Discoveries from case studies – The Blair Witch Project

The scene being discussed here from The Blair Witch Project is the night when the documentary team’s tent is attacked by the witch with crying children.  The whole film is filmed on handheld cameras so based on the movement and proximity of the characters to the microphones, makes the whole movie a lot more immersive as a viewer.  This is because, the camera acts as your eyes and the microphones act act as your ears in a way.  This is done in the way that a binaural microphone would work, in a very basic way, with the camera acting as the model head.  I have picked this scene as it brings fear to the viewer.

The original case study is here.

The group are awoken by noises which are not so clear to begin with, as they are inside the tent.  They all whisper in hushed tones saying if they can hear what each other can hear very quietly.  This makes us feel uneasy first because of the immersion brought about by the filming style, because imagine you were asleep in a tent and something outside woke you up.  You would feel as tense as they do.  Another reason this is so scary as a viewer is that because the audio is only being recorded by the microphones of the handheld cameras, which made it really difficult to just hear exactly what it is that is waking you.  This also makes you scared because, if you were awoken when you are asleep if you could identify what it was you would be a lot more scared about it if you could say it was just an animal and take action.  After this the tent begins being shaken from both sides which prompts the crew to put their boots on and run away.  This is scary as the shaking is loud and sudden and takes you by surprise, even though you know that someone shaking your tent isn’t going to do you any harm.  The very sudden increase in movement and volume frightens us as before this moment, it was very quiet and huddled almost safely, once this shaking begins the characters all go into a frenzy and run very quickly exposing themselves to attack, and as you are attached to the arms of one of the members of the camera crew, so are you.  Until the crew starts running the camera operators are aware that they are filming within the tent, but once they begin running, that all goes tipot.  He is running without aiming the camera at anything in particular, as he is scared and his professionalism is not important.  The camera movement here is just swinging arms, which means the sound is ruffled as the microphone is just swooshing past clothes which are moving really quickly.  This combined with the visceral screams of the three film members including the girl screaming “What the fuck is that?!” brings fear.  The fact that they cannot focus on anything other than what has been attacking them, when all we know of them so far is them being focused and professional on their job of documenting the trip.  Although we never see what it is that is following the group, the combination of all of these reactions to being provoked makes us very scared of what is following them.

Overall the thing that makes us scared most about this scene, is the immersion provided by the filmic style.  And also what makes us very scared is the fact that the enemy is completely unknown to us.  These two techniques can be used to insite fear into an audience member.


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