Throughout the ’90s, the horror genre struggled to offer audiences anything new, with slasher icons from the ’80s becoming cartoonish parodies of what they once were, while films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer attempted to reinvent the masked killer concept. Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick began to develop The Blair Witch Project, which embraced a grittier filmmaking style that required the actors themselves to shoot the picture, in addition to improvising a majority of their dialogue. The film’s ambitious nature was a risky affair, which ultimately paid off, with Sanchez noting the moment in the film that made him realize the film would be effective.
“We were watching the footage as we could,” Sanchez recalled to ComicBook.com. “They were shooting three, four hours of footage every day. We’d not only have to figure out this, the day that we were shooting, but we’d have to figure out the next day, and Dan and I were trying to get the directing notes early, and we were making little improv decisions along the way.”
The film depicts a group of documentary filmmakers getting lost in the Maryland woods to uncover a local legend, only to get lost and become the subject of supernatural occurrences. The filmmakers would regularly give the cast clues about the direction the narrative would go, delivering them details that their co-stars weren’t aware of, with the moment when actor Michael C. Williams revealed he had gotten rid of the group’s map not only being unscripted, but also one of the most dramatic reveals in the film.
“We were watching much of the footage as possible, but we couldn’t see all the footage,” Sanchez recalled. “There’s just no way to do this, but there are some moments during the production, like when we saw the scene where Mike kicks the map in the creek. That was the first time that we saw something that wasn’t scripted, that Dan and I hadn’t put into the story, that worked really, really well. And it engaged us not as filmmakers, but as moviegoers.”
He continued, “That was the first time that we saw the footage, and really gave us, at least it gave me a sense of, ‘Oh, my God. This thing actually might work. This might work really, really well.’ There was a lot of stuff that, most of the footage, we had to wait until we got back to Orlando to actually start going through it.”
The Blair Witch Project went on to inspire two sequels and an upcoming video game.
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