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'Witch' fails to cast spell on viewers

If this critic can stop just one person from wasting their money on "The Blair Witch Project," then maybe, just maybe, she will feel as though she has done some good.

Never has a supposedly "scary" film been as disappointing as this lame concept movie. That's too bad, because this movie had a lot of potential. Instead of the standard run-of-the-mill slasher movies that generally populate movie theatres this time of year, it would have been nice for first-time directors Daniel Myrick and Eduard Sanchez to create a movie that actually sent chills up and down the audience's spine.

The only scary thing about "The Blair Witch Project" was that I took extra time out of my day to wait in a long line and buy tickets for the movie hours before it began.

Here's the promising set-up: three film students set off to make a documentary about a witch legend in the woods of Maryland and record the whole thing in home video style. Sounds pretty interesting, right? They videotape some locals about the legend and it is all very believable (though only mildly interesting--it is the same campfire ghost story that has been tossed around for generations, with nothing new to add to it).

Then they actually get into the woods. The audience waits and waits ... and waits for the film to become suspenseful. The anticipation is what is supposed to scare; odd sounds and sudden cuts should leave audiences frazzled and unsure of what is happening.

But as plausible as it is that the film's three protagonists were scared out of their wits, the audience never gets to feel that. Too much of the action happens off-screen to fully arrest the audience. In fact, the actors and directors both have trouble conveying what is going on in a scene for too much of the movie.

The main flaw of the movie is in its docu-thriller style. The shaky camera movements only alienate the audience, rather than plunge them into the woods with the actors. A bigger mistake was having the three actors spend the bulk of the movie arguing with one another. This may create tension, but no suspense. Why pay to see that when one can just go home and watch "The Real World?"

It should be said that the stars, newcomers Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard (who use their real names in the film) do a great job of being frightened and overwhelmed. But they're not really acting--they really were stranded in the woods, left to the mercy of their directors' tricks for eight days. Just putting several people in the woods and watching them get scared does not make a movie.

Many people have said that the film would have been much scarier had they thought that the whole thing was real, that these weren't actors in a movie but a real documentary of the last days in the life of three unfortunate people. However, a film should never need to rely on a gimmick like that in order to be successful.

And so, the worst thing that can be said of a movie such as this must be said. It is not effective at all. More annoying than scary, more repetitive than innovative, Myrick and Sanchez should have taken a lesson from the great Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," which took the notion of being stranded in the company of a murderer to new, frightening heights.

The bottom line is, the movie didn't even prevent this critic from wanting to go into the woods. If she could give the "Project" an F- in this review, she would.


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