Scary Movies
by
Ed Owens

What happened?

There was a time when filmmakers knew how to make scary movies. Before the self-aware hipness of Scream and the excess gore of Dead Alive, movies walked that fine line between too much and not enough, and provided for some really scary experiences. The films that stick are the ones that showed us just enough to turn our own minds in on themselves. That said, it's somewhat ironic that the two scary movies currently fighting for our hard-earned money fall on opposite ends of the spectrum, both missing the mark set by their more impressive predecessors. No, not Star Wars and Big Daddy, though their respective status as the number 1 and 9 highest grossing movies of the year is frightening in and of itself. I'm talking about The Haunting and The Blair Witch Project.

 

*****

The Haunting begins promisingly, but the last twenty minutes devolves into so much CGI silliness that one can't help laughing out loud, always a bad reaction to the end of a movie attempting to be scary. Add to this a somewhat sloppy script, a couple of wooden performances, and shameless wallowing in overripe sentimentality, and what you're left with is a film that should have been much better. The film isn't a total waste - just remember to leave around the 90 minute mark.

*****

You're given a gorgeous box with incredible paper and a brilliant bow. The package is like nothing you've ever seen. You savor every moment of the unwrapping project, gingerly peeling back the tape and delicately placing aside the outer trappings as you wait anxiously for what's inside...an old worn-out pair of sneakers. Such is The Blair Witch Project. The mythology that has sprung up around the film is intriguing, morbid and, yes, scary. The film, on the other hand, is not. I hate to be the one to say it, but this emperor has no clothes.

For one thing, twigs just aren't scary, even when they're in the shape of little people. Another problem is the main characters. They were so annoying, I actually wanted them dead twenty minutes earlier. A plot synopsis is pointless...walk through woods, camp, hear scary noises at night, walk through woods, camp, hear scary noises at night, ad nauseum.

And this doesn't even begin to address the film's inherent absurdities, like who the fuck would continue videotaping as they ran for their lives through the woods in the dead of night? Instead of developing the mythology, the movie trots out one horror cliche after another, even throwing in a ridiculous "haunted house" riff that is so jarringly obvious in its placement, it caused half of the audience to laugh at the screening I attended.

Many are touting the film as illustrating the adage that "less is more." In terms of substance, The Bare Witch Project isn't less, it's nothing. There is so little narrative development that we have no referent to be scared of. I agree that less is more, but there's at least got to be something.

The Haunting: too much
The Blair Witch Project: not enough

Bring back The Exorcist...or Halloween...or Alien...

Ed

p.s. one final note on TBWP...

********MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*********





...it's not real.




CineScene 1999