Stephen King is a master of terror who has composed dozens of spine-chilling tales. Many of King’s books have been adapted into incredibly scary movies, including Pet Sematary, The Shining, and the It double feature.
With those horror stories in mind, it is difficult to imagine that anything could scare the author who created such nightmarish narratives. But King admitted that one famous film was just “too freaky,” even for him.
Eli Roth and Stephen King discussed witches in cinema
To the delight of horror buffs, King is a frequent guest on Eli Roth’s History of Horror. AMC’s docu-style program, led by director Eli Roth, welcomes media pros to help break down movies within the genre.
King appeared in Season 2 Episode 4 to share his take on the topic du jour — witches. In the first segment of the episode, Roth, King, and a roster of handpicked experts explored the phenomenon of The Blair Witch Project.
The 1999 found footage-style film follows three aspiring documentarians who venture into the wilderness to investigate an urban legend about the Blair Witch. The trio’s expedition to the supposed stomping grounds of said witch takes a frightening turn when they become convinced that someone is stalking them.
During their five-day sojourn, the hikers encounter ominous objects, hear strange sounds, and film the inexplicable events — up to and including the unnerving ending. They vanish, but the footage is recovered, shown in theaters, and billed as The Blair Witch Project.
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Actors Joshua Leonard, Heather Donahue, and Michael C. Williams pulled double duty as the stars and the camera operators for The Blair Witch Project. In an appearance on Eli Roth’s History of Horror, Leonard divulged that the filmmakers, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, took a hands-off approach to moviemaking.
“They wanted to keep it as naturalistic as possible,” said Leonard. “It is the three of us filming each other and recording sound of each other. And we would have no direct interactions with the directors of the film while we were making it.”
In a bold move, Myrick and Sánchez, positioned The Blair Witch Project as a true story. The raw shooting style created the illusion of reality, and an elaborate marketing campaign supported the hoax. Fans bought into the folklore to the tune of nearly $250 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
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The purposely low-budget production techniques gave The Blair Witch Project the unpolished appearance of recovered footage. Consequently, the disturbing images seemed authentic, the danger felt real, and the fear was palpable.
In his sit-down with Roth, King mused, “Who would’ve thought The Blair Witch Project would work the way that it was?”
“The first time I saw that movie, I was in the hospital, and I was doped up,” King recalled. “My son brought a VHS tape of it and he said, ‘You gotta watch this.’ Halfway through it, I said, ‘Turn it off. It’s too freaky. I can’t.’”
Roth concurred, saying, “I had the same experience. I was like, ‘I have to turn the lights on.’ I was so disturbed by the end of the movie. I get chills thinking about how scared I was.”
Amazingly, The Blair Witch Project succeeded in giving two horror gurus the heebie-jeebies. The takeaway? Myrick and Sánchez may not have invented the found footage genre, but they appear to have perfected it.
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