By George Rose
October 14, 2009
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The few that haven't seen this movie have at least heard of it. It was a pop-culture phenomenon back in 1999, costing pennies to make and raking in over $100 million at the box office. Why was it so big? Because for the longest time people thought it was a real documentary. Instead, it was just among the first horror movies to use a handheld camera, no big name celebrities and a horror villain that you never actually see.
The premise is simple: three film students go to Maryland to research the urban legend known as the Blair Witch. They go on a two day hike through the woods in search of facts regarding this legend but instead find themselves lost. Panic and fear set in, leaving the three students on a hunt for their survival, trying to escape the clutches of the forest and the ominous presence that surrounds them. The students begin disappearing, eventually leaving nothing behind but the footage they took that was discovered a year after they all went missing. It doesn't sound like a whole lot goes on but the movie really is creepy upon its first viewing, especially if you see it under the pretenses that it's an actual documentary. Needless to say, it's not. The students are actors and the Blair Witch is a made up myth that became successful enough to warrant a sequel, Book of Shadows. The sequel flopped, of course, because the gimmick had been revealed. That shouldn't take away from the original, though. It really is a great movie to watch late at night when the only thing on TV is the abysmal Prom Night. Brittany Snow really does deserve better.
The real reason I'm recommending The Blair Witch Project is because we have the same sort of sleeper success on our hands in the form of Paranormal Activity. Still in limited release, Paranormal Activity uses the handheld camera trick to invoke realism surrounding ghostly encounters of a haunted couple. Or so I hear. I haven't seen the movie yet but have heard rave reviews from a few friends that have. Also, as a marketing major in college, I'm extremely impressed with how the movie has positioned itself: rather than throw another horror movie in the faces of impressionable teenagers during the Halloween season, the film ends its trailer saying "if you want to see the movie, demand it in your area." You go to the Web site, find your location and request the movie be released there. I don't imagine the tactic working for every film, but it's fascinating how well genre fans have responded. The movie is already set for a nationwide release, per demand, and has been raking in boatloads of cash relative to the film's minuscule cost. Let this be a reminder of clever movies from the past and those to come. At the very least, it's clever marketing.
Big Man Japan (2007)
Because the only new movie to come out this weekend was Couples Retreat (and let's be honest, despite the great cast it has looks absolutely dreadful), I decided not to go to the movies. It was a painful decision but it seemed necessary. That was until someone suggested we check out the Trenton International Film Festival. I didn't even know that existed in my area until a friend suggested we go, and after we saw there was a Japanese monster movie showing on Saturday night we knew there was no better place to be.