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Commentary Entertainment

Low budget horror tropes: money for old rope

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

The greatest marketing campaign in the history of cinema doesn’t go to Marvel, DC, Universal, Disney, or any major film studio with all the resources in the world and teams of professionals available to them. No, the title of greatest marketing campaign goes to Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. 

If you don’t know these names, they are responsible for one of the most unlikely success stories in the history of movies in their film “The Blair Witch Project.” With a minuscule budget of $60,000, the film would go on to gross nearly $250 million worldwide. It has gone on to spawn sequels and even a video game, as well as fuel the concept of found footage horror.  

So many people thought the movie was real. The found-footage style helped generate that effect, but the creators also took advantage of the primitive internet by using chat rooms and blogs to give the film a non-fictional feeling; online journals and fake missing persons posts made people question if the events in the movies really happened. The website was designed to look like it had been sloppily made and focused on the “myth” of the Blair Witch. They handed out missing person fliers and even paid to have small newspapers write about the story as if it had actually happened. Sanchez and Myrick had created a whole universe by not acknowledging their film as fiction but as a documentary. It was genius!

Small filmmakers, whether they be a team or just one person and a camera, have to make do with what they have. Sanchez and Myrick did exactly that and became millionaires, going down in history as one of the most unexpected success stories in movie history.

What really impresses me about “The Blair Witch Project” and similar movies like “Paranormal Activity” and 2023’s “Skinamarink” is that all of them have very simple premises with very limited technology. The directors made something great with what they had at their disposal. Sure, there are “better” films out there, but I’d say the low-budget reality of these movies actually enhances their effectiveness. All of these movies wouldn’t be nearly as effective if they weren’t made in found footage style and had less-than-optimal camera work. 

But ultimately, what I admire most about movies like these is that they used what they had and made art with it. They didn’t have green screens, tons of crew members, a multi-million dollar budget, and A-List actors; all they had was an idea and a couple of cameras. Truly, great things can be done with just the right amount of passion and motivation, something I think bigger studios (in some cases) lack because they’re focused on profit over art. 

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