For Stephen King, the twisted mind behind the psychology of Jack Torrance in The Shining and the fantastical terror of Pennywise the clown in It, you’d think there would be very few horror films that the iconic author wouldn’t be able to finish. However, there is just one.
Having previously listed his ten favourite modern horror movies, there are several that certainly came close to bearing this coveted title, including the likes of Dawn of the Dead by Zack Snyder, caving film The Descent and James Wong’s Final Destination. In a somewhat surprising choice, Stephen King also announced the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left as “the best horror movie of the new century” before adding that the film was “the most brutal and uncompromising film to play American movie theatres since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”.
Also included on his list is the infamous found-footage horror, The Blair Witch Project from directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, a film Stephen King described as the “worst nightmare you ever had” in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre.
Continuing, the author explained to Bloody Disgusting that the reason the film was so effective was in its ingenuity, with audiences unfamiliar with the ‘found footage’ format of filmmaking. Watching the movie in a hospital room after being hit by a car in an accident that almost ended his life, Stephen King asked his son halfway through the film if he could turn it off. As Stephen King recalls, “It may be the only time in my life when I quit a horror movie in the middle because I was too scared to go on…I was just freaked out of my mind”.
Having since completed the film, he describes the film’s ending in his book, noting, “There is a thud as that unseen thing falls on Heather from behind. The camera drops, showing a blurred nothing. The film ends. And if you’re like me, you watch the credits and try to escape the terrified ten-year-old into whom you have been regressed”.
Firmly deserving its place on Stephen King’s list of favourites, The Blair Witch Project was, in many ways, a literal ‘project’ that challenged the cinematic medium as well as audience expectations, sparking a cinematic revolution that would boil over into the 21st century.
Unapologetically unsophisticated and unpolished, Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s film is simple, following three young film students through the woods as they try to capture footage of the urban legend, ‘The Blair Witch’. What results is a frantic dash through the Maryland wilderness with rare moments of respite, as the characters become lost in a labyrinth of occult mystery. It’s a paranoid chase scene with an invisible predator and horror at its most basic, resurfacing in your mind every time you go for a nighttime stroll.
Take a look at the trailer for the influential classic below.