The Blair Witch Project (1999): Can you believe that this absolute epochal adventure that practically perfected an otherwise cringey subgenre of horror was once nominated for a Razzie? That is, nevertheless, hardly the defining quirk of the found-footage style atmospheric horror that is chock-full of unnerving audacities.

To say that the magma effervescing beneath its cloak of perpetually ambiguous terror is virtually a horror heritage would, in all honesty, be the only analogy worthy of following The Blair Witch Project. Imagine a world with no myth-busting, all-knowing social media, and the world wide web itself was in its amateurish adolescence.

That is exactly the privilege of circumstance that rendered the bulk of the audience that went into the theatre expecting a boilerplate horror thoroughly mortified. While the credit for it should entirely be bestowed on the groundbreaking minds that came up with the fresh-from-the-oven marketing strategies, the eccentric makers took quite a bit of questionable liberties, especially with the actors that were carefully culled from an audition that was way more thorough than you would have expected.

Granted, Heather, Josh, and Mike weren’t left to fend for themselves in the thick of the menacing woods. But just the fact that most of the scratch-the-hell-out-of-your-armrest emotions that we’ve seen being evoked on screen were, in fact, born of the actors having the bejeesus scared out of them by the crew as they were made for camping out in the middle of the unfamiliar woods, adds just that much notoriety to the horror that will forever retain its throne as the most convincing film of the found-footage genre.

And with an ending that made the audience jump out of their skin and, to this day, nefariously grin at the brain-scrambling discomposure on their faces as they try to make heads and tails of what they’ve just seen, The Blair Witch Project will forever hold on to its cult status.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:

Bet you didn’t take the title card about the three missing student filmmakers in the haunted woods of Burkittsville without a grain of salt. But why would you when you’ve been baited time and again the same way, and you’ve gotten over the wide-eyed phase of believing everything you’re told?

If only the believers of holy doctrines were as enlightened as you! But early men didn’t have the gift of information in the palm of their hands, and neither did the crowds, the not-so-niche ones that hoarded in the theatres to watch The Blair Witch Project and came out scarred and convinced that Heather, Josh, and Mike really did enter the maw of the monster when they made the naive choice of making a documentary on the infamous Burkittsville lore.

The three young adults are short on a functional gameplan but not on supplies as they head out to the town, previously known as Blair, with woods thick and opaque enough to cradle and guard the hauntings of the witch the townspeople have grown up hearing of.

Betraying her resolve to steer clear of cheesiness, Heather eclipses the grim headstones of the children that were laid to rest in the 1940s, a time horrid enough that the town would want to push it to the back of their minds and never speak of it again.

But not everyone has vouched to adhere to the vow of silence, as a local speaking into the microphone recounts the monstrosity that was carried on in a secluded home deep in the woods. Rustin Parr was the face of evil when he came out of his hermit hiding and assumed the gruesome blame for kidnapping eight children and nastily murdering 7 of them.

The woman in black that Parr claims to have been puppeteered by had appeared in different facades to people living around the ominous Black Hills Forest in Maryland, one of whom, Mary Brown, swears to have been met by her looming, hirsute figure when she was a kid.

The way down the forest also compels Heather and her group to stop and have a chat with a couple of guys fishing and learn of the supremely unfortunate Robin Weaver, a little girl who was lured away by a woman whose feet never touched the ground, and bolted back home when the witch was nowhere to be seen.

The gripping, albeit bone-chilling anecdotes of the witch they’re after only fortifies the hook the enigma already had into Heather, Mike, and Josh. Reciting aloud from the book that chronicles the terror that had tainted Coffin Rock in 1886, Heather turns to take in the allure of the ghastly history they’re making themselves a part of on their journey further into the mystical woods. A cackling here, a footstep there: their first night camping out in the wilderness has already allowed them a whiff of something they should evade while there’s still time.

It is when an intricate arrangement of cairns commands their dismayed attention that they start believing that the lores may not be just lores. And that would’ve been a thing of anxious celebration had Heather not failed to guide the group towards their car the next day. It is official, they’re lost, however difficult it may be for Heather to say out loud as the cracks make themselves discernible and the group’s dynamic turns into a shared case of gaslighting in the blink of an eye.

