Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Horror: The Blair Witch Project and Sweeney Todd


Giving you a break from the literal stories of my life, it is time to dip my toes into horror some more. The two films I have got on tap tonight are a couple which I've always been meaning to see, but have never quite got around to it. They've always been there, but I've just never bothered to pick them up. You may not see Sweeney Todd as a quintessential horror film. Mind you, it isn't a quintessential musical, either. I've been telling everyone that I was going to see it for ages, but when it stared back at me on that horror shelf, I saw that there was no time like the present. Same goes for The Blair Witch Project. So let's get to it!


So, if I'm getting my stories straight, The Blair Witch Project started this whole found footage phenomenon. I'm not big on that phenomenon, especially because now everyone is trying their hand at it and it is losing its sheen. Paranormal Activity was okay, but Paranormal Activity 2 was one of the more boring films I've ever seen. It was kinda just an excuse to watch surveillance footage for ages and then we get some people getting dragged around for like, five seconds. And that's the template that most of these found footage films follow. The Blair Witch Project, however, was quite effective even though it had so little going on. I guess it just kinda taps into your fears - and that fear happens to be getting lost in the woods. Even if there wasn't some creepy witchcraft stuff going on, then I would still be terrified. Mainly because I'd be frustrated beyond all recognition. That's where The Blair Witch Project wins over Paranormal Activity - these people are trapped in this foreign land with no hope of getting out, whereas the people in Paranormal Activity are within the confines of their own home. There's just that extra air of unpredictability about the whole thing.

The actuals scares in The Blair Witch Project aren't exactly the most vomit-inducing things - which could be a by-product of its age and how horror has grown since then - but they are extremely effective. Simple things like noises and branch formations out in the woods were quite scary, which are emphasised through the cheap filming which brings you right into the story. The ending itself jams everything up at just the right time, leaving that little "nightmare" component in your brain (it may not be scientific but there really is one) buzzing. I imagine that the movie was more effective upon its release, but I did endeavour to make the experience as scary as possible. Which included watching it really late and in complete darkness. Luckily I had The Perks of Being a Wallflower to take my mind off things, because I was a little shaky afterwards. One thing I do have to ask is - why was this nominated for Worst Picture and Actress at the Razzies? I thought it was quite a hit back in the day, and it has a reasonably good score on Metacritic. I just find that kinda bizarre.


Since horror is a pretty large genre, I thought I may as well get into some different kinds. A musical horror is definitely something a little different, and I have to thank Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for introducing me to that subgenre. Because I've always thought that music and horror would go together well. I like how everything was just casually sung in this film, without these huge dance numbers and overbearing backing tracks and the like. It was kinda like a day in the life of me, singing through everything instead of saying it. Except I don't slit people's throats. Or bake people into pies. That's just extremely strange.

As a non-fan of Tim Burton, I found this movie to be quite alright, especially because Burton does dark well - but only when it is supposed to be dark. Plus, Johnny Depp was actually terrifying in his role. Legitemately terrifying. I'm not really a fan of his transformations and stuff, but he really was terrific as Sweeney Todd. Helena Bonham Carter was great, too. As was Alan Rickman...any opportunity to hear his voice is a guaranteed good time. While I'm not exactly running out to get the soundtrack to this movie, I just thought it was really interesting to watch, because it was a musical that seemed more natural than others. The violence was gloriously bloody, which is something I definitely wasn't expecting. I mean, I knew there was a bit of butchering, but not so much. Then again, I also thought that this was going to be filled with huge chorus numbers and people running around with scissors. Alas, that wasn't the case. I wouldn't say that the movie was a masterpiece, but it sure was a lot scarier and darker than I was expecting, and a lot less camp.

What do you think of these films? What was the buzz surrounding Blair Witch like back in the day? Do you think horrors and musicals are a good match?

25 comments:

  1. I found Blair Witch Project really unsettling, which is what I guess the appeal of found footage originally was.

    Loved Sweeney Todd. I remember back in 2007 when I prayed for Johnny Depp to win the oscar for this and hated DDL when he did instead (ah stupid childishness). Still, the last decent Depp-Burton outing.

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    1. It was, back in those days.

      Haha, I've done that many times. Had DDL not been his usual talented self that year, Depp so should have won.

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  2. I loved and still love The Blair Witch Project. For me the scariest part of the whole film was the sequence toward the end where they hear these mysterious and horrific sounds coming from the darkness. That fucking terrified me more than anything else in the movie. Still find it difficult to watch. Interesting random fact: the first 'found footage' movie is Cannibal Holocaust (1980), which as long as you live, I urge you never to see.

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    1. Yes! That was terrifying! And I will never see Cannibal Holocaust. It doesn't sound like my kind of thing...

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  3. I am a fan of Tim Burton, just because he puts so much thought into his work, and it's always nice to see his fresh, certainly different, style. SWEENEY TODD was a hit with me when I first saw it in theatres. There is a bit too much blood for my liking, but I think that the darker use of the musical was really effective - it's not as camp as it could be, as you pointed out. Depp and Bonham Carter are superb, as usual.

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    1. He does have a very different style, which is evident in Sweeney Todd. There was a bit too much blood for my liking, too!

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  4. You shouldn't really trust The Razzies.. they go for popularity. For example I don't like the Transformers films but there were far worse movies that came out during that time. The reason Transformers or Twilight gets plenty of nominations, despite how bad they are, is due to their popularity. The truly terrible films are just not that popular, so its less publicity for the Razzies.

    Yup, there's early films like Cannibal Holocaust (truly disturbing... even the director was charged at court because they thought it was real) but Blair Witch popularised the genre. Pete at ilovethatfilm.blogspot.com covers a lot of these found footage films, in fact he's doing a Phd on it (for real). You should check it out.

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    1. Yah...the Razzies are mostly a load of bullshit (apart from Jack and Jill winning all of the awards this year).

      I am going to check that out!

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  5. The Blair Witch Project was creepy, but the ending ruined it for me. I had one of those "that's it?" moments. I'm not a fan of found footage either, I'd say The Last Exorcism is my favorite found footage film. That being said, I loved Sweeney Todd!

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    1. Yeah, it does have one of those endings. It was a little slight, but I don't know where else it could have gone, haha. The Last Exorcism was pretty good!

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  6. Blair Witch is amazing. Unbeatable found footage and with very interesting mythology behind it. Paranormal Activity is just a pretender compared to Blair Witch. Those last five minutes in the house are absolutely terrifying. Even better at home in a darkened living room than in the cinema. Sweeney was ok, a lot more entertaining than many musicals. Hope they one day do a special screening of Blair Witch in some scary woods. That would be the best!

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    1. Haha, that would be awesome! But extremely scary...

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  7. I'm no fan of found footage movies, but I love The Blair Witch Project. The filmmakers nailed the authentic feel, and that's what made it so scary to me. It seemed so real.

    Glad you liked Sweeney Todd. Haters gonna hate, but I thought Depp nailed that role.

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    1. They did...it definitely did seem real.

      He *did* nail that role!

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  8. The only time I've seen Sweeney Todd, was on a bus, driving from Victoria to Queensland (a 24 hour drive) with forty other high school kids on the way to camp. Obviously, I need to see it again.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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