepier than what is seen.

Many horror films play on a concept–the Ring was a video tape, the Grudge was an ancient Japanese curse, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was about fucked up hillbillies. But psychological horror has one concept it seems: torture the viewer with things seen, unseen, and half-seen. Though the cinematographic aspect does carry over at times into all aspects of the genre, the movies that play on the story you create within your mind are those that are most effective.

With a horror film that features a Mike Myers or Freddy Kreuger type, the story is essentially laid out in black and white: don’t run, don’t sleep. You’re fucked either way and we’re going to show you everything.

But when you take a movie like the Blair Witch Project or The Strangers or Funny Games, you allow the viewer to create their own story based upon what they don’t see, what they don’t know is going on. These types of movies allow the viewer to creep themselves out–and that is something that is much more effective and lasting.

The Blair Witch Project does an excellent job of playing on that concept. It sets you up with the basic story and allows it to bleed off into infinity as your mind races, wondering what the noises outside the tent are, wondering why the woods seem to caught in a snow globe that shakes you up and puts you right back where you started. There is something to this film that allows it to quietly creep into your psyche and fuck with it.

See, about halfway through the movie, I kept thinking to myself, “It’s an interesting concept but this shit’s way over done… It’s getting old… I’m getting nauseous…” And then it hit me. I was scared out of my wits. For no reason. Suddenly, I went from thinking about its artistic integrity (though it has none other than playing out a good idea) to thinking about how much I wanted this to be over so I could get back to not being petrified. But during the films run time, I would have shat myself if I had any shit in me, and afterwards, I had to wind down because I was still a little scared… Scared because of that seed planted in my mind about what’s really going on.

What was going on in my mind during the movie was that I could imagine that some punk kids followed them into the woods and were doing all of this to them–and that Josh was in on it. That’s why he disappeared and kept calling out to them. He just wanted to fuck with them. And they got the teeth and tongue from some joke shop or something… But then the ending totally fucked all that up because, by that time, I was convinced that this thing we never see (which I imagine to look like some sort of crone-woman, hunched over yet with the ability to run really fast and shake tents like a mean motherfucker) was proven to be out for blood for no known reason.

Motivation will fuck you up. I think that’s the lesson learned here. The annoying bitch, Heather, just wanted to make a documentary–yet spent all her time shooting on the shitty hi8 camcorder.

It seemed like the bulk of the movie stemmed from Heather’s desire to make a really good special feature on the DVD. The making of The Blair Witch Project… And yet they rarely use the 16mm camera that they have. Why? Probably because they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. And why was she only actually speaking to the camera once on the 16mm film? Most of the expensive stock was used on ambiance and ass-shots while the cheap hi8 was used for most of the filming.

And, from a budget standpoint, I can understand that. But if you’re going to interlace both of them and try to show that she was trying to make a legitimate documentary, at least make the portions shot with the nice camera actually look like they were going to try to piece everything together to do so.

That’s my only gripe with this film: it seemed a bit backasswards to have the bulk of the documentary shot on the cheap tape and not the expensive stock. Oh well. I’m not going to complain. I got the pants scared off of me.

texas chainsaw massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974 has been on my mind all day and night since watching it last night on Netflix’ Watch Now feature–something that was much more convenient and of much higher quality than I expected. I was expecting something much more similar to its 2003 remake starring Jessica Biel et al, yet what I encountered was something much more organic and true to form as a horror film.

But the odd thing was that, by about 45 minutes in, I hadn’t had one scare, I hadn’t seen Leatherface, I just knew that something was ultra-fucking-wrong with ultra-fucking-everything. This vibe was especially rampant when they pick up the crazy-fucking-hitchhiker who takes the invalid’s knife and cuts his hand open, has a conversation about bashing cow skulls at the slaughterhouse, and making head cheese by using the boiled flesh of a cow’s head. That’s not scary, that’s just fucked up. And it adds something. We now know the locals are fucking crazy.

Because of all of this, we can tell that this movie is seriously based in ambience and atmosphere, that this is all to enhance the scares, the jolts and the terror to come. The opening credit roll is shown over what looks like Corona blasts from the sun that are discolored, precluded by a short narration about the events which unfold, making this opening narration akin to a Greek Chorus telling you what’s going to happen and basically saying, “These people you will hang out with for the next hour and a half are completely, and utterly, fucked. Have fun!” During that opening credits roll, there’s a typical news report speaking of a Cholera outbreak and oil fires and sweltering heat and shit shit shit. It all adds up to an experience.

So we had tension, but no scares. And by the poster featuring Leatherface wielding a chainsaw over his head, I wanted scares. And at about 45 minutes I was ready to turn this movie off and go to bed–and then it happened. We see one of the kids go over to the house with his girlfriend after the creek bed is all dried up to ask for gasoline since they’re going to be needing some to get their asses home. He knocks and no one answers. He knocks again, nothing. He must have knocked on that screen door about five times, figuring that backwoods hicks have got nothing better to do than sit around at home or run around in the scary ass woods around the house. With this in mind, he opens the screen door to knock on the front door, which opens up when he hits it. Oh goody. With the door open, he peeks inside and sees a drab, desolate house with tons of bones everywhere, and one wall behind a door jamb painted blood red, with cow skulls and other bones on it. He calls to his lady to check this out, and he, now thinking no one is home, ventures into the house while she stays on the bench.

The moment he crosses the door jamb towards the red wall and skulls, he is fucking NAILED over the head with a hammer. After 45 minutes of slow, angering explication–tense-ass fucking atmosphere–we are hit over the head by a sledge hammer and catapulted into an insane second half of people getting knocked and maimed and chased down.

But here’s the thing. Holy shit: there’s very little blood, and very little gore. Unlike today’s horror films that try to make us squeam as well as scream, we are treated to a horror film that has some of its most graphic moments (aside from someone getting pancaked by a semi) obstructed by other objects. In the 2003 remake, we saw people get hung on meat hooks at least twice, and, this time, the one time it happens, it’s obstructed by the table where the guy who got his head bashed is laying, about to be chopped to bits.

By the time there’s only one person left, we learn some things: the crazy-ass hitchhiker is Leatherface’s brother; the owner of the gas station is their father; and they have a grandpa who used to be the best killer around, according to them (we see him in his flaccid phase, can’t hold a hammer); and the barbecue at the father’s gas station is probably cannibal-cue.

This movie is fucking crazy. The 70’s were fucking crazy. The girl who plays the character Laurie got her hand cut open because they couldn’t get the blood bag to work. The actor who played the hitchhiker said that filming this was worse than being in Vietnam. I’m serious.

I never want to go to Texas again.