Running low on supplies isn’t nearly as terrifying for the three as being tormented throughout the night by sounds all around their little tents in the middle of nowhere. Their fate is just about set when they wake up to the overwhelming sight of three cairns, freshly stacked outside of their tents, as though beating the gong of what is to come.

They’re no less lost, only this time there’s no map, for this time Mike thought it better to toss it to the bin. What would’ve been a thrilling discovery had their hope of ever being back to civilization not been receding announces itself as another step closer to the gates of hell when they come across voodoo twig figurines suspended from the branches.

Now, I know you’ve got a truckload of questions about basically everything that occurs starting from this point, and since I’ve added it to my nerdy agenda to help you out, that is what I’ll be trying to do.

What Happens To Josh?

Being at each other’s throats is what you would likely expect from a group that is starved, dehydrated, scared out of their minds, and has run out of their nicotine fix. Another night of camping in the woods which is clearly haunted by something they had no business messing with, is the only option left for them to pick. Just as they are starting to let loose and dream up the day when they’re going to feast on their favorite food again, an imperceptible force vigorously rattles the tent they were huddled in and sends them running into the dark of the woods.

Fun side note: the reason why the terror protruding from the screen is getting to you to a behemoth extent is that the actors were hardly acting at this point. They were only allowed a measly script that scarcely qualifies as one, and they were induced with instantaneous frights to evoke the truest sense of dread. Having no clue where they’re running to is in no way soothed by the fact that Heather sees something from the corner of her eyes.

This is perhaps the spot where during filming, the camera failed to capture the ethereal manifestation of the witch who was originally supposed to show up in the film for a fleeting flash. And perhaps this is what we call a happy accident, as the inconceivability of the threat that was chasing the group was what rendered the film substantially more terrifying than it would’ve been had we been allowed to see the witch.

Traipsing back the next morning, they come to find their tents have been messed with, and Josh’s ravaged backpack has been covered with a revolting slime. Trying to keep a level head when Josh gives into the despondence of their circumstance, Heather is there to steer the group to the south and on.

And that would’ve worked just fine had they not, at the end of an excruciating day of hiking south, come to realize that they’d actually been going around in circles. Yet another night of agonizing camping ends with Josh going AWOL, leaving Heather and Mike a wretched mess they can’t begin wrapping their heads around.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) Movie Ending, Explained

Their next night in the woods is tormented by a continuous, petrifying hark in Josh’s voice coming from the gloom of the woods. When their screams asking for his location comes back with no reply, Heather supposed that the call from their missing friend might be a trap laid out by whoever or whatever is hunting them.

The next morning, Heather is treated to an occultic bundle of twigs. As she quelches her curiosity and opens it away from Mike’s eyes, she comes to find a bone-chilling poultice made out of a piece of Josh’s shirt containing bloodied human teeth and a chunk of what most likely was his tongue. The frightening mannerisms of the terror they’re being tormented with recall the legends of the Blair witch that has tainted the town and the woods.

When the Irish witch, namely Elly Kedward, had fingers pointed at her, accusing her of indulging in occult practices and drawing blood from the local children, she was tortured by the townspeople and left to freeze in the icy woods of the Black Hills Forest. Pretty soon, in 1785, all of her accusers paid for her harrowing demise with their own lives, and the town of Blair was deserted by the terrorized people who thought it best to pack up and leave.

A while after the desolate town was rediscovered and populated, in 1825, little Eileen Treacle was reportedly tugged into a stream by a white, ghostly hand, and her corpse was never recovered. It might as well have been the very stream that the two men at the beginning of the film were fishing in when one of them mentioned his supposed encounter with a white, foggy manifestation of something he believed was the witch herself.

Days after Eileen’s unfortunate demise, oily bundles of sticks, not too dissimilar to the one Josh’s grisly remains were hidden in, congested the stream and caused the water to be useless. Unlikeliest people come together when they’re made to cope with a situation so hideous that the only comfort is being aware of the presence of another human counterpart who stands to lose just as much.

A bottle of Bordeaux evidently will not be something that Heather ever gets to see. But building an air castle abundant with wine and pies with melty ice cream on top is just about the last traces of normalcy that Heather and Mike are trying to hold onto until the hunted are compelled to relinquish the very privilege of having thoughts itself.

Another night, eviscerated with screams that are now accompanied by partially audible words of begging coming from someone or something that is imitating Josh. It’s too demanding to resist this time around.

