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Lo-Tech Cinema 345

By Hollywood standards, the "The Blair Witch Project" is shockingly Lo-Tech, employing none of the expensive techno-tricks that increasingly overwhelm movie after movie. But the BWP, thumping expensive hi-tech competitors like "The Haunting" and "Deep Blue Sea," uses technology brilliantly, if minimally, in its making and marketing. Here's to a new Lo-Tech genre in cinema.

"The Blair Witch Project" is a biting rebuke to Hollywood, which has nearly overwhelmed movies from "Phantom Menace" to "Wild Wild West" with expensive cinematic technology, especially computer-generated special effects.

The BWP, made for roughly $50,000 by two young and unknown filmmakers - Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick - might well spark a new Lo-Tech genre in American cinema. It sure ought to.

As of last weekend, the BWP was the No. 2 money-making movie in America, taking in $30 million. It is pounding the daylights out of big-budget Hollywood clunkers like "The Haunting and "Deep Blue Sea," both of which spent small fortunes on razzle-dazzle effects but forgot to include the rest of the movie.

In fact, the "Haunting" has grossed half as much as the BWP even though it cost at least a hundred times as much to make.

It wasn't that the BWP makers didn't understand or make use of technology. They did.

The movie's website had more than 20 million hits even before the films release this summer in a handful of theaters in a small number of cities.

The site is a model of how to use the Web to capture the style and atmosphere of a film.

The movie is set in a tiny (real) town in Maryland. The (fictional) premise is that three student filmmakers set out into the woods in October of l994 to film a documentary about the Blair Witch, who supposedly has haunted the woods for generations. The kids never come back. A year later their video footage is found. The website presents the story as a literal news event, including newscasts reporting on the kids' disappearance and the search for them and their remains.

Sanchez and Myrick shot the movie with tiny hand-held cameras, one of the many reasons the BWP is so edgily effective. They used Global Positioning Satellite tracking systems to guide the three unknown actors in the movie to their locations in the woods, where they found instructions on the movie's upcoming scenes. The actors weren't told what to say, but required instead to improvise the dialogue and much of the plot. Watching the movie, it's easy to forget you're watching one.

Thus the actors were especially convincing as terrified kids in way over their heads. The WBP is, from the first, permeated with an overpowering sense of gloom and dread reminiscent of the original "Night Of the Living Dead," one of the best and most innovative horror films of its era. I've rarely seen a theater so quiet.

Using technology in this savvy, minimalist way, the BWP reminds us that movies can be much more frightening when they leave some perils to our imagination than when they present them so literally and ultra-graphically (one of the many reasons "Jaws" was so much creepier than its lame sequels).

In fact, the BWP did none of the high-tech things that now seem elemental in contemporary movie-making. It had no score, not a single special effect, almost no lighting, no expensively animated credits.

For the past few years, filmmakers have been drunk on all of their new technologies, from computer-generated characters to numbingly overdone explosions and crashes. The early mythic horror films - "Frankenstein," "Dracula," "The Phantom of the Opera" - were much closer to the BWP than to the gazillion-dollar bombs now produced by the corporatized studios: they were much more frightening for what they didn't show than for what they did.

Sanchez and Myrick may, in fact, have almost single-handedly saved an endangered Hollywood genre. Their movie was made completely outside the Hollywood studio system, discovered when shown out of competition at the Sundance Film Festival (it wasn't even accepted as an entry ).

Had it been a Hollywood project, it would probably have had almost none of the qualities that make it so strikingly original - the realistic, amateurish, herky-jerky home video quality, the restraint and discipline that force us to picture what might be happening.

And a big studio would never have signed Heather Donahue, the previously unknown actress who delivers a grand-slam performance as an obsessive young documentary maker. Nor would a studio have permitted a film to be made without a script.

Yet without sophisticated use of technology, the BWP wouldn't have been nearly as effective. GPS systems permitted the actors to move around without a horde of techs and aides, something which clearly contributed to their performances as increasingly terrified kids alone in the woods. In the first minutes of the movie, the kids are much more worried about returning their car and camera equipment in time than about being lost in the woods with any supernatural skullduggery. That changes quickly.

Digital technology makes possible small and highly portable cameras that can be wielded by actors as well as cinematographers. And the movie's amazing online campaign shows that creativity can do wonders on the Web while giant and overblown corporate ad campaigns stagger and fail. The Web is profoundly anti-hype. The product has to deliver, and Webheads prefer to find it for themselves. People online want to find something good and share it, not be beaten over the head with it. Online marketing reverses the natural laws of conventional media hype. If you make it, and it's good, they will come.

The good news is that "The Blair Witch Project" advances the campaign of techno-savvy, creative, young and poorly-funded filmmakers against a corporatized film system that embraces technology but smothers originality. The bad news is that a sequel to BWP has already been contracted by a Hollywood studio.

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Lo-Tech Cinema

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  • When you watch BWP you realize that the Lo-Tech stuff is what made it what it is because the setting is actual and the events make it seem at least somewhat plausible (especially if you've been backpacking before). Seeing the film through the eyes of a handheld camera makes it that much more realistic and makes you wonder just how real it is. The actors improvising everything also gave it realism, by making their responses seem more lifelike.

    This might work for a few other movies, but not many. Its almost imposible to set a good Sci-Fi thriller with something that would allow this lo-tech to work, and I personally can't think of any other place where this kind of lo-tech would work except in a forest. It is relatively inexpensive to just travel to a forest and walk around taking shots, whereas setting a lo-tech film in a big city will still be expensive, you'll probablly need permission to shoot some of the areas as well as having to rent rooms and such to shoot in. All of this adds money and sense special effects and computer rendering are getting less expensive, its starting to become more cost effective to just render a lot of the stuff, like Squaresoft is doing in their Final Fantasy movie which is going to be completely rendered.

    A lot of the BWP was also do to the shock value of seeing a big film that was filmed on a handheld camera.. that's a shock value that is a one time thing.. it might still be around for other movies that do the same thing, but the effect won't be anywhere as great. BWP was also very original in this.. if someone tries to make another lo-tech blockbuster like this, it'll lose all originality and personally I'd rather see a hi-tech non-original movie than a lo-tech non-original movie.
  • I think the previous poster was refering to the way 'Pi' dealt with those issues. While 'Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land' and 'Good Will Hunting' may be good movies that have math included in their plots, math is an important part of 'Pi' and the movie doesn't shy away from it. 'Pi' also dares to make statements about religion and the connections to math in the world that other movies don't make. 'Pi' isn't for everybody but do yourself a favor and at least see it so you can experience it for yourself. And of course, I recommend seeing it on DVD, if you have the means.
  • ..Blair that is. Erm, I mean our humble Prime Minister Tony Blair. He doesn't look anything like a, not at all ;)

    As for low budget independent films... been making them for years this side of the pond. Some are very very good...some are very very bad. The best ones are almost always better than the best that Hollywood churns out.
  • It's the product of a single mind, rather than a committee...

    Hmm... Which single mind: one or the other of the two writer/directors? The actors, who improvised their own dialogue? The fleet of Web designers? The marketers who put together the riveting ads?

  • Got a little Y2K bug there Katz? The movie did well because critics liked it in an academic sense. The rest was extreme advertizing.
  • I went to see this piece of junk because I tought it reflected a brilliant script done with low budget. But let me tell you, this script could have been done by a ten year old. I was specting a Spilberg level script with a $50K production budget, but got a $1.00 script with a $50k budget. I think the whole thing is just another well engineered scam, and they got me.

