'Curse of the Blair Witch' should be mandatory viewing alongside 'The Blair Witch Project'
The mockumentary is fun and adds context to the main feature
There’s not much to say about The Blair Witch Project that hasn’t already been said. The 1999 film is neither the first found footage film or the first to employ what we now call viral marketing to promote it, it has become the standard-bearer upon which both of those trends now draw influence and credit from. The story of fictionalized versions of Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams getting lost in the woods hunting the legend of the Blair Witch only to have a Really Bad Time has been dissected a million different ways. If you’ve seen the movie, you know. If you haven’t seen the movie, you probably still know from its proliferation in pop culture.What I’m here to talk about is Curse of the Blair Witch, which you’re less likely to have heard of but is equally enjoyable.
Curse of the Blair Witch actually pre-dates The Blair Witch Project by about a month. Released on July 11, 1999 ahead of the main feature’s July 30 release, the mockumentary is one of the final pieces in the promotional masterpiece for the film. Just like Project, Curse is presented as a 100 percent real thing. It’s no half-assed production either. Curse is a full, nearly 45 minute documentary featuring close to a dozen “interviews,” historical ground laying, and character development. In universe, the documentary was created after the trio’s missing footage was found, which raised interest in the case once again.
The documentary is split pretty evenly between two subjects, the first of which is fleshing out our trio. Various family members and relations of Heather, Josh, and Mike are interviewed, and it gives us a bit of a clearer picture on who they are. This is especially true of Heather, whose professor and friends paint a picture of unbridled ambition that makes what happens to her even more tragic. The modern focus also includes details about how the footage was found that’s creepy in its own right.
(Long aside here: another recommendation is to read Heather’s journal before watching the film. It’s still up on the original Blair Witch website, and it’s incredible. It adds even more to her character, including some revelations about her relationship to the legend of the Witch that makes her apology scene–arguably the most iconic outside of the ending–even more effective.)
Where the documentary really shines though is in its fleshing out of the Blair Witch legend. While bits and pieces were revealed in the main film, Curse allows the filmmakers to show how much work they did creating the tale. Presented alongside interviews with “historians” and “occult experts” (all dressed in extremely good 90s fashion), the documentary traces the earliest days of the legend to the present. From Elly Kedward’s initial banishment from Blair to Rustin Parr’s murders, each stage of the Witch’s curse is told in spine-tingling detail. A time interval is established between incidents that make it clear the Witch was “due” to claim someone else, making the trio’s fate even more tragic. And some of the details revealed make Project more chilling when you watch. Parr’s house at the end of the movie? It burned down to the ground after his arrest. It shouldn’t be there.
The Blair Witch Project is an important watch for horror fans, a cultural milestone whose influence is still felt today. But if you really want it to shine, I highly recommend you watch Curse of the Blair Witch before your next viewing.