Modern horror fans might not understand what all the fuss is about given the evolution of the found footage genre over the last two decades, but The Blair Witch Project was a cultural phenomenon when it hit theaters in the summer of 1999. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s micro budget chiller is one of the genre’s most influential movies, as well as one of the most profitable after raking in almost $250 million at the box office on a budget of $200,000.
It was also one of the first titles to harness the nascent power of the internet as a marketing tool, with a website based on the legend comprised of newsreel interviews with supposed locals leading many people to believe that the story was true, and the movie itself represented real documentary footage shot by the central trio before they went missing.
That sort of suspension of disbelief and air of mystery is impossible to come by these days, and in a recent interview, Stephen King explained why he found The Blair Witch Project so terrifying the first time he had the opportunity to see it.
“One thing about Blair Witch, the damn thing looks real. Another thing about Blair Witch, the damn thing feels real. And because it does, it’s like the worst nightmare you ever had, the one you woke from gasping and crying with relief because you thought you were buried alive and it turned out the cat jumped up on your bed and went to sleep on your chest.”
Not many movies have gone on to spawn an entire sub-genre, but over the next decade, found footage horror became one of the most popular ways for Hollywood to scare audiences out of their seats without having to spend a lot of money on production. The Blair Witch Project would go on to give us one awful sequel in 2000 and another follow-up a decade later that was completely unnecessary, but the original left a lasting impact on the industry and proved that sometimes imagination is more terrifying than anything that happens on the screen.