    Basically the movie is multiple iterations one after the other of a one line story: "We are lost in the woods, what do we do? Shu, shu, I blame you! Walk (or sit and blame) in the day and boo boo in the night." with a careless attention to details: like infinite film and battery power (well maybe they had some kind of solar powered batteries' yea right, for a 70mm), and no food for almost a week (they could have eaten something in the woods).

    In summary, I am ashamed I paid to see this crap, or better yet, one of the largest scams (I wonder how large is the chunk for the critics that gave positive reviews) I have seen.

    ps: by the way the general reaction in the theater at the end was, "What, that is it, and I paid for this crap".

    ________________________________________________ _____
  • The good news is that "The Blair Witch Project" advances the campaign of techno-savvy, creative, young and poorly-funded filmmakers against a corporatized film system that embraces technology but smothers originality.

    And the bad news is that the ad campagin for this movie is a whole lot better than the movie itself. I don't think there was a single person in the theatre that was scared by this flick.

    I found it hard to be concered about three dolts who can't even follow a stream to get out of the woods.

  • I'll agree with that. I've not seen BWP (end of October in the UK - Gah!) but it looks like an amalgam of three old ideas:
    1. Improvised scenes -- All Ken Loach films (you meant Ken Loach, not Ken Russell, huh MeerCat?) and many others
    2. Mockumentary in which the filmmakers become the protagonists -- Man Bites Dog is a prime example (and very good too)
    3. Non-specific horror in the woods, making it cheap to film, especially with shaky cameras -- that'll be The Evil Dead then (God bless Sam Raimi's little cotton socks)

      That said, originality ain't everything, and I'm fully prepared for BWP to be a lot of fun.
  • I left halfway through the movie, just after they got lost.

    Generally not feeling 100%, drinking the night before, and having some popcorn (don't do that much anymore) didn't help.

    The jittery camera was making me nauseous.

    However, I've also seen the Sci-Fi Channel documentary. The film was shot 4:3 on video and 16mm, and actually looks better on television! So I'll just rent it when it comes out.
  • I saw the movie last night and wasn't all that impressed. I had (female) friends crying because it was so darn scary. A theater employee that I know poked me last night when the credits came on in an attempt to scare me. Then she couldn't believe how I wasn't jumpy or freaked out at all. On a scale of 1-10 of scariness, I'd give it a 5. Maybe a 4. But what made this movie very interesting was the fact that it's fiction, yet was made out to be true. Even theater employees (in some chains anyway) were told to lie when asked, "Is this for real?!" But what I learned AFTER the movie freaked me out more than the movie itself. The whole GPS factor, the care packages they received, and the true fright involved... In addition to they themselves being taped from far away, unbenownst to them. I will probably go back to see it again just because of these things that were not so obvious. I would have to say that this is the most original movie I've seen in many years.
  • The only part that was scripted was the beginning of the movie. The interviews and the cemetery, and that was it. The rest of the movie simply had an outline, but no script. That is even more fascinating.
  • Putting the merits of BWP aside (haven't seen it yet), it's certainly not the first high-quality low-budget film to be made. Each time one comes out, there's always someone declaring the death of the Hollywood big-money system.

    Unfortunately, it isn't going to happen. Too many people are willing to throw the theater $8 to see things blow up I'm afraid.

    Just because some movie makers use GPS' and put up a website about there movie, that doesn't make 'em "tech-savvy" and hip and cool. Just about every movie released these days has a web site. Enough with the hype. Feels like a bad Wired article....
  • Maybe someone should give YOU to the nearest sex offender....maybe bleeding from your asshole for a few days would make you think a little more about kids getting raped...joke or not it isn't funny you moron.

  • I say fsck high tech digital filmaking. It is not art. It is crap.

    One of my favorite films is 'Natural Born Killers' and that movie would have sucked had Hollywood and George Lucas or the other hi-tech assholes had got a hold of it. That film was made in 8mm, 16mm, a couple kinds of video, animation ( ala "The Wall" ). You can't convince me that making it "Digital" would have been better.

    I also liked Pulp Fiction. Same idea here.

    I will do my part for the big high tech films. I will wait for the VHS Video or watch it on TV.

    Ken Broadfoot

  • >How can you make a sequel period?

    Simple! Just have the US military get word of the mystery of the missing students and they nuke the woods.
  • Well if you like that, check out 'Evil Dead' and 'Evil Dead 2'. They've got the action at night / lull in the day type scenario. Then watch Army of Darness (Evil Dead 3 in everything but name) to finish things off. Couple weeks ago a bunch of us had a day long Evil Dead marathon... (which for some reason we ended by watching 'Seven', just cause we had plenty of time and it was there). I'd never seen ANY of them before. Now THOSE are good movies!
  • | The hi tech movies being compared to BWP may
    | have expensive effects but are likely lacking
    | in something else: an intelligent, sensible
    | script. Put BWP and Matrix out at the same time
    | and see who wins. My vote is on Matrix.

    Given all other things equal, the movie with the best special effects wins - especially during the summer.

    But, I think you give *both* films a little too much credit for having intelligent scripts. The premise of Matrix was simply laughable (hurt the overall movie for me, anyway), though it did score a bit on the "cool" factor. The script for BWP - well, what script? The good thing about BWP would have to be that the actors actually got the point across.

    BWP reminded me somewhat of some Lovecraft stories - takes plave some time after the "horror" has occured, you never really *see* the "horror", etc. Worth the student-ticket price at any rate, just for the suspense. Even if it *was* filmed with HurlCam (tm).

  • We've moved a bit away from the low-tech cinema, but ...

    [The Matrix]

    | I donno... I kinda liked it. At least it was a
    | little more towards the 'strange science
    | fiction' type stuff. Granted it didn't
    | make sense, but it coulda been a helluva lot
    | less original and more 'hollywood'.

    Well, it couldn't have been *much* less original unless they tried really really hard. :)

    (Anyone but me think they ripped some of the final scenes of The Matrix right out of "never show a good movie right in the middle of your crappy movie" _Overdrawn at the Memory Bank_?
    Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed seeing _The Matrix_. And it may have been slightly less "hollywood" than most of the sci-fi coming out lately, but only slightly.

    As a side note, it's quite easy to define what the Matrix really is. The Matrix is Elvis.
  • The movie had a good amount of suspense, sure...
    Scary? Not at all...

    The thing about the guy throwing the map away was totally unbeliveable...

    The ending had to be the worst though -- all of a sudden, everyone is dead and the credits come up... I would have at least liked to have seen interviews with the same townspeople the kids interviewed to get their reactions after the tapes had been found -- even if they were during the credits or something...

  • CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is a far superior movie to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. If they had copied, it would have been a blessing.

    CH begins with a professor being hired by a New York City TV station to go down to Colombia to look for a missing documentary film crew. The crew is clearly modeled after an Italian mondo film crew, but the setting is changed to America (although it's an Italian movie- pretty common, actually).

    He heads down South and after a journey finds their film and the remainder of their remains. He assumes they were killed by bloodthirsty savages.

    He takes their footage back to NYC and assembles some of it for the TV guys to watch. It's grisly, but the big revelation is that the crew, in order to make a more juicy film, tortured and abused the natives. They were killed in revenge.

    CH plays with the ideas of movie reality versus "real" reality. If the crew had made it back OK, they would've edited their movie to reflect what they were trying to show. The raw footage was more truthful.

    It also was made as a criticism of mondo film and even news programs that are allowed to show anything they want because it's true, while fiction is heavily censored. Well, in Italy in 1979 at least.

