October is here! I spent many a long, wakeful night ruminating on the perfect topic for this most special of months. I considered all the gold standards, favorite horror movies, horror books, horror moments, horror villains and so on.
These are all great topics, and they’re all tackled every year by more seasoned experts than myself. In coming years, I’ll likely get around to offering my take on all of them, but for now, I can give you the short version of how this would go:
1: I make a list of considerably more than five favorites off the top of my head.
2: I kick off mostly the ones that are on every other “Greatest Horror _____s” list ever compiled, knowing there’s less I can add about them.
3: I spend a month defending the five that are left that aren’t generally recognized as the greatest.
So I thought I’d spare myself the anguish of choosing and eliminating all the horror greatness everyone already agrees on and go right to the much more interesting step of disagreement.
Now, in honor of the season, I present to you, not my five favorite horror movies (though one or two of them might make that list too), but the five horror movies I consider most unfairly maligned.
The Blair Witch Project comes in at #5 not because I don’t love it, only because in recent years it has been getting more of the respect it deserves as a horror classic. Following its release, it suffered greatly from Prometheus Syndrome, a term I just made up.
If you haven’t seen it, here’s how it goes:
Three students explore a small town and then the nearby forest to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. They get lost in the forest and slowly realize that space is no longer working the way it should and that the forest itself seems to be toying with them.
No, it’s not particularly complicated. It’s a charmingly simple, innovative movie.
I won’t claim it was the first movie done in the found footage style, because someone’s sure to correct me. Besides, the concept goes back to the epistolary style common in gothic novels and probably earlier in various forms. I’m not foolish enough to dare to call any idea a hundred percent new, but The Blair Witch Project was the seminal movie that popularized the form in horror movies.
And how do you popularize an idea? Usually (though not always), it involves doing it well.
The Blair Witch Project does found footage well, well enough to inspire a whole lot of imitators to give both the original and the concept a bad name.
The acting is exceptionally believable for a movie of its kind. The very method camping trip the actors were subjected to over the course of filming no doubt had something to do with this, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful onscreen.
The handheld camera isn’t abused for nauseating disorientation techniques. The filming looks like it was done by a moderately capable film student with a late ’90s professional video camera without a tripod. It’s that simple.
And why do they keep the cameras on after things start going to hell?
As will likely be the case with every movie on this list, if The Blair Witch Project is one of those movies you’ve always heard about but never seen, I heartily implore you to give it a chance.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!