What's the greatest mystery surrounding THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? The mystery of why so many critics called it "scary as hell" and "a horror masterpiece" when it so clearly isn't? The mystery of whether Haxan and/or Artisan drummed up Internet buzz by creating fake fan sites? The mystery of why we hear sound in the 16mm segments when there shouldn't always be sound? The mystery of why three grown adults go ballistic over some rocks and sticks? The mystery of why anyone thinks this movie is original? (Even Film Threat's Chris Gore, an avowed BLAIR booster, had to admit that it bears striking similarities to the 1979 gut-muncher CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.) The mystery of how a movie that looks like it cost $1.98 had a budget of $60,000? (Perhaps the money went to buy weed for Josh, beer for Mike, and Midol for Heather.)
No, the real mystery is this: How on earth could anyone have thought that BLAIR WITCH was real? Apparently some moviegoers are buying the hoax hook, line, and sinker, while others think it's a re-enactment of real events. No and no: Everything to do with the movie is fiction, including the whole Blair Witch mythology. Honestly, why would anyone seriously believe that actual footage of the last days of three people missing and presumed dead would be playing in 2,000 multiplexes nationwide? Do you have any idea how much controversy would be kicked up if an actual documentary like that were distributed? How much bitching we'd hear from the surviving families? (Yes, I know we heard from some of them on the Sci-Fi channel's special. I'm talking 60 MINUTES, I'm talking 20/20 with Barbara Walters interviewing Josh's girlfriend.) And if these moviegoers believed that this was actual footage of three actual, terrified people facing their imminent deaths, why would they pay to see it? Kinda sick and morbid, don'tcha think?
Bottom line: If this were a real documentary, the feel of the buzz would be completely different. For example, the blurbs in the ads would certainly not be so insensitive as to call it "scary as hell" or "the creepiest movie since THE EXORCIST." Also, if the footage were real -- and here I arrive, tortoise-like, at my main point -- you would not see 1,001 tie-in products exploiting the suffering and disappearance of three people. But you are seeing 1,001 tie-in products exploiting a shrewd little faux-documentary.
Type in "Blair Witch" on eBay and you'll turn up literally hundreds of auctions -- the number was 351 when I checked last Monday, and it will probably only go higher. The amount of BLAIR WITCH merchandise is fast approaching Lucas-esque heights (or lows). I mean, the poster and the black T-shirt with the logo are cool-looking, and I almost wish I liked the movie so I could buy those two items. It'd be neat to wear a BLAIR WITCH shirt if I genuinely liked the film. (Of course, by summer's end everyone and his brother will have one.) But everything else? I think you'd have to be either a severe BLAIR WITCH fan or a severe lunatic -- the two might not be mutually exclusive --if you lusted after any of the following items I've seen posted on eBay:
· BLAIR WITCH stick figures -- In case you lack the minimal dexterity necessary to make your own
· BLAIR WITCH stick figure lapel pins -- They come in silver or wood!
· BLAIR WITCH comic book -- Remember to shake the comic every 30 seconds while reading it
· BLAIR WITCH "Missing" flyer -- Okay, I'll admit this is pretty cool. You can get a T-shirt like this too.
· BLAIR WITCH original Sundance poster -- This is going for fat paper on eBay; on an Amazon.com auction, it was going for over $600.
· BLAIR WITCH magnet -- Just what Mom wants on her fridge
· "Josh's Blair Witch Mix" CD with rare tattoo and footage -- The ultimate in "soundtrack music" not actually heard in the movie, this purports to be the mix tape found in Josh's car. Extend unto me a fucking break. Some selected CDs come with a BLAIR WITCH temp tat, some with "extra footage" (I have no idea what this means unless it's also a CD-ROM). Whatever. The disc is also designed to look like a film can. I know I'm impressed.
· BLAIR WITCH postcard -- "Hi, we're lost in the woods! Wish you were here"
· BLAIR WITCH 35mm trailer -- For those of you who actually own a 35mm projector
· BLAIR WITCH ticket stub from alleged Orlando premiere attended by the film's producers -- This got no bids the last time I checked; gee, I wonder why
· Another BLAIR WITCH ticket stub that's just a fucking ticket stub -- doesn't even claim to be anything special -- I guess this is for BLAIR WITCH completists who lost their stubs? (I didn't even like the movie, and I kept my stub!) Oddly, this actually got a bid; maybe I should put mine up for auction
· BLAIR WITCH official magazine -- Presumably with a fold-out poster of Heather naked -- you only get to see half of one boob, though
· BLAIR WITCH baseball cap -- Wear it backwards for added effect
· BLAIR WITCH promo matchbook -- This is as good a time as any to swear that I'm not making these up
· CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH video and promo poster for same -- Of course, the videos are illegal as hell, as are the VHS bootlegs of the movie itself, which last on eBay for about 2 seconds before they get yanked. CURSE will be on the BLAIR WITCH DVD and will almost certainly be made available as a separate video (probably in a 2-pack with the VHS version), so I have to laugh at people who are paying between 20 and 30 bucks for it
And I have saved the two most ridiculous BLAIR WITCH eBay items for last ...
· BLAIR WITCH 16mm camera -- The actual camera used in the film!! This sold for $10,300. Now, I don't know much about movie cameras. Perhaps someone out there might enlighten me. However, I doubt a used 16mm camera costs anywhere near $10,300. Whoever bought it is never going to use it. It's going to sit in his BLAIR WITCH shrine (yes, I said "his" -- what woman would be idiotic enough to spend $10,300 on a used camera?), and he's going to show it to everyone he knows and they're gonna say "Oh, cool, dude," and then what? Then it sits there and collects dust -- a $10,300 paperweight. All for the privilege of owning a camera once held by Joshua Leonard? Two years from now, when the BLAIR WITCH craze is as dead as the TITANIC craze is now, this guy is gonna kick himself so hard and I only wish I could be there to see it.
I also read that it was the film's cinematographer who put it up for auction. Run that by me again? What cinematographer? I thought the actors were the ones working the cameras. What does a DP do on a movie like this -- stand around going "Shake the camera a little more"? I bet it was just some guy who borrowed the cameras from his Uncle Phil who owns a camera equipment shop, and the producers said "Thanks, dude. We'll give you a DP screen credit." And now they're selling one of the cameras and Uncle Phil gets a nice cut of the sale.
and...(actual wording of item description)
· BLAIR WITCH SANDWITCH RECIPE. SANDWITCH WAS SOLD AT BURKITTSVILLE CARNIVAL FROM JULY 19-24TH. SHIPPING IS 1.00 EXTRA
Now, you can say a great many things against George Lucas and his marketing machine. But at least PHANTOM MENACE was never employed in the service of selling fucking sandwich recipes! This planet has officially gone insane. I'm outta here. See you on the moon.