    TBWP didn't have that much to say and didn't frame the recovered footage as well. You could edit the "Curse of the Blair Witch" TV special and the movie together into a better feature- and one that would look a lot more like CH.

    For more about CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, read KILLING FOR CULTURE, or buy the laserdisc. You can get the book from Amazon and the disc from
  • Nobody seen any Ken Russell movies ? "Ladybird, Ladybird" (for example) was filmed without the main actors knowing what comes next, and similarly has a very real, very gritty feel. Uncle Ken's been at it for years, but I don't see Hollywood crumbling. Do his movies even get released in the USA, or is it the art-house circuit only ?

    As for one posters comments about "Saving Private Ryan" ... spare me.
    The difference between Lucas and Spielberg is that at least Lucas knows when he's making it up / hamming it up (cf Used Car salesmen and Computer salesmen).
  • > why couldn't these people use a goddamn steadicam

    because steadicams are expensive, heavy, and unlikely to be in the possession of a student film crew?

  • I had a similar incidence with Children of the Corn. In the beginning of the book (not the movie), they are trying to find a town called Lowell, Nebraska when they get lost and thus encounter "the children". When I read this, I about shit, as I was living in the middle of nowhere (in the middle of miles of corn country even) about 4 miles west of Lowell, Nebraska. I was only about 14 when I read the book and it scared the hell out of me. I did not get much sleep that night, I stayed awake listening to scary noises - the wind in the corn, the coyotes howling, etc. Even worse, there was this red-headed kid I went to school with, who lived a couple miles away from me, who looked almost exactly like Malachi!
  • While i haven't seen Blair Witch Project, the shooting style (put actors in situation, improvise dialog and, to lesser degree, plot) reminds me of director Rob Nilsson's [] "Direct Action Cinema" technique. When done by people who are good at it, this can produce amazing results. I'd especially recommend his 1987 film, "Heat and Sunlight", a searing look at the last twelve hours of a relationship.

    I'm not that big a fan of horror films, but the film that scared the socks of me was "Dead Calm".

  • It seems to me ... that those who didn't like The Blair Witch Project are saying more about themselves than they're saying about the movie.

    I'll agree with that assertion. I liked the film, but I can see how someone who doesn't like to or can't empathize with the characters wouldn't like it. With no empathy, there's no interest in the characters, and there's not much left after that.

    I'll bet the people who didn't like this film didn't much like scary campfire stories, either. I try not to look down on them too much, though. :)

    A host is a host from coast to coast...

  • - Was it really the Blair Witch, or some effective psycho loon?

    It was the Witch. The magic forest (they walked in circles wich is a old-story symptom of magic forests.
    The Guy throwing away the Map and everything else implied magic.

    - Was it really Josh yelling from the basement? Or was it a recording? Or was it the Blair Witch mimicing his voice?

    It doesn't matter in the story, they probably all died.

    - How did Mike end up in the corner? Physically forced? Possesed? Already dead and propped up?

    Magically forced. He was knocked down remember, and yet was standing 15 seconds later.

    - Did they really die? No bodies were found.

    Since they were supposed to find the cameras one year later, the bodies could heve been in the same location.

    - What were those children's voices? What were the other sounds?

    That were the childrens souls crying.

    - What caused the tent to flap like that?


    - How did they end up going in a circle? Maybe it's like those magic forests in Zelda.

    Yep, magic forest.

    - What was that slime?

    Just some neat idea the produces had, it doesn't realy matter in the story. It's only purpose is to add creapy atmosphere to the movie. It has absolotely no other purpose in the movie.

    - ad infinitum....

    I guess you didn't read enough scary stories as a kid. Those are all classical examples from those.

    - No questions, huh? Maybe you were looking at it differently than I but I really enjoyed it and am waiting for the DVD.

    It will fit nicely righ beside "striptease" and "Higlander II" on your shelve.

    - Maybe you should go rent Navy Seals :-)

    Never heard of it (the movie). Is is much different from BWP ?

    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • I don't get it, I realy don't.

    I went to see this film last weekend and I was mildly dissapointed. It's not a bad movie, but clearly below average.

    And it leaves absolutely nothing, *nothing*, when you walk out of the cinema there are no unansvered questions and the movie isn't making any point.

    If I told you that you realy don't see anything horrible in the movie, I would have spoiled all the film for you, it's that bad. The only thing that holds up the film the whole time is that it is making the surroundings look creapy with the help of music and sound effects. And even that gets bored after 30 minutes.

    I doubt there are many people who will want to watch this file the second time.

    And my question is : What realy generated all this hype ?? C'mon if a unknown website got millions of hits even before the opening, it's got to be professionally planned and engineered hype !

    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • If you watch the surroundings in the film, you will notice that many of the scenes were filmed just beside a big clearing in the forest.

    Look up between the trees and you will see that there aren't any more trees 20-or-so meters from where the actors are standing.

    Not a big mistake but it quite annoyed me while I watched the movie.

    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • The movie already is in urope . Saw it last weekend here in Paris. But the movie realy isn't *that* bad. It's just to long for it's simple story and you will never want to see it again.
    (apart from some deep-forest-scenes obviously taken behind just a few trees).

    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?
  • Exactly what hadn't you figured out by the end of the movie ?

    The movie is OK but it's definitely not great, in the sense that I will get absolutely nothing out of a second screening.
    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • Sure, it's a nice film, and very nice given the bugdet and beginner film makers.

    But why the hype ? The film basically just tells an camp-fire ghost story.
    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • I guess we've all seen movies where some guy is blown up by 500 tons of dynamite and still walks away from it.

    But the BWP is supposed to be a "true" movie and as such, those kind of things don't happend, we know how kids used to be killed in pairs in that cellar. One standing in the corner, facing the wall, that was the last bit of information the film gave. It was all supposed to fit togeter and we are expected to figure out that the kids will die. But how do we know that ?? The film doesn't explicitly *state* that, now does it ?

    The film has absolutely no *details*. whatsoever, the audience can figure out on the way home.

    It leaves nothing for the intelectual audience.

    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • Are you sure you were watching Blair Witch? There was *no* music in the entire movie. And the whole point of the movie was that you never saw anything. The movie let your imagination go wild on what was actually out there. I know I left the movie a lot more scared then when I went in there. I thought that this was a great movie, definitly one of the best independent films I had ever seen.
  • The best way to avoid motion sickness with this movie is just to sit towards the back of the theater. That way you can still see the wall around the screen, and your body won't get as confused about what is actually happening.

    As for clerks, I agree with you. That was another very good independent film. I was pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine had me watch the movie.

  • I've rarely seen a theater so quiet.

    I've rarely heard a theater so full.

    Now all Mr. Katz needs to do is to draw the parallel between independent filmmaking and independent musicmaking with MP3s, and argue for web-, ftp-, and IRC-based distribution of these films and he's on to something here.

    QDMerge [] -- data + templates = documents.
  • Indy filmmakers have been using age-old (read: cheap) film techniques, innovative ideas, and good stories to make good movies for a long time. That doesn't that there's anything lo-tech about it. The Blair Witch Project people used the most hi-tech tools available for their budget. Have you checked the prices of all that stuff in the credits? I am glad that The Blair Witch project got the recognition (and the money) it deserved, but to think that it hails some kind of a 'lo-tech' revolution in cinema is a bit effrontery.
    I very seriously doubt that any major movie studios will begin producting movies with digital camcorders and cutting them on Media100 workstations because of the success of this one movie. Maybe now the studios will take a more serious look at indy films, indy screenplays, and more traditional moviemaking techniques. Hopefully we'll get to see a few more decent movies in the theaters.

