Face-Off: Blair Witch Project Vs. Paranormal Activity

Well, we got some hearty, heated opinions with our last Face-Off. Apparently, I even lost a friend I never knew I had over the matter! Regardless, it seemed that most agreed that the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE did deserve to take the crown over its remake, though the remake still serves as a nice homage.

Today's Face-Off coincides with the upcoming release of the fourth PARANORMAL ACTIVITY in as many years. We figured it would be fitting that since the PA series works the first-person filming gimmick, it should go up against the horror film that truly kicked off the wave: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. So, who filmed the scary better? Let's get it on!

There was some majorly shaking action occurring on the screen as those three would-be documentarians were scrambling through the woods. A great deal of people got motion sickness from viewing it on the big screen. Honestly, I didn't. Sure, there was some jostling going on, but I only thought it enhanced the actions going on. Still, it's not like they were using high-tech filming equipment, which probably lead to the less than professional viewing effect.
Well, here the audience was spared the motion sickness as Micah went out and purchased some top of the line video equipment in order to spot the supposed specters haunting his house. He's got gigantic cameras set up on tripods and little cameras set up all over the home. Everything gets captured in every room and we don't get a bunch of shaky images.
Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams were complete unknowns when this flick was made, which certainly helped with the whole "this really happened" vibe the filmmakers were trying to create. What also helped was that all three gave fantastic performances, conveying the kind of shock, fear, and desperation that would naturally come with the horrific experience they endure. Special mention has to go to Ms. Donahue for her scream-queen-worthy shrieks.
Katie Featherston is the real anchor of this flick's story and her performance really had to shine in order for all of the proceedings to work. Thankfully, she gives a brilliant performance that runs the gamut from frightened homeowner to possessed puppet of evil. If only her counterpart, Micah Sloat, gave as strong an effort. He just came off as a bit cheesy at times and didn't win me over the way that Katie did.
There really aren't a whole lot of special effects on display here, which certainly helped keeping the budget low. Other than some odd noises and flashes of light, we don't get a grand spectacle of ghostly images. However, the manner with which the filmed footage looked, in terms of damage done to the tape, was very effective and assisted with the overall feel of realism.
I have to admit that the practical special effects utilized here was damn impressive, almost unbelievable. Because of the whole found footage angle, the camera never cuts away when something ghostly is occurring. So, a ouija board that moves by itself and then is set on fire or a woman being dragged out of her bed by nothing at all, is an absolute visual treat.
This film takes the less-is-more horror principal to amazing new heights. We never get to see the Blair Witch herself. NEVER! Yet, she is incredibly creepy. Her myth and methods create such a feeling of dread that whenever she's merely near is enough to send chills. Every time night falls during the movie, you get overcome by this sweaty sense of unease that does not let up. And then the shocking finale comes our way.
Perhaps the fact that people were claiming this the "scariest movie of all time" never gave it fair chance to truly spook when the droves started attending. There are certainly a few thrills and chills for sure, but I, for one, was not scared out of my mind. I'm sure many of you would agree that it was not the scariest movie of all time. The bits involving possession were pretty creepy, but just feels more tame when compared to the Witch.
The moment Heather and Michael enter the old rundown house, I can remember everyone in the theater begging them not to do so. What follows is an all-time high on the freak-out meter. Your mind just races in suspense as Heather and Michael search for their missing friend, Josh, whose voice they can hear faintly crying out to them. The plethora of small hand prints on the wall leading down to the basement only heightens the horror. And that last shot leaves you both disheartened and unnerved.
Apparently Steven Spielberg suggested the filmmakers change Paranormal's original ending to what we all got in the theater. Sometimes, maybe it is best to not listen to the genius in terms of ideas. That's not to say I hated the ending to the movie, because I didn't. The sounds of Micah being attacked downstairs are quite creepy and the fact that we aren't seeing what's going on makes it all the more effective. I also was cool with a possessed Katie throwing his body at the camera. What I thought was lame was the final "jolt" with her evil face lunging at the screen.
Blair Witch Project
Well, Paranormal Activity may have lived on through more sequels, but it did not survive this battle with the Blair Witch! Which flick do you think should have won? You know I need to hear it! So spit those bullets below and let me know who filmed it better! And feel free to send any future Face-Off ideas to me at [email protected].

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