Originally, filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez intended The Blair Witch Project to consist of two sections. The first would be an Unsolved Mysteries-style documentary of the sort that inspired the film. It would relate the history of the Blair Witch, from the 1700s to the 1940s. The second section would consist of the supposed missing footage that chronicled the last days of Heather Donahoe and company. After seeing that footage, they decided that it should stand alone. Information on the film’s complex backstory would be spread on the world wide web and through other forms of pre-publicity— Blair Witch broke ground in this area. In the end, part of that pre-publicity took the form of a tv special based on the original conception for the first section, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel and Space as Curse of the Blair Witch. When the phenomenon took off, the Curse found itself on video shelves. It has since been rereleased as part of a Blair Witch DVD package.

The mockumentary format convinced quite a few people that the Blair Witch footage was genuine. Curse of the Blair Witch resembles so closely an authentic cheesy tv documentary that, even knowing it to be fake, I found it chilling. I find this prequel more disturbing, ultimately, than the film it promotes, and it leaves the disappointing sequel in the shadows.

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
Writers: Daniel Myrick, Ben Rock, Eduardo Sánchez.

The film takes us through the fictitious history of the Blair Witch, from events following Elly Kedward’s banishment in the 1785 to the founding of Burkittsville, Maryland in 1825, the mystery of Coffin Rock in 1886, the serial killings of children in 1940-1941, and the disappearance of the film students in 1994. Along the way we see fake documents, convincing engravings, archival footage, and recent interviews. Some of these, as in the film, involve actual folks from Burkittsville, while others feature actors. The cheesily chilling music that accompanies absolutely every tv documentary about unsolved mysteries and historic horrors figures prominently.

Curse has been cleverly assembled. Footage from an early-1970s documentary on witchcraft appears, and makes reference to the "well-known" legend of the Blair Witch of Maryland. Of course, these clips are also faked, but they recreate the worn colors one would expect in such stock, and they capture perfectly the particular cheesiness of early 70s television. Even more disturbing is the black and white faux 1940 footage involving serial killer Rustin Parr (played by Frank Pastor). These scenes imply their horror. We’re introduced to this sequence with grainy footage-- just before a commercial break-- that shows an as-yet unidentified Parr being put in a stone prison cell by uniformed men. The metal door shuts behind him. The shaky camera then tries to get a clear picture through a small window. We receive neither dialogue nor context until after the break, as images of prisons and 40s horrors seep into the edges of our thoughts. A later interview with Parr shows a quietly disturbed man who breaks into an evil smile one second before the police drag him off camera. As in the Project, what we don’t see proves much more frightening than any special effect.

Skeptics and experts fill the screen, offering logical explanations for Blair Witch phenomena, none of which quite accounts for what we’ve heard described. Some of the interviewees contradict each other. I knew this thing was staged, but the plausible touches and inconsistencies drew me in. The Curse’s effect on those who believed it authentic must have been unnerving.

Curse of the Blair Witch is not perfect, of course. The locomotive which supposedly found the abandoned town of Blair in 1825 actually dates from the Civil War era. And, if we’re supposed to believe this documentary is real, why would they reveal so little about the missing film students, given that they have full access to the footage? Of course, they omit information because Curse amounts to a commercial for the Project, but internally, the omissions make little sense.

If you enjoyed The Blair Witch Project as something other than an experiment in media hype, or if you’re the sort to get chills from documentaries on crime and creepy topics, you may find Curse of the Blair Witch worthwhile Halloween viewing.

Footage from this film also appears in Sticks and Stones: Investigating the Blair Witch, a shorter video released to rental outlets when The Blair Witch Project first appeared on video. It amounts to highlights of Curse… with two new segments providing theories behind the film students’ disappearances.

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