“I insisted on everything. I insisted that we weren’t lost. I insisted that we keep going. I insisted that we walk south. Everything had to be my way.”
Amateur filmmakers Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, and Mike Williams venture into the Maryland woods to pursue the legend of The Blair Witch. What starts as a campy, ghost story adventure turns ugly when the campers get lost. Their supplies dwindle; their tempers flare; and unsettling circumstances push the trio to the darkest corners of their imagination while they try to find their way home before something else finds them.
Heather, like Helen from Candyman, is ruthless. She stops at nothing to make her spook film, though it is not clear from the beginning what the project is really about for her. What is clear is that Heather is more interested in furthering her own ambitions than on the welfare of her buddies, old friend Josh and new friend Mike. It might be worth noting too, that these friendships seem to be based on Josh’s and Mike’s access to camera equipment and experience with using it, rather than on longtime bonds.
As the tensions in the woods heighten, Heather spends more time filming than she does in coming to the rescue of her companions. To be fair, the whole film is just film, so the implication is that we don’t see what happens when the camera is off; but, it is a little suspect that Heather leads the way in every direction, that Heather chooses to have the group camp when the guys want to find the car, and that Heather makes an unusual decision to film a bloody piece of clothing left behind by Josh.
…The Blair Witch?
Perhaps reckless Heather is not so innocent to the goings-on in the woods. Is it possible that she is the villain for which this ill-fated project is named?
While Heather does put on a very good show, many times as the audience, we can hear her without seeing her face. That incident where she films Josh’s bloody shirt is a good example; panting and “crying” are heard, but no one can see if Heather is really as panicked as she sounds.
Although, there is that whole, “I’m so scared” speech she gives in the tent. This is the one everyone has parodied in the two decades since the film originally debuted. In this close-up, it is not possible to see Heather’s whole face as she gives her “heartfelt” monologue, and there may be a reason for that. Either Heather doesn’t believe she is that good of an actress or there is something else in the tent that Heather does not want anyone to see.
From the first moment of the film, this is Heather’s idea; it’s Heather’s way or the highway, which makes some of her behavior later so questionable. Besides filming her friends’ aggravation and convincing the trio to camp when they want to go home, Heather also loses the map.
How could someone so organized and so bull-headed just lose the very object that is most important to the whole excursion? True, Mike breaks into a slaphappy giggle fit later and insists that he threw the map into the woods, but he could have been convinced to do it – possibly by someone more strong-willed or more vocal…
Finally, there’s the ending of the movie. A lot of people are dissatisfied with it, but in essence, Heather screams her head off while filming the inside of the house that we know is the house of The Blair Witch. Then, Heather – as the camera – sees Mike standing in the corner right before the camera falls to the ground.
Legend has it that when The Blair Witch has one person stand in the corner, the other person is murdered, so Heather must be dead…right? Then again, The Blair Witch Project is Heather’s passion project all along. Maybe the film’s title isn’t about the subject of the documentary; maybe it’s named after the storyteller.