The scariest part of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was never filmed

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The Blair Witch Project was a movie filmed on a budget so tight the actors literally had to shit outside. Famously marketed as if it were real and filmed entirely from the characters’ perspective, the director went to some pretty insane lengths to make sure the reactions he got from actors seemed genuine. Lengths we never really got to see.

For anyone unfamiliar with the film or just hasn’t seen it in a while, the cliff notes version of the story is that a group of 3 arty-farty hipster types called Heather, Mike and Josh decide to travel to Maryland to make a documentary about a series of mysterious disappearances variously attributed to either a crazy hobo or a witch. One thing leads to another and suffice to say, shenanigans occur.

All of the footage in the final film was captured by the actors (who played fictionalised versions of themselves) while trudging around the woods and was edited together after the fact. While The Blair Witch Project wasn’t the first found footage movie, it was the first one to make a shit-ton of money at the box office which is arguably a more impressive achievement.

Now a common complaint about the movie is that nothing ever really happens with almost all of the action taking place off camera. Characters react to things out of frame, have plot-related discussions when the cameras aren’t rolling and run from threats we never see while pointing their cameras at the ground, which while realistic, doesn’t make for compelling viewing. The most egregious example is arguably when Heather (pictured above) yells “what the fuck is that?” and then sprints for like 2 minutes while cry-screaming before sitting down and sobbing directly into her camera lens about how scared she is.

So scared she can’t even frame her face properly.

That reaction is 100% genuine and the actress really did see something in the woods that made her burst into tears, it’s just that she never caught it on the camera she was holding. We know this because the film’s director and writer, Eduardo Sanchez and David Myrick, later told Vice exactly what it was that scared the shit out of her, a guy wearing Long Johns.

Now you’re probably thinking that, that doesn’t sound scary, so let’s rewind. To make this film all three actors were quite literally just dumped in the middle woods with some supplies and told to walk around filming shit while talking about the Blair Witch. Every few days they’d receive new instructions in the form of dead drops left by the filmmakers telling where to go next and what they had to film. These dead drops also included supplies like food, which the filmmakers were careful to make sure always contained slightly less food than the group needed to grind away at their morale. In addition, each actor would be given specific instructions, such as act like a dick for no reason, to cause arguments that they were then instructed to film. You know, for drama.

At night the filmmakers, who were constantly following the actors from a distance, would then sneak up to their tents and mess with their shit. The actors were largely kept in the dark about what exactly Sanchez and Myrick planned to do so that their reactions were genuine. Initially the scares were pretty minor and involved things like leaving piles of rocks around their campsite but eventually reached the point where the filmmakers would just run up to the tent at 3am and kick it over while the sounds of children laughing were played through a sound system.

The scares really ramped up though when the film’s plot called for one characters to “disappear”. In reality the actor was simply told in one of the dead drops to leave when nobody was looking and meet back up with the filmmakers. That night Sanchez and Myrick had the actor scream like he was in pain. The next day they left a bag with real human teeth and a piece of a cows tongue for one of the actors to find.

The most ambitious scare though came a few days after that when Sanchez and Myrick had a tall friend of theirs put on a pair of Colgate-white long johns and walk around the woods a few hundred feet away from the remaining actors’ campsite. Now just for a second imagine that you’d just been through all the shit mentioned and then saw a pale, vaguely humanoid figure walking around in the woods. There are literally horror movies out there with this exact premise.

Understandably Heather’s reaction was to scream “What the fuck is that?” and run away, however, the lanky figure she saw skulking in the woods was never caught on camera. Something the filmmakers admit they were kind of annoyed about, one because it would have been a great shot and two, because the guy they got to do it fell into a puddle.