Just over 20 years ago, Blair’s Witch Project was the hottest topic of conversation among thousands of viewers. “Is it a true story or not?” at first we asked more than one. Today it would be difficult for a campaign like that, which played so much cluelessness, to work in the same way.
But basically, with the information still limited on the network and with no more data than those that the distributor wanted to disclose, the film was a phenomenon for the horror genre thanks to selling the images as a documentary edited from images found in a forest And two decades later we ask ourselves again, was there any real inspiration in all your history? Well you know what? The answer is yes. A little bit.
It was 1999, and I still remember the day I saw it. It was the first Saturday after the premiere, no friend or family member dared to see her with me – blame for that campaign that made her a success by word of mouth – and I went alone to a screening that was in a cinema at 14:00. I remember it because it was winter and it was getting dark early, and I had figured it would come out of the movie that way when there was still a little light. In case I was more terrified of the account.
I also remember that it seemed to me the most silly horror movie ever made until the sequence of children attacking the tent arrived, running with the protagonists in my imagination, following them in the dark as they fled through the forest.
And at that moment I changed my mind and was grateful not to leave the room at night.The Blair Witch project was made with a budget of just 54,000 euros ($ 60,000) and reaped no less than € 221 million ($ 248 million) in all the world, leaving its mark on the 1999 release calendar (one of the best years for cinema) and promoting the found footage subgenre (the same genre that uses the Paranomal Activity, REC or Monstrous saga) with a marketing campaign that gave The three protagonists were missing and many believed.
Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez were students at the University of Central Florida when they came up with the project in 1993, realizing that documentaries about paranormal phenomena were more scary than movies from horror fiction. And so, they decided to create a feature film that would combine the two.
They founded a production company, wrote a 35-page script whose dialogue was to be impromptu, put up an advertisement looking for actors in a magazine, and shot it in 1997 in eight days. The film revolved around found recordings of a group of students who They were preparing to shoot a documentary about a legendary Maryland witch known as Elly Kedward, and a hermit named Rustin Parr who in the 1940s had kidnapped seven children, murdering them on the witch’s orders.
And so, after interviewing several local characters, they delved into the Burkittsville forest in search of answers, only to find more legends on the path of deaths and mysterious disappearances throughout the centuries, and finally end up being stalked in the dark , sharing the same fate as the children of the legend.
So what was real in all this? The production designer of the film, Ben Rock – who had studied in the same class with the directors – was a fan of the paranormal and he was in charge of creating all the mythology that surrounds the story. With their vision they shot a mockumentary previously released on television on the SciFi channel and launched a website that explained the fictional legend of the film (and that it is still active). And while it was all made up, both the witch and the kidnapper of legend were inspired by two real-life names.
The murderer Rustin Parr is an anagram that refers to Rasputin, the healer, occultist and historical political figure of Russia; but the witch’s name starts from an even more interesting figure.Read moreIn the film, the legend says that the witch is the ghost of Elly Kedward, a woman sentenced to die for witchcraft in the town of Blair in 1785. Well, Elly Kedward is another anagram. In this case, Edward Kelley, a 16th century medium who claimed to bring the dead back to life.
And so, Rock captured his obsession with the paranormal in a more than personal way.In this way, the young filmmaker who made his first steps in the industry with this film paid his own tribute to this legendary figure in the history of alchemy of his time .
Unlike the witch in the film, Edward Kelly was an English occultist who lived between 1555 and 1597. Although history calls him a charlatan, Kelley was one of the most famous mediums of his era who dedicated several years of his life to Travel and experiment with alchemy alongside John Dee, the legendary astronomer, occultist, and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I.
According to history, Kelley was a successful medium who claimed to have the ability to communicate with angels. His trick? He was a ventriloquist and basically fooled his clients by making voices come out of the crystal ball with his “magic.” He began his professional pursuits by falsifying documents and, with his established reputation as an alchemist, traveled through Europe with John Dee, leading many to believe that they had discovered the elixir of eternal life and the philosopher’s stone.
The truth is that he served under King Rudolph II of Prague by passing an examination in which he allegedly managed to convert half a kilo of mercury into gold, drawing the attention of Queen Elizabeth I who summoned him in court immediately. If a subject of hers was capable of creating gold, she wanted him at her side, but upon learning, King Rudolph II threw him into the dungeons of his castle (some say that because of fraud, others because he refused to confess the secret of his alchemy). Kelley never came to serve her queen because she died in 1597/98 while trying to escape prison.
And so he went down in history as one of the most famous alchemists and mediums in historical folklore. His story is even portrayed with great prominence in the Museum of the Alchemists and Wizards of Old Prague.
And so, almost secretly, those responsible for The Blair Witch Project were inspired by his name to create the famous witch of legend, though inspiration generally for all invented mythology also included the idea of the mysterious disappearances of the Bermuda Triangle, Arthur Miller’s 1953 work, The Salem Witches (or The Crucible), and the actual cases of that persecution of Massachusetts witches in 1692, portraying themes of injustice imparted upon those who were accused of witchcraft centuries ago and mysterious disappearances.
That is, there was no Blair Witch, nor is there the ancient town of Blair in Maryland but was inspired by Figures from history in general, developed characters and a mythology that expanded into two sequels, novels, comic book, video games and a documentary. And what they accomplished was unique in film history, so much so that hundreds of onlookers traveled to the location where the film was shot after the premiere in hopes of learning more about the legend.
Many believed the made-up mythology to be real, causing historians and residents of the Burkittsville area to criticize the film for causing an uncontrollable frenzy for its once peaceful town, according to neighbors who curious people went to the cemetery with candles to make. vigil for the kidnapped children believing the story of the film, while others harassed the residents with constant questions about “the legend”.
The fed-up haunted them for so long that the people erased all traces of the film in 2016, seeking to completely dissociate themselves from the most recent sequel, Blair Witch. its protagonists lived. Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Josh Leonard not only went through fear and hunger on the set, but today the shadow of the film still haunts them.
Only Leonard continued working as an actor, while Heather was pigeonholed in that movie and ended up writing a book explaining her profession as a farmer of medical marijuana plantation; and Michael is dedicated to giving acting classes while working as a school counselor. The parents of the three spent many years receiving condolences believing the story that their children had died as shown in the film, and even received threats from some viewers who felt cheated. knowing that they were alive. It was the campaign that showed Hollywood the power of the internet and the viral.