“The Blair Witch Project” Monster Theses

By Brendan Rand

I recently watched “The Blair Witch Project” for the first time not too long ago. The film follows three filmmakers, Heather, Mike and Josh, that go deep into the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland, to make a documentary on a local legend, the “Blair Witch”. The film was unique in telling its story solely through footage captured by the filmmakers’ cameras, which were “found” in the forest a year after their adventure. With this footage-based storytelling, the film never actually shows the “monster” or resolves what is actually be haunting the group. Regardless, I realized after watching the film that even in its absence, the monster in “The Blair Witch Project” still embodies a few of Jeffrey Cohen’s Monster Theses.

The monster in “The Blair Witch Project” seems to match Cohen’s second thesis on how the monster always escapes (4). One of the key aspects of this thesis is that despite the characters’ efforts, the monster always seems disappear from sight and come back to continue its reign of terror (4). Throughout the film, there are more and more hints that something else is in the woods and knows the group is there too. At one point, the filmmakers even find that there seem to be people shaking their tent, and later find someone had rifled through one of the group members’ possessions when the group tried to escape. Even with the hints, and despite Heather screaming about something she saw off camera, we still never actually see what is causing all of this to happen. We do know based on these hints that the monster always seems to know where the group is camped out and where to haunt them as it moves through the woods, even though none of the group members ever actually sees it.

The monster also seems to “police the borders of the possible,” as per Cohen’s fifth thesis, in how it seems to be punishing the group for moving from their comfortable zone into a dangerous area when they should not have done so (12). The monster seems to be haunting those that go out into the woods where it lives. In the beginning of the film, where many of the locals talk about what they remember about the witch, one woman mentions a story of hunters that stayed out near those woods and ended up vanishing, similar to what seems to happen to the group. The filmmakers also make a few mistakes while in the woods that could anger the monster, with Josh accidentally ruining one of the monster’s structures and Heather stopping to film everything she can even when the others want to leave. The group took a huge risk going into the woods in the first place, and as the monster continues to terrorize the group they begin to regret putting themselves in danger through their actions, culminating in Heather’s tearful apology on camera in one of the more well-known scenes of the film.

With these two theses specifically, the film is still able to align its monster with some of Cohen’s theses even though the audience never actually sees what is haunting the characters. Based on this, it seems these monster qualities can still apply even when the monster is never actually seen in the story.

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7 thoughts on ““The Blair Witch Project” Monster Theses

  1. The blair witch project is a horrifying movie. when i watched it I couldn’t sleep one ounce that night. I think that of all the Cohen thesis, The Monster Always escapes is the scariest one, and a great example of the Blair Witch Project. Because we never have any closure with the monsters, the fear is perpetual.

  2. I still have never seen the Blair Witch Project much to the dismay of a few of my friends. After clicking through the links, I think I’ll watch it over break. I like how the monsters in current movies are so easily relatable back to a few of Cohen’s theses. What is cool here is that the monster is never seen and it still has the same affect. I am interested in seeing if there is any one monster that all 7 theses can be applied.

  3. I agree the Blair Witch definitely has it’s ties with Cohen’s monster thesis but i would argue against the fact that it fits into “the monster always escapes.” You had great points about the monster rifling through the tent and disturbing the filmmakers as they sleep, but even at the end of the movie when the rumor supposedly says if you turn left you’ll see the witch, we never do. The witch is never revealed, and so I argue that the monster never revealed itself and thus never had an opportunity to escape. If anything it was watching the filmmakers the entire film, and never once did they come close to catching it. In the woods the three filmmakers were at the mercy of the witch, who never felt threatened, or a need to escape. You had great points for all your arguments though very convincing, great post!

  4. I also think the thesis about the monster as a “cultural body” applies here as well. With the documentary way that the movie is filmed, especially with the growth in popularity of supernatural reality shows. Excellent blog post, and though I’ve never seen this movie, I look forward to watching it now!

  5. I haven’t seen the entire movie, I believe I’ve only watched about five minutes of that movie flipping though channels. But I have heard a lot of people say that it is scary. Even though I don’t know much about the film, I do feel like you did a good job in explaining how it relates to Cohen’s monster thesis.

  6. Although I have never seen the movie, you did a good job explaining how even though we don’t see the monster, it embodies some of Cohen’s Monster Theses. You have definitely peaked my interest in this movie, and I plan on watching it in the near future. I am curious if Cohen’s Monster Theses can apply to other movies where the monster isn’t actually seen. There are plenty of ghost movies where the ghosts are not seen, yet we are aware of their actions. Can you think of any movies like this?

  7. I’ve never seen the Blair Witch Project because for some reason I always thought it sounded really cheesy. However, after reading your analysis I think I may watch it. I’m interested in the thesis, “the monster polices the border of the possible.” You mentioned that the friends are terrorized because they moved into the unsafe zone of the woods. I’m wondering if they are doing anything else that it “too close” to the border accepted by society.

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