  • Jon katz not only misses the point of real horror, he misses it on media as well.

    Old Time Radio shows like ESCAPE and SUSPENSE used the spoken word and some sound fx to make the audience feel these emotions, to sit on the edge of thier seats. They used WORDS to spark the minds eye, not a visual stream to spoon feed the audience.

    If Katz were truly into touting the real ways of Low-Techo he would have at least mentioned this, but hhe is once again found empty of real substance.

    For more on Old Time Radio, where to find it on the net and even a few files to listen to head over to The WSMF OTR site []

    And Use Your Own Imagination once in a while.
  • Jon Jon Jon.... You want so much to be hip, it hurts. If you had a real eye on low budget movies of worth rather than fluffing you Hip Cyber Feathers you would have doen this article years ago about "El Mariachi" by Mr Rodruiguez or the 1980s film "Liquid Sky" or "Down by Law" etc etc etc. You also would have seen what happens when a indi film maker gets Hollyweird backing ("Desperado" "Dusk Till Dawn"). But instead of a real article on Low Budget films you simply pander to the NOWNOWNOW hip set and turn a blind and dumb eye to the real meat of the story. Ouchie Mr katz, even as a movie reviewer you are lacking. Whats next? "Cyber Kitty Boxes, Freind or Foe"?
  • The movie cost little to make


    The marketing hype that made you aware of it cost MILLIONS

    So for all you folks who think this is a win for the low budget film makers or the Katzians who follow the hipbuzz speak with thier heads up the pundints anus ...Congrats you are all dupes of another BWP style scam.


  • You missed the point.. I think if anybody went to see this movie hoping to see a documentary on natural numbers, they decidedly ended up dissapointed. The movie simply used the character's obsession with mathematics as a tool to explore the psychological issues of having an essentially one-dimensional, shallow life. The character's mentor(sorry, cant bring the name to mind, I have a very very bad problem with names)spent his whole life trying to find patterns in Pi and came to the conclusion that it was essentially not worth it.
    The movie's point is NOT wether there are patterns in Pi, or wether the stockmarket can be predicted, but what happens to an individual when they become blind to everything but one goal. In the end, Max (I think that's the character's name), starts seeing patterns everywhere, in coffee, in the guts of a squished bug, in the stock market, in the Torah - and you can pick apart his brain at that moment and really understand the kind of psychosis he is affected by.
    The movie is not about math, it's about life, the point of life, and about balance.

  • by Laxitive ( 10360 )
    Pi? bad? Oh my god! I thought that Pi was one of the best movies I have seen in my entire life.. it was SO beautifully done, the grainy film, the absolutely lovely music, the message it conveys so clearly. Everything about that movie pointed to the fact that someone put SO much thought into exactly what went into the film.. rather than most hollywood flicks, which rather point to the laborious amount of time making it glitzy and perfect product placement.

    You have no taste.

  • Can you point me to a place where I can get good info on the good movies coming out? I love independent films, and I've loved most of the independents I've seen, but I've only seen a scarce few.. is there a place on the net which is reliable as a good source of what's good and what's bad?

    I thought Pi was a BEAUTIFUL film, Rushmore was great, Trainspotting kicked butt (though i dont know if it's 'independent' or not). That's about all the independent movies that I can list off the top of my head right now. I've been searching for a place where I can get info on films like these, and the only thing I've found so far is the onion's AV-club movie review section.. do you know any other place?

  • With marketing, TBWP's budget came out
    at 1.5 million. That's thirty times what
    they claim the film actually cost. Ever
    get the feeling you've been cheated?

    How come there's an "open source" entry in the
  • I haven't seen BWP> yet, but I have read the Dream Park novels. I loved the books and find the concept very interesting. Perhaps as our technology gets better, we will see concepts like these be brought to fruition.

    In essence, this is what is happening with Ultima Online and Everquest. Quake leagues are springing up all over the place. As the technology driving these games gets better, the distinction between game and real will blur.

    On a related note: Have you read Synners by Pat Cardigan? In it the Synners (synthesizers), channel human emotions in sync with music videos to people with sockets (i.e. connections with the brain). A must read if you want a glimpse at where technology is heading.
  • While it's always nice to see someone realise that there are wonderful films being made outside Hollywood, to say that BWP is the start of some sort of new renaissance in non-Hollywood filmmaking is to dismiss decades of filmmakers. Sure, I had a similar `ah ha!' experience more then ten years ago when seeing Atom Egoyan []'s Family Viewing [] (which was made for a similar cost) for the first time, but I didn't jump to the conclusion that this was the start of a new trend, rather than the continuation of one I'd fallen into the middle of.

    Sure, low-budget, non-Hollywood filmmaking is new to this corner of the Internet, and sure, this is the first film that's become a massive success based on Internet interest and hype (forged or otherwise: see Salon's Did "The Blair Witch Project" fake its online fan base? []), but that's no excuse not to do one's background research before writing an article like this, and making a realistic assessment of where this film fits in the recent history of filmmaking.


  • >You have no taste.

    Good thing he wasn't talking about your mother or might have had to attack his personality for expressing an opinion...

    Grow up.

    "It's Brazilian"
  • The blair witch project was just what I needed. None of the bloatedness of other recent movies. It was very nice to see a movie do so well with so little a budget.(I heard around $$40,000) I hope more people take notice to how a story is presented not just how much eye candy they can shove in your face.
  • Whose fault is it that the whole "expectation" game gets played anyway?

    Stop being led around by the big marketing hook in your nose. Watch a movie and judge it on it's own merits, not what the public (who, by the way have made wrestling shows some of the most popular on TV, so fuck them anyway), media and marketing machines tell you to.

    If you saw the movie and didn't like it as a matter of taste, that's fine, not everyone is going to like the same things. But if you dislike it for failing to live up to your *expectations*, then you're an idiot for playing that game in the first place. Plus, you are doomed to be disappointed by everything, since expectations are seldom met in this day and age.

  • Plot? There was no plot. There were "events," but certainly not a plot. And after a while, these "events" became very predictable. The typical mix of hysteria with insanity permeated through to each of them until it became humorous.

    I think they were screaming at the end becuase they dropped their $15,000 camera; the most expensive piece of equipment on the set.
  • Poor choice of words, "Real Legend" makes more sense. That is, that this a real story told by people who live in that region, rather than something made up by the film makers.
  • Independent movies will be seen more and more in movie theatres. The Haunting sucked so horribly that I'm ashamed I payed $8 to see it. If only they'd make some good, well written movies. Until then, it'll be the low-budget independent movies that will be the really good ones.
  • IIRC clerks was made for $2000. Not bad imho.
  • Try sitting as far back in the theater as possible.
  • This is where the web site comes in really handy. Go to and they have interviews with people after the dissapearance. It's got a lot more backstory to flesh out the movie. Apparently they are still adding new information to the web site. Unlike most movie web sites this one isn't just for marketing, it's a rather vital part of the film.
  • Well, the sequel plots that they've talked about involved stories about the man that murdered the seven children, and more about the woman that was cast out of the village who may have become the Blair Witch. So they aren't really sequels in the sense that they take place after BWP just in the BWP universe.
  • Loved it? Yeah, ok, if you're into watching three really stupid people who can walk into a "forest" on the eastern seaboard for a day, but CAN'T WALK OUT IN THREE DAYS. I would call it excruciatingly boring. CNN had it should have been called The Blair Insomnia Project. I thought that the shaky cameras and "you are there" style of filming went out with Homicide.

    I think that this movie proves nothing more than that with a good marketing machine and plenty of hype, along with a lot of screaming, running and cursing, it's possible to sucker a few million people into parting with their money.

