Saturday, October 08, 2016

Whiz-Bang #6: The Blair Witch

The Blair Witch Project made a huge impact on me when I went to see it in theatres back in 1999. After that movie came out, I wanted to live my life making videotapes of haunted places around Kansas. I didn't quite make that happen because of logistics and not having the time but because of The Blair Witch Project, I created Zeke & Harry. Zeke & Harry, or more specifically "Tank N Tummy", was a mixture of Clerks and The Blair Witch Project where half the story took place with Zeke and Harry at work and then the other half on a ghost hunting mission at a cemetery. I wrote a short story and a screenplay based on this premise and I still think that it is one of the best things I have ever written. Since that story, Zeke & Harry have become a huge part of my writing and characters that I routinely come back to.

The Blair Witch Project told the story of three friends, Heather, Mike, and Josh, trying to document the history of the Blair Witch near Burkittsville, Maryland. The interview some people about the stories they've heard before heading into the woods where they get lost, hear creepy noises, and get attacked by unseen beings. The three get separated, even more lost, and stumble on an old, abandoned house where they hear screaming from Josh inside. Heather and Mike run around the house like morons trying to find Josh but when they finally find him, the camera falls to the ground and the footage ends.

The Blair Witch Project is considered the first in a long-line of "found footage" horror movies like Paranormal Activity but "found footage" horror movies existed before 1999 and Paranormal Activity came out in 2007. Blair Witch, I think popularized the genre but nothing else resonated with movie-goers until Paranormal Activity.

I was fascinated with The Blair Witch Project and wanted to know more about the fake legend that they had crafted. Interestingly, there was a comic book published by Oni Press about the three major legends mentioned in the movie: Elly Kedward, Coffin Rock, and Rustin Parr. The stories are said to be taken from the child-like drawings of Cece Malvey's self-published "book" Wood Witch Said. All stories were "adapted" by Jen Van Meter and were drawn by, in order, Tommy Lee Edwards, Guy Davis, and Bernie Mireault. Let's take a look.

Elly Kedward's Curse
Elly Kedward is cursed. She had miscarried all of her babies, lost her first husband to a sickness, another husband lost to war. In order to protect her loved ones, she immigrates to America and settles in Baltimore, Maryland caring for the children of the Crandall family. But the house burns down, killing the entire family. Elly then moves to the small village of Blair where she rents a small piece of land, raises chickens and does sewing for the townspeople. The curses continues to speak to her but for 15 years, she harms no one.
After the American Revolution, the curse begins to take over. Elly confined herself to her house only venturing out at night. Local children would taunt her and the townspeople began spreading rumors about her, probably to try to explain why she was isolating herself and being out only at night. Finally, Elly is called before the magistrate to defend herself against witchery, the bleeding of children, and making heathenous items. The curse pushes at her but she does not speak. The courtroom is cleared except for the judge and bailiffs. They proceed to beat her, nearly to death, to force a confession from her.
Dying, Elly is dragged back out into the woods, tied to a tree and left to die. The curse envelopes her, teaches her patience, and promises her replacements for her seven children and two husbands. And more. The children, nine of them, are still missing. Most blame Elly. Elly's land is sold to a man named Burkitt. Children are told to never to into the woods.

She Needs Me
Burkittsville (formerly Blair), Maryland, 1886. Robin Weaver sits on the front porch of her grandma's house playing with her doll. One moment the doll is in her hand and the next it is gone and in front of her, standing--floating--at the edge of the wood is a woman, covered in fur holding her doll. Robin goes into the woods to retrieve her doll and is lured away by the woman.
The woman keeps Robin in the woods for two days and search party comes to find her. The woman keeps Robin hidden, waiting for a search party with five members. The next day, they get their wish. The search party finds Robin, sitting naked on a rock in the middle of creek. As the men celebrate finding Robin, asking if she is okay, the witch takes over Robin. Tying the men's wrists and ankles together in a circle on the rock, Robin carves the witch's symbol into their faces and then disembowels them.
Robin cleans herself up, gets dressed, and happily returns to her house. Robin is unable to say anything more than a crazy story about a floating woman in white. The search party is found by hunters but when people returned to remove the bodies, no trace was seen.

Left Alone: The Rustin Parr Killings
Rustin Parr didn't belong in Burkittsville. He prefered to be left alone. But the witch wouldn't let him. Rustin becomes haunted by the witch, wanting him to bring her seven. Seven, and she would leave him alone. Finally, Rustin relents. He brings the children to his house--two at time. The witch continues to haunt him.
One child stands in the corner while Parr kills the other. Then the other child is murdered. The children are buried in graves in the woods, covered with stacks of rocks--seven of them. As Rustin covers the seventh grave, the witch thanks him and leaves. One child remains alive in the house. Rustin, despondant and remorseful for what he has done, slowly walks into town and goes into the store, hangs his head and says three words: "I'm finally finished."
Rustin is tried and hanged. The one remaining child is found but never speaks about what happened while Rustin Parr held him captive. Kyle Brody would be institutionalized for the rest of his life.