The Impact of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ on A 33-Year-Old Family Man, Part II
by Steve Sutton
I wish I could explain the mystifying effect this movie has had on me.
But I can’t.
As I sat in the auditorium, still in shock over the events of the last 82 minutes, my eyes gradually adjusted to the half-illuminated theater. If my comprehension would only follow suit and also adjust, then perhaps I could make sense of the final scene.
I couldn’t shake a funny feeling all over, and coupled with the inability to comprehend the film’s ending, my frustration was mixed with, well, something else. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. What time was it anyway?
A bead of sweat dripped from my forehead onto the back of my wrist as I glanced at my watch.
"That’s it," I said to myself. I checked my pulse.
"Just as I thought," I reasoned. My resting heart rate was 110.
"Christ!" I said aloud. "If I could burn like this on the bike I’d lose 20 pounds in no time."
The sound of my own voice surprised me. It cracked, sounding distant and lonesome above the murmur of voices in the still-packed movie hall. I looked around, and to my right and left, in front and in back, most of the other movie-goers were congregated in small groups, either talking amongst themselves or watching the credits, or just looking around like me.
As I regained my composure, I glanced to my right to check on the four friends with whom I had witnessed this unsettling piece of celluloid. They were engaged in a spirited, yet hushed discussion of what actually happened after Heather burst into the basement and saw Mike standing (or hanging??) in the corner. Did Josh kill them both, possessed like Rustin Parr? If so, had he been hearing voices as he sat with legs crossed, lamenting "that blue stuff on all my shit". Or had the ghost of Elly Kedward herself been responsible for the untimely deaths of Josh, Mike and Heather? This school of thought revolved around the unintentional indiscretions visited upon the Blair Witch: the invasion of the ‘rock graveyard’ and accidental disturbance of one of the stone piles; trespassing into the ‘stickman hanging area’ and blasphemous filming therein; the refusal of the group to leave the forest when the Blair Witch had spent so much time trying to scare them away.
These discussions continued for no more than a minute or two when one member of our party, Karen, took charge of the quarrel.
"Let’s focus on what we do know," she said.
"OK," I replied. "We saw the little handprints on the walls. Those were little kids’ handprints. Just like in the Justin Parr story. That was his house."
"Well, then if they had some sort of map they could’ve found their way home," contributed Michael, Karen’s husband.
"Way to go Mike," offered Tommy. Kicked it in the fucking river. "If it was me," he continued, "I’d have a GPS and my sidearm."
Tommy’s girlfriend Margaret swatted his opinion as if it were a pesky fly. "Like a GPS would have been any good. The Witch was fucking up the compass all day. Would’ve fucked up the GPS too."
"What are you talking about," asked Tommy, a touch of blush in his voice. And on his cheek. He doesn’t like to be upstaged by a girl, and especially not by Margaret.
"That’s right!" said Michael. "Don’t you remember what Heather said? She said ‘Like, we’ve been going south all fucking day.’ You know, when they came ended up at the same log over the creek?"
"That’s what I’m talking about," said Margaret. "The Witch was fucking up the compass -- haven’t you read stuff about how weird magnetic patterns and auras and shit are always around when people try to photograph ghosts? She would have busted out some EMP on the GPS thing and it would have been fried too."
"Besides, this took place in 1994 and GPS wasn’t really commercially available to the general public until after that. 1996 I think," I said. When systems are failing, try to reassure one-self with facts. You can’t build your house on them, but they make a good foundation for your sanity.
The credits were still rolling and most folks had migrated to the lobby or to Starbucks across the street. We remained, and argued a bit more. In retrospect, I think we were all a bit disoriented and were trying to get a grip on ourselves before facing the near-midnight evening.
The usher walked politely up and down the aisle, quietly asking those of us who remained if we would please begin moving to the exits. The cleaning crew moved purposefully up and down each row, removing empty cups and other trash. A lonely looking girl of about 20, wearing about 16 studs and rings in her ear and face, rapidly swept between the rows of seats. In only a few minutes the 12am show would begin.
As we walked backwards towards the lobby, reading the credits, I challenged the others.
"Let’s come back and see this again. I don’t know about y’all, but that final scene happened so fast, with so much camera shaking and all, I really couldn’t focus on who got it first and exactly what happened. I mean, I’m pretty sure that was Mike standing in the corner, and with the cameras swapping from color to black & white, I sorta lost track of who was chasing and who was leading, y’know?"
Mike and Tommy both said they were down, ("How about next Friday?") and Margaret was cool as long as she didn’t have to work. Karen seemed less enthusiastic, but I could tell she would cave if we pressured her. I decided to keep that card in my pocket for now.
By this time we were in the lobby and we could see the next batch of BWP customers anxiously awaiting entry. This line was like ours had been, stretching around the building and into the parking lot. However, it was a bit more surreal. Most of the surrounding businesses were now closed and dark, and a doppelganger line had formed on the opposite side of the building. It was full of the Rocky Horror fans awaiting their interactive midnight show.
We shook hands and said our good-byes. I had arrived with Mike and Karen and would go home with them as well. We left Tommy and Margaret on the way to Mike’s Grand Prix. I knew our discussion would last the entire half-hour ride home, so I wanted to start it on my terms.
"OK, when they discovered the seven rock piles on the ground, they assumed it was the cemetary. But it wasn’t. The seven piles of rocks were for the seven kids killed by Rustin Parr. They were pretty close to his house the last two days, wandering in circles. See, the three piles of rocks around the tent were for the three of them. But what about the rocks tied onto the tree? I think they were for the boy Rustin left alive who was institutionalized. What do you guys think?"
And so it went all the way home: Mike, Karen and I lost in a discussion of our fears much like Josh, Mike and Heather became lost in the woods.
I don’t remember falling asleep that night; rather, I recall lying awake, reliving the final scene in my head as my wife slumbered beside me. However, there was no doubt that I did finally drift off. I recall rising from the bed quietly, so as not to awaken my wife. I recall walking carefully around the familiar end of the bed, stepping over the dog that lay in his usual spot at my feet. I knew I needed to check on the kids. The feeling was overwhelming. I must make sure they are alright. I slowly opened the bedroom door, and there at my feet, was a bundle of sticks, neatly bound.
I woke up screaming.
Steve is from Houston.