    The Blair Witch Project did nothing more than strain the audience's credibility and present yet another telling of some tired old summer camp ghost story. The only time that I got scared was when I realized that the stuff that was sticking to my shoe wasn't a spilled Coke, but bubble gum.

    Not only was the movie completely un-scary, but the ending was PURE cheese. I mean, I could see it coming a mile away. My prediction? This movie is going to fade from the scope very quickly. All that has been proven is that with a very low budget, it's possible to rake in a very large amount of money. At least the accountants will walk away happy.

  • I honestly have to wonder how you can call me a dolt in one sentence, then actually be able to state that an obvious ending is a component of suspense. No, I say that this was a movie about three very stupid people who didn't have enough sense to follow a river back to civilization.

    Further, having spent a fair amount of time in Maryland, I'll also postulate that anyone who cannot find their way out of one of those woods after three days deserves what they get.

    By the end of the movie I was cheering for the witch.

    I'm perfectly used to the fact that this movie has made more money than other movies. But I think that it's very clear that receipts != quality. This is a great case of how well marketing works. It's a bad with it!

  • Sure I've been lost in the woods. I live in Idaho...over half the state is wilderness. And even with a compass and WITHOUT a map, I never had a problem getting out. Yeah, it's easy to get confused if you spend your time in panic.

    I can suspend my disbelief. I love movies. But just because the camera jiggles and everybody acts really scared doesn't mean that I'm going to jump up and down and bow to some new paradigm in filmmaking. This would have been a good movie from a couple of guys studying film at UCLA, or maybe it deserves a place in that low budget "art" film niche, but as a mainstream movie, all I can determine is that everyone went gaga because it received great reviews from a film festival and cost less than a bedroom in San Jose. But the premise was tired, the plot was weak and the ending was so anticlimactic that as soon as I saw the house I told my friend what was about to happen. All that was left was to scrape the popcorn off my shoe.

    Yeah...I can suspend disbelief. But that doesn't mean that any old crap that flickers and jiggles on the screen will catch my eye.

  • Are you kidding? Sometimes it seems like two of those three form the basis of most films. And even the third one (math) appears from time to time. Disclaimer: I don't know what you mean by "tackling" so you probably won't agree with my list of movies that "tackle" these subjects.

    Religion: The Last Temptation of Christ, The Crucible, The Apostle, The Exorcist, all of the movies that just came out about the Dalai Lama, The Mission, Sister Act, Oh God, Witness, Yentl, The Ten Commandments.

    Math: Contact, Good Will Hunting, Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land, Moebius, N is a Number, Stand and Deliver, Sphere, Sneakers, I.Q.

    Psychosis: ummm...just about any movie with a "bad guy" and plenty more that don't.

    I haven't seen Pi, so I won't comment on whether it is good or not. But you seem to be implying that it is outre or avant garde or some other French phrase in that it deals with issues Hollywood normally doesn't. Just because a movie was good doesn't mean it has to be unique. This is the kind of unwarranted hyperbole that makes people who haven't even seen the movie dislike it.
  • This is the best thing I've seen here from Katz. He is clearly well within his element here (not over his head with technical issues) and his review definitely made me want to see the movie (which I wasn't all that interested in before).
  • I haven't seen BWP yet, but I did see The Sixth Sense this past weekend, and thought it was fantastic. Please, go see it before anyone spoils it for you.

    I don't think I'll be spoiling The Sixth Sense by saying that the special effects are almost nonexistent; as I've heard about BWP, more happens off screen than on. I think Sixth Sense edged out BWP for highest gross on this incredibly crowded (5 major studio releases) weekend. I hope that the success of these films will spark more cerebral, psychological horror flicks. I'd much rather see this type of movie than self-referential, over-the-top slashers like Scream or cheesy CGI fests like The Haunting (although Sleepy Hollow looks like it might be good).

    As far as The Haunting goes, I've heard that there is another movie from the same original source coming out later this year, called The House on Haunted Hill or maybe The Haunting of Hill House. The rumor goes that this one will depend more on auditory than visual effects for its scares. I can only hope the rumor is true.

  • Is this your first exposure to independent cinema? Your points about technology, while valid, are old hat. People have been making very good movies cheaply for a long time. Seems to me that the real story is the marketing (which I missed out on, how did that happen?). -nme!

    I just have to agree to this (and I also missed out on the marketing). I'm happy for Jon Katz if BWP has opened his eyes to independent low-budget movies though, but it's nothing new and I doubt BWP will create a new trend in Hollywood cinema.

    There are always some low-budget independent-movies from new and exciting filmmakers that manage to stand out from the crowd to the more cinema-aware. Just off the top of my head, people might want to check out these flicks: El Mariachi, Man Bites Dog, Clerks, La Haine, Evil Dead, Nightwatch, Junk Mail... If you take a look at the Hollywood-remakes made of some the above movies you will understand why Hollywood won't be able to take advantage of a trend towards low-budget independent movies. It is probably impossible to create such movies inside the Hollywood studio system.

  • They are extremely different types of movies, one played off of the tradition american sentimentality for soldiers lost in a war. The other scared the living sh*t out of me and everyone else who was in the theatre that friday night. No one even got up for a good minute after the lights went on. If you ask me it came directly from it being the opening night (sometimes its nice to be in manhatten), no one really knew what to expect, and atleast i hadn't heard that much hype about the movie at that time.
    With saving private ryan you knew that there was going to be a happy ending or atleast happy enough, with the BWP no one knew what was coming until they turned on the lights.
  • Don't get me wrong, the movie was utter garbage, I just hated it that much more because I was hoping it would be fresh, original and scary.

    However, not having expectations is pretty unrealistic, don't you think? Can you honestly go into every movie not knowing anything about it, and not expecting a good movie? Pretty cynical approach if you ask me.
  • Let me start by saying that when I saw the preview of Inspector Gadget, my brain went into CGI overload. Hard. I started to look at all of these movies just crammed with this stuff and I just shut down my nervous system, not wanting to see another 80 foot spider or mutant shark.


    The Blair Witch was in my opinion absolutely horrible filmmaking. "Road Rules goes horribly wrong." And it was so funny as to be unfunny. As a friend pointed out, they got lost in the woods with a map, compass, river AND the sun in the sky? Sounds to me like it was nature weeding out bad genes to me. But anyway, an utterly wretched film, with no suspense at all. Just because it was cheap and different doesn't mean it's good. Last time I checked characters were still fairly important and I couldn't give a rat's behind about any of them. So, if characters aren't there, most filmakers will attempt to blind you with visuals or at least a good plot. No such luck here; it's like they were relying so heavily on trying to sell this as a true story and the fact that it is about as un-Hollywood as you can get they forgot to do anything like entertain us. Godzilla sucked and no matter how much money they put on the screen that wasn't going to change. Same principal here. No amount of money would have made this story entertaining.

    Go watch The Iron Giant. It won't make near as much as The Insipid Witch, but it is light years better and will still be around in 100 years whereas Blair Witch will be spliced onto a reel America's Funniest Home Videos and Fox's Most Shocking Moments Caught on Tape.

    Now, to be fair I will have to say that they marketed this film BEAUTIFULLY. Web site, Sci-Fi channel preview, everything to make you think it was real. Plus all the buzz about how scary it was; to me that is what drew me to the film because how many people can be shocked or scared by a movie after the trememdous amount of scary movies we have all seen in our lives? I have to give it credit for trying, I am not shooting the concept full of holes, it's quite noble actually, it's just that the execution was as big a failure as any failed endeavor in the history of filmmaking.

