The Blair Witch Project has a lot to answer for; it terrified me when I was growing up, started the irritating found footage craze in Hollywood and may have cursed its stars’ careers.
Way back when, in the black and white days of 1999, The Blair Witch was a phenomenon and people flocked to the cinema to see the tale of three lost souls who went off into the Black Hills in search of the legendary Blair Witch.
To promote the film director Eduardo Sanchez used the internet (you may have heard of it) to set up a fake narrative that the movie was actually genuine footage and that the witch was in fact real.
And despite the fact that witches aren’t real (sorry wiccans) people believed it. Interestingly though, while the witch is about as authentic as an average episode of Geordie Shore the movie’s cast have all suffered a strange ‘curse’ since starring in the cult phenomenon.
The film’s three leads Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard all feel that rather than being the star making role it should’ve been the film adversely affected their careers.
Donahue – who went on to win a Razzie for her performance – believes that audiences disliked a driven woman who kept the camera rolling despite what happened while not wearing makeup.
Unfortunately for Donahue it seems that Sanchez’s desperation for realism, including depriving the cast of knowledge and staging actual scares in the woods, worked too well.
People genuinely believed the cast were dead, so much so that Donahue’s mum received letters of condolence, while Leonard’s got phone calls asking about his health.
But when audiences found out the actors were very much alive, surprisingly they were more annoyed than relieved and turned on the cast.
Donahue felt the worst of the outrage.
It’s very hard for me to talk about the backlash because for me it was so directly personal.
It was my mother getting sympathy cards, it was people coming up to me on the street telling me that they wished I was dead, saying they want their money back.
It was me in my 84 Toyota Celica breaking down in LA in La Cienega underneath a billboard with my own face on it. It was a profoundly surreal experience.
The pressure got so much that Donahue eventually stopped acting and went into a somewhat different career, farming. Guess her life went to pot after all…
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.