Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gimme a witch with Blair! Wild, malevolent Blair! Killing, screaming, scheming, vexing, hexing!

On today's installment of "I Could Do It Better Theater": The Blair Witch Project!

Yes, the Blair Witch Project. It fascinated millions and polarized the country all for a budget that wouldn't buy a nice dinner for two at a moderately fancy restaurant. Impressive, Blair Witch Project... your hype was magnificent, and when I saw you, I was enthralled and left considering you one of the finest horror movies I've ever seen. Now, however, several years down the line and sharply decontextualized, you are kind of suck.

The crux of the Blair Witch experience (if I may be so pretentious) was letting yourself get into the 'is it real?' frame of mind. And for the most part, the folks who loved it either bought into that or were willing to suspend their disbelief so far, and those who hated it, didn't. And when it was still fresh and new and being talked about, this worked for it. Let no man say that in terms of marketing and central conceit, The Blair Witch Project wasn't a neat little movie. The problem is, it's some years later, and the central conceit can't stand under its own weight anymore... and that was the only thing propping up the movie.

Scene after scene, the characters bicker, yell, wander around, look at spooky things, and don't DO anything. Realistic? Yes. Interesting? Well... in The Shining, we watch Scatman Crothers wander around an empty hotel calling out for people for about two solid minutes, and it's excruciating. Except, the first time you see it, every second is filled with that sort of "Oh god is Jack Nicholson going to leap out from behind a couch and eat him" panic that's never quite there in subsequent viewings. It's a little dull, to tell the truth, in subsequent viewings; there's still a veneer of suspense supplemented by the music and camerawork, but overall, you're ready to see it end once it begins. And it's only for two minutes.

Blair Witch Project has the equivalent of and hour's Scatman wandering. With no music or camerawork to speak of. And with the faux-realism bubble popped, the suspense is virtually nonexistent. It is, frankly, boring. And I see what they're going for... it is all hyper-realistic. But real life, in case you haven't noticed, is rarely interesting to those who are not involved in it directly, and sometimes not even then. Still, it satisfies the conceit and would be a forgivable sin... except the plot of the movie gives the filmmakers an out that they almost never use!

The characters are supposed to be filming a documentary, and the ratio of 'documentary footage' to 'real footage' in the movie is, I'd say, one to five. I submit that this ratio should have been inverted. Imagine a movie that is eighty percent documentary, and twenty percent weird shit happening. Maybe a little less, but you get the picture. With increased documentary-style footage, we'd get the (very vague) history of the Blair Witch flashed out a lot more. We'd get SOME sort of personality to any of the characters. We'd get (in my opinion) a lot more believability as to the camera's presence... as opposed to the one girl just filming everything for the hell of it, we'd see those moments of conflict during set-ups and botched attempts at documentary shots, and still have the cameras in use to record the sticks for posterity, the apology, and the house at the end (as surrogate flashlights). We'd get infinitely more longevity, as the hype and realism won't be a product of marketing, but an inbuilt product of the documentary's pseudo-veracity. And finally, and most importantly, we'd get a whole lot less boring. Would you rather watch five minutes of barely-visible running through the forest, or five minutes of, say, a visibly agitated historian who freaks out in a disturbing way when a dude offhandedly mentions that the group might camp out of coffin rock? And that's off the top of my head. I'm pretty sure that given a touch of gumption, I could improve the entire damn movie. ALSO, I'd make it a musical. Because really, that would rock.

This has been "I Could Do It Better Theater"... tune in next week when I discuss the human reproductive system! Goo'night ever'body!


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