  • I just expected better you know? When you expect good things and you are disappointed it hurts worse than usual.

    So many people are involved with a film in Hollywood that it is a rare thing for a creative, unique vision to make it's way to the screen and I was hoping that Blair Witch would be it. High expectations dashed to bits.

    However, all this talk of a sequel doesn't upset me like you think though...Evil Dead was in my opinion not good but it was innovative and proved that you could make a successful movie very cheaply. Then they followed that up with one of the greated horror/comedy movies ever Evil Dead 2, so I am not going to lose all hope!:)
  • Yeah, I was expecting a lot better too, I have to admit. :)

    Here's to hoping for a better sequel!
  • As a friend pointed out, they got lost in the woods with a map, compass, river AND the sun in the sky? Sounds to me like it was nature weeding out bad genes to me.

    I think the point they were trying to make here is that somehow the witch was screwing with them. Common sense does tell you they wouldn't have been lost on their own.

    I'm still not sure what I think of the movie, though I don't think you can really call it the worst movie ever. I mean, come on, some of that 80's stuff... I _was_ disappointed it didn't scare me as much as I expected it to, but then again I grew up out in the country and I've spent a lot of time in the woods.

    Besides, you have to admit the final scene was pretty cool. :)
  • Hey,

    As far as I know it was #2 on it's opening weekend 2nd to The Runaway Bride...

    BUT... it opened in less theaters and averaged $20,000 per screen where the #1 movie only hit about $15,000 per screen. (i think that's how they should rank movies, but nooo big-ass-hollywood guys need the big numbers).

    Anyways, my personal review is Here []

    - dc.

  • I've seen both BWP and 6th Sense (in that order). I was really looking forward to 6th Sense; having seen it, I'd say it was an ok movie, I liked it, but thought it was underwhelming. At the end I felt like I was watching Ghost. And I was annoyed at the heavy reliance on typical "creepy" music, those overpowering crescendoes that tell you something's gonna jump out at you any second now. I was extremely much more disturbed by BWP, I found it to be more effective. But then, it was a tense situation, whereas 6th Sense isn't depicting a tense overwrought situation. Anyway, rambling now!
  • I'm from Montréal and we are lucky enough to have the "festival des films du monde" [] and "Fantasia" []. with these two, you can find out about lots of répertoire and weird movies.

    Of course, You have to be here to enjoy Daniel Langlois(Softimage's dad)'s latest toy : ExCentris []

  • This is an excellent point:

    "If hollywood thinks it can just go low tek now, they're missing the point. We want movies by movie makers who want to see their own movies - not movies by producers who want to make a movie people want to see."

    but I have some problems with this point:

    "When it comes to art, the average consumer doesn't know what he or she wants"

    Most people I know have very good ideas what they want, but when they go to see it or praise it, they're told that this director is uncool or that actor has sold out, and they should not watch it. More to the point, what we see is dictated by what the mega-cinema chains will show.

    When I was growing up, my city (washington, DC) had many independent movie theaters, many of which showed various movies of questionable commercial appeal. theaters like the Apex, Biograph, Key, and The circle would all show repertory, Anime', off-color drama (Caligula's a perfect example -- not porn, but damned close), and foreign. Most of these places are now gone, some of which have been razed to the ground and replaced by synthetic megaliths of corporate or commercial intent...I think the CVS chain accounts for at least three former movie theaters in town.

    My point in this ancient history is that I think many more people know what they want to see, but their vote at the box office is curtailed by major chain theater options and whoever is keeping stats of rentals (and the Monica Lewinsky scandal showed us someone must be) is not correlating them to what should be shown in movie houses.

    Doubtless, this has more to do with profit centers than taste. That leads me to wonder...are we perpetually doomed to following the accountants when it comes to what we can see? I liked Pi, but found it difficult. I admire those who make movies on the cheap, but I don't think that should be a criterion for excellence, any more than star name power or special effects.

  • I agree. But wouldn't it be a better for the producers to let the filmmakers (i.e. director, writer) create the movie they imagine than to force the filmmakers to follow some crappy formula aimed at the lowest common denominator --must have a happy ending, politically correct, must appeal to the widest audience as possible? Every year they use the same formula to churn out the same crap every year, which people, I believe, are now sick of to see. I know I am.

    What they need to do is found more independents, market them adequately, and give them wider screen access, as they do their formula films. I am sure they would make back there investments if not make a killing like with the BWP.

    "I am made as HELL and I am not going to take it anymore!" -Network


  • Well, while not *HUGE*, "Mallrats" was made for $6 million. "Chasing Amy" was made for $250,000.
  • I noticed that too, but it didn't really bother me. Often in the middle of a forest there can be lots of large meadows. Doesn't have to be a road, and it certainly doesn't mean they can't be very lost.

    The only reason I keep my ms-dos partition is so I can mount it like the b*tch it is.

  • I disagree totallly with Jon Katz. I happened to see BWP on Sunday at 5:25 pm. This is usually not a peak time for movie going, but the large theater I was in was nearly sold out. This, combined with all that I had heard about the film, really got my hopes up.

    Boy, was I disappointed. Frankly, I think the movie was horrible. I don't want to bash the film makers, they did a great job with only $50,000. I must say that I'm no film maker myself. This movie simply didn't appeal to me.

    First of, it simply wasn't scary. I saw The Haunting early, and loved it. That movie got my heart racing. BWP didn't. I know that the camera work wasn't supposed to be perfect, but it just made me sick. Lastly, I think the use of a certain four letter word was so frequent that it became obvious there was no written script. Improv is good, but too much is too much.

    I have run into many people that loved the movie, and I'm happy that it has been so successful without spending millions. I just didn't like it.

  • I saw on teevee last night a flashy, qwik-cut advertisement for BWP. It probably cost twice what the movie did. It almost catches the creepiness that made BWP a great movie, but it was much cooler at J-Kub's house on a 21" monitor before it was released (NOTE TO MIAA: Seeing this movie for free directly led to my paying an outrageous amount of dough to see it in a theatre. This is a clue, please take this one, it's free! --or get one somewhere). I'm shocked that Jon would be raging on about how geeks found something great and now HW is pimping it out for the masses. ;-)

    I don't care too much, since I'm already into the Next Big Thing. I'll find it weeks before the cattle catch up. The Megacorps can follow along right behind me if they like. It's not like they have a clue where we're going ('course, I don't either, but that's what makes life fun). They just follow up behind geek.culture innovations as best they can in a reactive mode. I don't think any other "net-setters" are looking over their shoulders either. Bitching about what the rest of the world is doing is pointless; that's no way to live your own life.


  • Picture this: The Making of the Blair Witch Project

    You've got the crew running around, making piles of sticks and sliming stuff, and a crew's following them around making a documentary on these relatively unknown film techniques. Shoot it more professionally, but still not big-budget (ie: not their first time making a documentary, but it's still a documentary). Then weird stuff starts going on -- the crew of the original movie actually does disappear. The rest of the movie follows the search parties who are trying to find these kids.

    Kind of Scream 2 meets The Fugitive, but keep the standard Hollywood practices out so it can try and capture a fraction of what the original has. Part of the reason for suggesting this is that a documentary about The Blair Witch Project would be really cool to see, anyway -- lots of the reviews and interviews touch on some of the entertaining stuff the crew did.