It’s hard to look the other way and risk a fraction of a percent chance of rescuing someone who’s being tormented by an unseen force, lest it really is Josh–lest Heather and Mike have to bear the guilt of not lending a helping hand to someone who’s in the direst of need. The further they sink into the woods, the thicker gets the air of terror. No surprises there.

Unlike Mike, who still has a flicker of hope alive in him, Heather has seen the telltale proof that debunks the theory of Josh’s survival. Crying profusely into the camera, Heather is a shell of a person who holds herself accountable for even having the idea that she was cursed with the impending loss their mothers would have to suffer.

Interestingly, what emerged as the actresses’ complete emotional devastation and even turned out to be the very poster of the film, was, in fact, the lucky outcome of the actress accidentally pressing the zoom button, giving us a closeup of her tear-soaked face, making it a far affecting instance of a meltdown than it would’ve been otherwise.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) Ending, Explained:

What Really Happens To Heather And Mike In The End?

Coming to the end that is convoluted without having to create a discernible maze of metaphysical elements, allow me to walk you through the opaque haze, and let’s try to make sense of what went down. Heather has no option left but to tread on the heels of Mike as he goes deeper into the woods to find the source of the sound. As they stumble on the ruins of a house and Mike throws caution in the air and goes in, all Heather can do is follow as the only other choice is to be stranded alone in a petrifying surrounding.

The ominous air of the house is only underpropped by strange pagan scribblings all over the walls, and countless handprints of children that would make about anyone’s soul leave their body. Following the voice confines them in a hamster wheel of rushing up and down the floors only to have Mike knocked over by an unseen force.

Heather braces herself to go looking for him and is violently discomposed to find an unresponsive Mike standing with his head lowered and facing a corner. But Heather’s fright doesn’t get to last long enough as she is soon keeled over by the same supernatural energy, and the two are never seen or heard from again.

The three student filmmakers, forsaken by luck and anything good that exist in the world, were most likely killed by the very witch they wished to capture on film. Elly Kedward, the ghastly abused woman who was known to walk the dreadful woods of the Black Hills Forest, was also fabled to have been viciously territorial and vengeful if poked and prodded. The house that Mike and Heather discovered in the woods is, all probability, the very house where the serial killer hermit Rustin Parr conducted his inhuman business.

The lores of the Blair witch universe outline Parr’s crime with details that corroborate the possibility that it was Parr’s house where Mike and Heather were killed by the witch that Parr himself claimed to have been manipulated by. The handprints of the children might have belonged to the eight kids that Parr had kidnapped and brutalized in his basement.

He was chronicled by the only survivor, Kyle Brody, as a killer who infamously made one kid face the wall on one corner of the room while he killed the other on the juxtaposing side. Such is the manner by which the unknown force carried out the killings as Mike faced the wall and Heather took her last breath.

If you are to go by this theory, it isn’t unlikely that the witch didn’t have to get her hands bloody and made Parr’s spirit execute her wish fulfillment. And if you are still apprehensive about concluding that the killings were, in fact, supernatural and not the bloody aftermath of a horrid psychosis, let me nudge you a bit more with another anecdote.

When Robin Weaver went missing, and the search party sent out to retrieve her wasn’t coming back either, another search party was ejected to the woods and came back with wretched news. The first group was laid out on Coffin Rock, eviscerated and bound to each other with pagan emblems etched onto them, much like the writings on the walls of the house in that Mike and Heather were killed.

Now, if you knew that Parr’s house was vandalized and burnt down in the 1940s, you may wonder how the two came across it in 1944. And I’ve got another theory that I hope would be explained how that implausibility might not have been all that implausible.

If you can get yourself to believe in the very existence of the Blair witch herself, you may as well stretch that belief a bit more and consider the possibility that Heather, Mike, and Josh were stuck in a time loop orchestrated by the ominous witch. That would also elucidate the peculiar circumstances of the three going round and round only to be forced to come back to the spot of commencement.

If they were, in fact, captured in a phenomenon where time was more labyrinthine than the woods itself, they might have been brought back to a time preceding the destruction of Parr’s house only to be killed there the same way that the kids had lost their lives.

Related to The Blair Witch Project (1999): Everything Coming to Shudder in April 2023

The Blair Witch Project (1999) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
The Blair Witch Project (1999) Cast: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Where to watch The Blair Witch Project

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