It’s hard to believe that “The Blair Witch Project,” the movie that launched the whole found footage genre is 15 years old today. But it is! And unless you’ve been standing in a corner staring silently at a wall, you remember the first time you saw the movie.
In fact, when MTV News was prepping for the anniversary, one refrain cropped up: everyone remembers their first time seeing “Blair Witch,” whether it was in movie theaters, on video, or just on your spooky laptop in the woods.
With that in mind, here’s some of MTV’s staffers fond recollections of the time they were so scared right now that snot would not stop dripping out of their noses:
“When the movie came out, I knew literally nothing about it other than you should go see it knowing nothing about the movie. So opening night, me and a few friends headed to a New York movie theater where the lobby was set up with ‘artifacts’ from the film, perpetuating the myth that it was real.
The packed movie theater filled with hundreds of audience members was pretty vocal for the first half of the movie, laughing, screaming and generally reacting like audiences for a horror movie do. And then the second half hit, and I watched as the audience became quieter and stiller, with the last ten minutes filled with nothing but terrified silence.
The movie ended, credits rolled, and everyone just sat there. Until about two thirds of the way through the credits, a man in the very front row stood up, and said loudly, ‘Excuse me! Excuse me!’
‘Oh great,’ I thought. ‘He’s going to ask for money,’ expecting he would break the mood and tension that had filled the room.
Instead, the man continued, ‘I just wanted to see, does anyone know, is this movie real? Because I live in New Jersey, and I have to DRIVE HOME PAST THE WOODS.’
At which point, everyone in the theater helpfully started shouting, ‘Yes! It’s real!’ And started laughing. Still one of the best theater experiences of my life.” – Alex Zalben
“I remember going to see ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ with my wife back when we were dating.
People laugh at it now, but back then it was pretty spooky. I lived within walking distance of the theatre, it was a dark, 10-minute walk that she didn’t mind most nights, but after watching ‘Blair Witch’ she was freaked out. I was reassuring of course, ‘We’re in Brooklyn, evil spirits don’t really hang out in BK,’ I said.
When we got to my apartment, she went straight to the bathroom and I went into the bedroom and just stood there facing the corner and didn’t move. She was scared and pretty pissed after.” – Rob Markman
“I watched the Blair Witch Project with my neighbor friends after we rented it from Blockbuster. My sister and I had to walk them home in the dark because we were all too scared (we lived in the WOODS). The whole way back, we just starting yelling out loud to ward off bad guys. ‘It’s a good thing we know karate!’ or ‘Good thing we hid those knives in our shoes.’ The Blair Witch wasn’t coming anywhere near us!” – Emilee Lindner
“It came out when I was 10 and my sister, who was 18, decided to tell me the entire story, complete with mythology and conspiracy theories, on a family road trip. I can’t imagine actually watching the movie at the time would’ve scared me more than her retelling, and I avoided the movie for years. When I finally watched it years later, I actually really liked it, but think I still prefer my sister’s version.” – Craig Flaster
“My memories of the Blair Witch Project actually have a lot more to do with the movie’s phenomenal marketing campaign, which never in a million years could exist today. Not only was I 12 years old and therefore far more susceptible to the lies that movies tell me (found footage?!?!?!), but I was pretty into this crazy new Internet thing, and really bought into BlairWitch.com hook, line and sinker.
So, yeah, I wasn’t allowed to see the movie in theaters, but I vividly remember looking up the Maryland woods where all of this totally true stuff totally 100 percent went down once the trailers started hitting television, and I also remember losing sleep over it. Burkittsville is only 160 miles from Collingswood, guys! She could totally take a trip up and kill me!
Then I learned that it was fake and was once again disappointed, because I so desperately wanted SOMETHING crazy and supernatural to be real, even if it meant the deaths of innocent (and slightly annoying) backpackers. I saw the movie months later at my friend Katie’s house, because her parents were the only ones cool enough to allow middle schoolers to watch R-rated films without asking their folks for permission, and I loved it. But still, looking back, it was really all about that marketing campaign.” – Shaunna Murphy
“I had to wait for ‘The Blair Witch Project’ to air cable to finally see what my older cousin had raved about. Once the screen cut to black, I didn’t understand the hysteria behind it. To me, it was just a boring movie that ended abruptly. Years later, a friend of mine suggested it, having never seen it before, so I finally watched it a second time. Something must have changed in the years since I first saw it because I don’t remember ever feeling more unsettled after a movie.” – Kevin Sullivan
” ‘Blair Witch’ came out when I was 12 or 13 but I wasn’t forced to see it until I was at a party my Freshman year of high school with my best friend Brianna. She was older, and it seemed like the impressive thing to do to suggest we watch a scary movie so we cuddled up on the floor of this older boys parent’s basement to watch it. I think I was more focused on the boy than I was on the movie because I don’t remember being very scared… Though to this day, Brianna will still do a killer reenactment of the, ‘I’m so scared right now’ line whenever she wants to tell me I’m being dramatic.” – India Nicholas
“At the time, I lived two hours from the nearest movie theater. My buddy Jimmy and I made the drive on the opening weekend, only because we were intrigued by the terrified girl crying promo. After the movie, we had to drive two hours home at night, through the pitch-black desert, and barely spoke except to say, “That’s not real, right? No. Couldn’t be.” I cancelled all of my camping trips that summer, which was a major part of my social life in a small town. By the time our other friends saw it, the hype was already overblown. They didn’t think it was scary and made fun of Jimmy and I for a year because we promised it’d give them horrible nightmares, which we continued to have.” – Ryan McKee
“I was not old enough to see ‘The Blair Witch Project’ when it came out in theaters, but I was definitely old enough to see it when my older brother brought it home on VHS (!!!) when it was released. (We also had a LaserDisc player at that point, if you were curious.) I sat in full daylight on the bottom bunk and watched it (still how I prefer to see horror movies) with his friends, and I don’t think I cried until later. Since then, I’m upset by stacked rocks, sleep in vans while camping and harbor a lingering suspicion of basements.” - Kase Wickman
“I saw the Blair Witch opening day at noon at the Angelica. I waited till the credits were over just to be super sure it was fake, because the internet wasn’t what it is now. I wanted to make sure that guy who looked like he was peeing in the corner at the end was still alive and freely peeing in corners. They played it again at my pinball bar the other day, I realized it’s just a bunch of curses and panning on leaves. It still changed the game. ‘Cloverfield,’ ‘Paranormal Activity,’ even ‘Earth to Echo,’ they all owe those filmmakers.” – Brendan Kennedy
What’s your memory of seeing “The Blair Witch Project?” Let us know in the comments below!