    So, any bids? :)

  • Come, read, watch Katz pillory the media while covering the big-media issues. Like Star Wars. And Littleton. And The Blair Witch Project. Such a media rebel... truly a revolutionary. He doesn't even waste his time by drawing attention to worthwhile subjects; instead, he draws our attention to the shows we've already been watching. Keep an eye on this rising star. A man who can sell you things you already own... he's going places. MJP
  • Can't say anymore, you already said it.

  • As has been pointed out countless times, it's not very difficult to find your way out of a small woods when you have a major geographical feature -- like a stream, for God's sake -- to follow.

    Even schoolchildren up north can navigate the woods by using the sun, the stars, and the light pollution at night from nearby towns and cities.

    The prospect of adults getting lost for almost a week in the woods around residential communities, in this day and age, is patently ridiculous. It's just not scary. It's like a movie about big hairy monsters coming out of my closet and eating three adults in the middle of the night.

    And all you can say is "haven't you ever heard of suspension of disbelief?" Okay, but suspension of laughter? Please...

  • Katz is lame and so is BWP. How about suggestions for alternatives?

    I suggest "Das Boot" for those interested in the real meaning of fear and realism in cinema.

  • The first thing I thought of when I saw the intro into Katz's article is that there have always been low tech, low budget movies...
    They're called B movies, and most of them suck.
  • The Blair Witch Project was unique, and done for a tiny budget, but doesn't mean that all movies should use the same techniques to make their movies cheap as well.

    The movie got away with grainy, out-of focus shots from handheld cameras held by amateur camera operators because part of the premise was that it was done by film students as a documentary. Because of this the problems with the camerawork actually made the movie better and more realistic. Unfortunately this won't work in all other movies because in most movies the camera is supposed to be a window into the movie world, so grainy, out-of-focus shots interfere with the "gods-eye-view" effect. I'm afraid good cameras and good camera operators will have to remain part of making a good traditional movie.

    The same goes for the lack of score, lack of special lighting, etc. All these things enhance the experience of most movies, but would take away from this one -- but only because it would make it seem like it wasn't a documentary. This doesn't mean that music and lighting are necessary otherwise, but nor does it mean that because TBWP got away without them that all other movies can too.

    And finally, how is it that GPS enabled the actors to avoid having aides and techs??? GPS is a replacement for a map and compass, not for an aide or tech. GPS is about as relevant to the filmmaking process as is what the actors ate for lunch.

    TBWP does prove that it doesn't take a big budget to make a great movie, but don't get carried away. Not all movies can get away with filming the way they did.

  • your thoughts are a little unclear to me (you first said you get tired of the same type of games, then you state that you'd rather go see a movie done in the traditional, over done way), but i happened to really enjoy the perspective that BWP was filmed. it helped isolate the kids, so you get the feeling they are actually lost in the woods.. not at all like you'd get, knowing that there is a huge production crew following them around
  • The real part that bugged me about the movie was that my girlfriend got a headache from the cameras jumping around. I loved it, though :)

    As a side note, I saw Sixth Sense yesterday, and the people next to me were talking all the way through it, somewhere in the back there was a little baby that kept crying and getting smacked, a guy in front of me was crinkling some candy wrapper until his wife took it away... Man, that's one of the benefits of DVD -- you sit at home, the quality's just about the same, and you don't have a bunch of stupid-ass interruptions. (Unless ofcourse you're in a dorm room.(
  • Artisan purchased the movie after seeing at sundance, they got $1 million on the spot (somewhat of a ripoff actualy, I wonder if there getting any royaltys...)
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • I don't know, unless you've got a kickass home theater, it might suck. small screen, less overwhelming. My sister saw an ASF file of the movie before she saw it in the theater, and it probably made it suck for her (she knew what was going to happen in the theater, and the ASF file looked like crap). But, VHS isn't that bad.

    I would recomend seeing it in a theater, Even thogh it isn't an FX epic, it would still look better. Plus it rackets up BWPs box office take. Vote with your dollars :)
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • I made the mistake of going to see BWP at a
    Saturday matinee at the local Cinema-super-mega-plex
    stadium seating super-Dolby-sound -- you get the
    idea. Anyway, the theatre was packed and I was
    surrounded by parents who brought their crying
    little toddlers (can you say "babysitter"?)
    and on the other side of me was a group of plus-size
    women trying to break a world record for loudest
    comsumption of three buckets of popcorn, in front
    of me was a 7-foot tall guy with a weak bladder
    jumping up to go to the restroom every 10 minutes.

    I loved BWP! It was the only movie I had seen in
    my adult life that actually freaked me out, but
    my best advice is see it at a small theatre late
    at night with very few people to get the maximum
    effect, or wait for it to come out on video.

    The key to enjoying BWP is to watch it with
    absolutely no distractions because the whole
    story is told from first-person point of view
    so you sympathize with the chracters and their plight.
  • This post contains SPOILERS so read beyond
    it if you haven't seen BWP:

    The ending was brilliant: How do you know the 3
    kids are dead? All we know is that they're missing. Yes, Josh dissappears and hints are made
    that he was mutilated but is he dead? Are any of
    them dead? You can assume that but then again like
    any good book or film it's left to the audience to
    figure it out the details -- it makes you think.
  • It's in Maryland. It's pretty difficult to find a roadless stretch of woods anyplace along the East Coast, other than parkland. Just been populated for too long. Keep walking in any direction for a while and you're pretty likely to find some yokel's house, with a satellite dish and a phone.

    In fact, that's the emergency navigation plan for greater Boston. Keep going until you find 128. Then you'll be okay.
  • Look kids, it's JonKatz again. This time he is trying to perform opinion-fellatio on the movie-going segment of /. readership. Yet, somehow he manages to say nothing that isn't obvious.

    Indie films have been around for ever. Most are lo-tech, due to lack of funds. BWP is no different. The producers begged, borrowed and quite probably stole, to make this film a reality. The amazing thing is that they somehow showed it to the right people who decided to take a risk by taking the film to the screens. Makes you wonder how many other independent gems got lost along the way.

    Katz, once again, misses the point. The movie isn't a huge hit because it's frightening beyond the means of FX. It's a hit because it's completely different than what the movie going public is used to. It's the product of a single mind, rather than a committee... Unlike Katz articles. But now that we've seen it, a sequel just won't cut it. Not even if it's done as gamelan or kabuki. We've seen the original, any sequel will be shunned for being a fad, a recipe and a Zircon. We'll pay $8 to see something original - after that it damn better look fancy.

    The really cool thing about BWP, that Katz of course glances off of and proceeds away from the point tangentially, is that the BW legend was planted and took root in the cultural gulibility. Had the release waited for the myth to spread, the movie would have been an even greater success. The triumph of BWP is in the meme contagion it caused. They created a Yeti. People were driving through Maryland LOOKING FOR THE WITCH!! Katz never mentions this once.

    When will JonKatz have an original thought? When will he say something that actually makes people think? When will he spawn a mutant meme, rather than spraying us with a homogenized culture of engineered ones?

    Well, with the apparent upsurgence of creativity outside of Hollywood (ain't that right Jon?), maybe someone will make a short film about a pundit who isn't trying to suck off the mainstream majority, but rather synthesizes something new from the cultural gestalt... Now THAT would be a great work of fiction.
  • I think an argument can be made, that Linux is the product of a single mind - massively parallel, multitasking, and widely distributed - but singular in purpose.

    OTOH, committee design seeks to accomplish something that no one finds objectionable. In the movie industry this takes on the shape of 'recipe' films, politically correct, predictable and reliant totally on the 'hot new tech'.

    In the case of BWP, the initial mind of the directors and actors (and some post production) was singular. Once people started getting paid 'acceptable' wages for advertising and such, the inspiration is lost and profitability takes over.

