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January 11, 2011
The Blair Witch Project Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
9/12/19991/12/2010Icon FilmsDaniel Myrick
Eduardo Sánchez
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0MHeather Donahue

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It's the classic image from The Blair Witch Project.

Released in 1999 The Blair Witch Project is a movie that polarises opinion. It seems you either love this film for its raw intensity and frights, or hate it for its cheapness and, well, whatever else. Indeed the film is one of the most profitable of all time, and is now available on Blu-Ray...

In October 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary A year later their footage was found.

The Blair Witch Project follows a trio of filmmakers on what should have been a simple walk in the woods but quickly becomes an excursion into heart-stopping terror. As the three become inexplicably lost, morale deteriorates. Hunger sets in. Accusations fly. By night, unseen evil stirs beyond their campfire's light. By day, chilling ritualistic figures are discovered nearby. As the end of their journey approaches, they realize that what they are filming now is not a legend but their own descent into unimaginable horror.

In case you aren't aware (and I'm going to spoil something here) this isn't a real-life documentary but rather a set-up and semi-scripted film. I say semi-scripted as while there was a general outline, the dialogue was mostly ad-libbed by the three actors - Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams. Indeed their performances in the entire film is pretty harrowing at times and helps carry the film to the end.

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Just going on a quick hike.
I hate this film, but I also see its genius. That statement right there sums up my feelings about The Blair Witch Project as it really leaves me with mixed emotions. Essentially, I still hate the film as an actual product to watch although it really did bring the "mockumetary" genre back into peoples minds. Having said that I find this film pretty crap, barely scary (despite a couple of somewhat tense moments), and not much to get too excited about.

What I definately appreciate however is the way in which this film saw the first truly successful "viral marketing" campaign which had people the world over clamouring to see this "real" footage (in case you are unaware this is a setup). Indeed this film, which was filmed for a paltry $US25,000 amassed a whopping $US248 million at the box office, making it one of the most profitable films of all time.

Assessing the video quality in this release is quite a task as the image, being filmed on handheld cameras, is very poor in quality with plenty of low-light scenes, a lack of shadow detail, telecine wobble in the credits (which we suspect is deliberate and not a transfer issue), and a general lack of sharpness due to the source material. The film is presented on Blu-Ray using the AVC MPEG-4 codec at 1080p however seeing as the source material was recorded with NTSC video (or similar) this isn't something that looks like Blu-Ray although the transfer often runs at over 30Mbps.

Something we have to mention is that while we never saw the film in cinemas IMDB lists the aspect ratio as 1.33:1, and I do recall the DVD version also being presented at that aspect ratio as well. This Blu-Ray release changes to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and we suspect the image has been cropped on the top and bottom, although we can't confirm that as we don't own the original DVD release to compare.

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Another haunting image...
Much like the video the audio on The Blair Witch Project Blu-Ray isn't one to get excited about. Essentially there are two options here - a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 track. While the DTS track hovers around 1.6Mbps the Dolby track sits closer to 700kbps making the DTS track the "techincally" superior track, although in reality the differences between them are negligable at best. It must be said that at least this is an improvement over the very murky 192kbps track on the DVD release.

As for the actual sound quality, it's pretty good with the dialogue fairly clear for the most part. That's a good thing too as there isn't any music throughout the movie nor any whizz-bang effects. There is only one English Subtitle track which is accurate to the on-screen dialogue and colour coded according to who is speaking which in a film where the actors are off-camera so much is quite useful.

Suprisingly for such a low-budget movie there are quite a few extras on this disc with many worth checking out in particular the commentary and trailers. So here we go...

Audio Commentary with Director and Producer: This is a mildly entertaining commentary which provides quite a bit of insight into the creation of this film. It's worth a listen if you're a fan of the movie or want to get an understanding of creating a low-budget film like this.

Newly Discovered Footage: Theories of the Blair Witch (5:08/HD): Some additional footage from the film presented in 1.33:1 although there's not much here to get too excited about.

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The town of Burkittsville from The Blair Witch Project.
The Blair Witch Legacy (2:40/HD): A series of text pages which outlines the history of the Blair Witch cult and phenomenon.

Curse of the Blair Witch (43:52/HD): So the film is a set-up but this is a rather brilliant documentary which is done in a style to make it seem real with interviews with various participants and locals. If anything I actually find this more compelling then the actual film and is certainly worth watching.

Trailers (2:02/HD): Teaser Trailer 1, Teaser Trailer 2 and Theatrical Trailer are presented here and really demonstrate a fantastic way to market a film. Interestingly these are presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

I'm sure that there are quite a few people that love this film for whatever reason and this Blu-Ray release is one they will likely want to check out, despite the limitations of the source material making this an average viewing experience on the HD format. There are quite a few extras, but really, if you have this on DVD already you would have to question the upgrade value here.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.