[This prompted a remembrance of reviewing “The Blair Witch Project” book + website components in my editor’s office in 1999, right before I scurried off to the film’s premiere midnight screening: the “mocumentary” aspect of the project resonated hard and helped shape my orientation to what is now known as transmedia. Back then I thought of transmedia as part-adjunctive and part-Gesaltish, though it wasn’t until 2003 that I formalised the concept as “Active Narrative Gathering”…]
Released in the summer of 1999, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is undoubtedly one of the most influential horror films ever made, single-handedly – despite the fact that it wasn’t actually the first of its kind – turning the “found footage” style into a bona fide sub-genre. Like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD before it, the low-budget film continues to spawn imitators too numerous to even keep track of, but very few movies to employ the POV filmmaking technique have managed to capture even an ounce of what Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez did out in the woods back in the 1990s. The brilliance of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, aside from being a genuinely terrifying exercise in restraint, was the groundbreaking marketing campaign, which ensured that the film became a cultural phenomenon. At the time of its release, many were convinced that the tragic tale of three young filmmakers was a documentary rather than a horror movie, and the marketing played up the realism of the film to the extent that it was easy to believe it wasn’t merely a work of fiction. Made on a budget of just $60,000, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT skyrocketed to the top of the box office charts.Along with the film’s financial success came a full-on deluge of products intended to capitalize on the phenomenon, including everything from comic books to video games, and young adult novels to trading cards.