(fubo/VOD) Yes, I know: everyone has seen THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Even if you haven’t, you are almost certainly aware of it and the broader beats. This is just a light-hearted horror-adjacent personal story about attending a screening of the film when it was released but, for the spoiler-adverse, I will note that it does include a detailed description of the final shot of the film.
It’s Chicago, August 1999. I’d been living in Chicago for few years now and was renting a cramped, very basic studio on an elevated floor in a large Lakeview complex, just a stone’s throw from Wrigley Field. It was one of the few places that allowed dogs — I did not have a dog — and was next door to a grade school — I did not have a kid — but was routinely woken by either dogs barking or screaming children or both.
Anyway, back to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I was familiar with the film well before it had been released, partially because of the internet hubbub but also because the studio had promotional folks hitting up the local goth/industrial club nights, including one event they had at Chicago’s long-gone SPIN nightclub, of which I walked away from with both a t-shirt and CD soundtrack — both of which I still have.
A few days after that promotional event, Chicago underwent a massive power outage and vast sections of the North Side of Chicago went dark for several days, during some of the hottest temperatures we’d suffered from in some time. I got used to taking cold candlelit baths and adding a pocket-sized flashlight to my keychain so I could navigate the concrete stairwell to-and-from my apartment, as opposed to taking the elevator like normal.
Given the extreme heat, the woman I was seeing at the time and I decided to do what most people with a few spare coins to rub together do during a heat wave: we went to the movies, and as we’d just attended a BLAIR WITCH PROJECT event, we thought that sounded like a good idea, which it was, because that film was a game-changer. It still stands as one of the best films of the found-footage genre. The final shot of the film, where you see Mike staring at the concrete corner of the room, then thud and Heather’s camera falls to the floor and then her camera’s pulldown mechanism breaks down, well, that’s one of the most effective horror endings of all time.
We reluctantly left the air-conditioned theater and headed back to my studio. By the time we arrived, dusk was upon us, and the entryway was pitch black. We fumbled our way through as I tried to get my pocket flashlight working, both grasping at each other as we struggled to make our way to the stairwell.
The flashlight finally lit up, and I found myself staring directly at a concrete corner. She screamed, then I screamed, and then we huddled together, laughing at the situation.
The next day the lights flickered back on in my studio, waking me up, and I felt the cool air of the built-in air-conditioner fall over me. Normality, restored!