When it comes to horror, there are few names as iconic as Stephen King. The horror novelist has been entertaining audiences with terrifying tales of killer clowns and haunted hotels for decades now. Naturally, it takes a lot to scare the guy who literally wrote the book on horror. As it turns out, there was one movie that King saw which he could not sit through on account of how scary it was. The found-footage classic, The Blair Witch Project. In an interview reported by Dread Central, King admitted he had to turn the film off mid-way because it was too much for him.
“The first time I saw [The Blair Witch Project], I was in the hospital and I was doped up. 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.'”
King’s reaction to the film was pretty much how most people felt upon seeing The Blair Witch Project for the first time. The story of the movie takes the shape of a series of recordings of a group of student filmmakers who embark on a quest into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch.
The students disappear, and the footage of their recordings is discovered a year later. The nature of the story necessitates a lot of close-up, first-person pov shots of the chaos encountered by the students in the woods. Audiences find themselves thrust into the middle of the proceedings to an unnervingly intimate degree, as though they are trapped in the darkened theater alongside the characters of the movie at the mercy of the dreaded Blair Witch.
What made the movie particularly unnerving was that it was not shot like a film at all, but appeared to be a documentary based on real events. This trick seems less effective in present times when found-footage horror abounds, but all the movies that came later in the genre, from the Paranormal Activity series to Cloverfield, owe a debt to The Blair Witch Project.
It showed how effective such a filming technique could be at eliciting fear, where the true terror lies not in the horrors you see but the horrors you imagine taking place off-camera. Roger Ebert summed up this technique effectively in his review of The Blair Witch Project when it first released.
“At a time when digital techniques can show us almost anything, The Blair Witch Project is a reminder that what really scares us is the stuff we can’t see. The noise in the dark is almost always scarier than what makes the noise in the dark.”
For his part, after a lifetime of scaring his readers, there is something quite satisfying about learning that there are still some stories that are capable of scaring King himself. The novelist’s books continue to be a huge favorite in Hollywood for adaptations and remakes, like the upcoming Firestarter reboot starring Zac Efron. This news originated at Dread Central.