    The article by Jon Katz, as always, picks up on the 'hot new buzz' of interest to slashdot readers, but fails to contribute to it. He seems to serve as a funnel for opinion, with minimal contribution to the din.
  • I finally remembered what the filming of BWP reminds me of. I'm sure a lot of you have read Dream Park by Larry Niven and Stephen(?) Barnes, and possibly the sequels, The Barsoom Project and The California Voodoo Game. For those of you haven't, the books take place in the ultimate high-tech theme park. One of the park's biggest draws is its full-immersion Live Action Role-Playing games (LARPs). Some of you have probably played some of White Wolf's Mind Eye Theatre games, or been in a LARP at a con. Maybe some of you fight in the SCA or other reenactment groups. Now, imagine a fantasy LARP played on a giant soundstage with full special effects. You live in the game for days, stay in character except maybe during rest periods, fight holographic monsters and live NPC actors, solve puzzles, etc. Aside from the competitive aspect (there is some sort of huge international LARP league), the best games are recorded and marketed.

    The making of BWP seems more like a low-tech Dream Park LARP than true moviemaking. While I haven't seen the movie yet, Donohoughe and the others sound more like game players than actors. I can imagine that some people would be interested in taking part in something like this more for the experience than for the sake of making a film. Is it possible that BWP represents the future of interactive gaming more than the future of non-interactive entertainment?

  • Inferring from the specific to the general is always a bad idea, and Katz has done just that here (disclaimer: haven't seen TBWP, and know nothing about it)
    Remember when El Mariachi was made for sixteen cents and packet of chewing gum? That wasn't the end of the hollywood blockbuster, and nor will this be.
    Style over substance will always be Hollywood's signature.

    btw, from Jon's description, TBWP sounds remarkably similar in style to Pi, one of the worst fucking movies I've ever seen. Just because it hasn't got a budget, don't assume it's good.
  • I agree. What really got me was how the movie wasn't dumbed down in any way. You have to really pay attention to understand what the last 5 seconds of film really means. In fact, I had to explain the significance to a few of my friends. What really gets me is that Hollywood would NEVER do anything that requires anything above the intelligence of a rock.

    Also, in the Hollywood version of BWP, one of the guys would have screwed Heather. No question about it.
  • Man, that was what I thought as I read it, wish I could have expressed it as well. I'm getting a little tired of the formula here.

    1) Something semi-interesting and out of the norm happens in the world of technology (preferably with a popular culture and new media slant).

    2) Katz writes an article heralding it as the dawn of a new era in (new media/pop culture/technology), predicting the demise of the tired, bloated, self-satisfied established (big business/media company/journalism/phone comapnies, whatever).

    3) Slashdot readers immediately pounce on it and rip it to shreds describing why this is nothing new.

    4) Katz posts a follow-up, citing all the positive e-mail comments he got about his article and posting some of the better examples.

    5) Slashdot goes nutz re-hasing the thing again days later and wondering if Katz even read the posts that completely proved his whole premise wrong.

    *yawn* Think I'll get another cup of coffee and see what is happening to Dilbert today.

  • That's exactly what I was thinking reading this article. Both Pi and El Mariachi received critical acclaim and achieved a cult following. Both were made on shoestring budgets. And both used unusal camera techniques.

    So why has Blair Witch received so much attention, while these movies, though successful, remain in relative obscurity? Better marketing? Better talent? Succesful use of digital technology?

    Whatever. It's because every idiot teeniebopper can identify with a horror movie. Subtitles and heavy themes confuse and bore the MTV crowd. No such problem with a low budget horror movie, because they're so cliched. The suprising thing about this one is it just happens to be done well. That make it's unique and different, therefore it's cool. That's why it's stomping The Haunting and that fish movie.

    (And Pi is one of the best fucking movies ever made! What is wrong with it, aside from the technical innacruacies?)
  • Exec: Kids are all into scary movies these days. But what with all these crazy shootings, theaters aren't letting kids in to see scary movies. So we need a PG-13, or we've got no audience.

    Pitchman: They said the f-word a lot in the first one. We tone down on the f-word and we'll get you your PG-13.

    Exec: Excellent thinking. So tell me about our sequel here.

    Pitchman: Picture this--a team of Army commandos goes into the woods to investigate the missing film students. They've got satellite hookups on their helmetcams so we can watch what they're doing.

    Exec: Helmet cams! Good angle! Very high tech. We can have a command center like in Armageddon. Can we get Bruce Willis for the head commando?

    Pitchman: I understand he's very interested.

    Exec: But those jiggly cameras are such a headache. Can we lose the bouncy-wowncey cameras?

    Pitchman: Don't worry--all the running with night vision goggles will be done with dollies.

    Exec: Night vision! Very Desert Storm! Very high tech! Now, what about computer generated special effects? Without computer generated special effects, you don't have a scary movie.

    Pitchman: The witch is some serious special effects! She's got spells that shoot fireballs and lightning and whatnot, and the commandoes are all shooting back with grenade launchers.

    Exec: Computer fireballs! And grenade launchers! Very high tech! How are we on helicopters?

    Pitchman: Would you believe an Apache attack helicopter shooting rockets down on the witch's fortress? How's that for fireballs?

    Exec: That's some serious fireballs!

    Pitchman: We were thinking this for act two: Helicopter gets shot down by witch's fireballs, crew survives, race is on! Who gets to the chopper first, the witch, or the team of commandoes?

    Exec: Very suspenseful! You've got your suspense! Can you make it a female pilot? I've always thought Laura Dern would make a great damsel in distress.

    Pitchman: I understand she's very interested.

    Exec: So her character and Bruce's character, they have a history?

    Pitchman: And he suddenly realizes he's got to save her to win her love back!

    Exec: We've got our love interest! Tell me about the witch.

    Pitchman: You know how scary it was without the witch? Imagine how scary it will be when you could actually see the witch! She's computer generated! She can float, she can shoot fireballs, she can fly through trees! She can become trees!

    Exec: Very high tech! Very special effects! So what's her look, you know, when she reveals herself?

    Pitchman: That's up in the air--we're debating between etherial and demonic.

    Exec: Or you know, you've got this all beautiful, this seductive ghost, seducing commandoes and whatnot, then boom! Demonic! Morph her!

    Pitchman: We can morph her!

    Exec: Like in Raiders!

    Pitchman: Like in Raiders!

    Exec: There's our tie-in!

    Pitchman: We've got synergy!

    Exec: Synergy! Oh and speaking of synergy, how are we on racial balancing? Do we have racial balancing?

    Pitchman: The commandoes are all sorts of races. We've got African-American commandoes; we've got Hispanic commandoes. We were thinking a Hopi Native American commando, kinda half-mystic, half-warrior, who can sense the witch's presence when noone else can.

    Exec: How mystic are we talking here? Can he shoot fireballs?

    Pitchman: He can have a final fireball duel with the witch! Beat her at her own game!

    Exec: The duel's gotta be with the main lead. You think Willis can pull off a Native American?

    Pitchman: I think of Willis as more of a John Wayne in that whole cowboys-and-Indians schtick, pardon my French.

    Exec: What about that kid from La Bamba? Lou Diamond-something.

    Pitchman: Yeah, that guy. He could save Bruce and Laura at the very last minute!

    Exec & Pitchman: With a computer fireball!

    Exec: We've got our surprise ending!

    Pitchman: He's claiming his powers in his ancestral forest!

    Exec: Very mystic! Very high tech! We gotta get him for the fireball! You think we could get him?

    Pitchman: I understand he's very interested.


Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!