The first time I saw The Blair Witch Project I was alone and it was night and yes, it had me on edge. I thought it was cleverly done and you can see how, when the film was first released, people believed it was real. Comparing this, the original, to the latest reboot where everyone knows the story and the tactics the filmmakers used during filming, it’s far more successful in my eyes. I think a lot of that relates to the realism in the performances. In The Blair Witch Project, the actors were sent into the forest, given a few directions on where to go and the base of the story, but they weren’t aware that the film crew would be sneaking up on them and scaring them lifeless in the middle of the night. I think this created really authentic reactions. There are some moments where some silly kinds of things are said that make the viewer think “really? you wouldn’t really think that… you’d do this instead”, but I think those moments make the story feel more real (like the filmmakers wanted) because that’s probably what you’d do in that situation when you’re going slightly crazy. Blair Witch (2016), on the other hand, doesn’t feel as authentic because everyone knows the story, they know it’s not real, and the filmmakers know this. We, the audience, now have the “behind the scenes” knowledge of the first film so we aren’t going in blind and so there’s no use for the filmmakers to attempt what was done with the original and try to fool the audience.
The promotion of The Blair Witch Project was done very cleverly. The filmmakers maintained the pretence that the film was in fact a documentary by releasing promotional poster that read “missing’ with the faces of the actors. At the premiere of the film, the actors were not allowed to attend to, again, make the audience think it was real. These strategies contributed hugely to the success of the film which had a budget of $35,000 and made over $248 million at the box office.