The genre of a film is the category in which the film fits, for example comedy, romance or action. Genres are important for two main reasons, as a guide to the audience and for the marketing purposes of the film’s producers. The teen-horror genre is increasingly popular category of film with more and more of these movies being released at the cinema over the past few years. Teen-horror films are made to appeal predominantly to teenagers and young adults because of their content and storylines which usually end in bloodbaths.
This kind of content does not appeal so much to more mature audiences even though these films are often given 15 or 18 certificates. The typical teen-horror will begin with a group of friends who somehow become involved in some mysterious and often dangerous circumstances which will lead them to division and eventually on to their bloody deaths. Often the main group of characters will find themselves lost or trapped in an old house or remote location, while other times they will find themselves being hunted down by psychopathic killers or evil forces that will kill them off one by one.
More often than not the cast will feature an inevitable love interest between a helpless blonde girl and a heroic, handsome male. Objects such as knives, axes, chainsaws and meat hooks will make for untimely endings for certain characters. It is obvious from the title that ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is a film about legendary witches and evil phenomenon rather than a serial killer on the loose.
In most horror films the title will often give the audience a strong indication about the plot of the film, for instance ‘Long Time Dead’ is about the reawakening of an evil spirit. The word ‘project’ in the title also suggests that this film may be about an expedition to find the witch rather than the witch coming after someone. The title is fairly typical of other teen-horror films because it features the name of the perpetrator but often the title is simply the perpetrator’s name like ‘It’ or ‘Jason X’.
The film makers could simply have called the film ‘Blair Witch’ but instead chose to give it a more intriguing title. Like in a number of teen-horror movies, the film begins with an indirect introduction to the characters where we find out their names and their relationship. Once the audience has a basic understanding of the main characters they begin to find out about the Blair Witch. This is done in an original way as the characters interview some of the locals from the town just outside the woods where the witch is believed to live.
In some teen-horror films this part is spoilt by deliberate references to the eventual killer such as in ‘Long Time Dead’ when the main group of friends sit around discussing different kinds of evil spirits. This is an unsubtle way of giving the audience unique insight into the methods of the killer. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is a unique film in the teen-horror genre because it is set in the first person which allows the audience to become a part of the action. The audience sees and hears only what the characters in film do and so have no further insight into the film.
This effect is achieved by the unique cinematography of the entire film on a cheap handheld camera which gives the action an eerie realism. This is a very clever way of building up the emotions of the audience and ultimately makes for a frightening pace to the film which keeps the viewers on the edge of their seat. The use of a single, remote setting is also fairly unusual in this genre as most films go between different settings while this film is set almost completely in the woods.
The lack of any background music or sound effects adds to the effect and makes the viewer believe that these events could really have been recorded by a group of people filming a documentary which goes horribly wrong. The characters add to the depth of the film as we watch their emotions changes as their chances of survival deteriorate. Unlike in many films where a female is only cast as a potential love interest for one of the male characters, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ uses the female character to act as the leader of the two males.
From the offset it is clear that the female is calling the shots and that her decision is final. As the circumstances change we see that the male characters are the first to break down while the female remains calm and in control. This is rarely the case in teen-horror movies because often the male character is seen as being by far the stronger of the sexes, for example in the ‘Scream’ films it is always the men who end up protecting the women in one way or another regardless of character.
The cast of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ are by no means stereotypes and this adds an extra dimension to the rhythm of the film. Despite its unquestionable originality, some aspects of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ are all too typical of the teen-horror genre. There is of course the obvious element of the characters being hunted for the best part of the film, although the killer is never seen. Also there is the painfully clichi?? d ending in which the cast seem to forget all of their fears and run into a mysterious old house in the middle of a dark forest where they eventually meet their bloody end.
The audience does not witness a bloodbath but although the ending is left open it is clear what has happened. Also typical of the genre is the build up of tension throughout the film which leads to the division of the friendship group. As the fear and frustrations grows so does the pace of the film until its finale when the tension reaches its peak. ‘The Blair Witch Project’ is certainly not your average teen-horror film and its realistic elements add to a sense of realism which captures the audience in the action.
Unfortunately the characters lack any sort of personality and the storyline has an inevitable ending which conforms to the mundane conventions of this genre. There are plenty of original aspects to the film but perhaps it could have benefited from a plot with more twists and turns and a better and more conclusive ending. It is obvious that the idea of filming the movie as though it were a documentary with a tragic ending was both successful and original but in the end most people will agree that this was not the greatest horror film that they had ever seen.