Scary movies are a rich Halloween tradition. This month, Saw V, Quarantine, and The Haunting of Molly Hartley all promise to make this all hallows eve absolutely horrible, in the best possible way, of course. I developed an appreciation of "the scary movie" as legitimate cinematic art in the summer of 1999 with The Blair Witch Project, and although it wasn't released around Halloween, it harkened shades of the holiday with its infamous tagline: "In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary . . . A year later their footage was found." Had Heather, Josh, and Mike been lost in, say, March, would the supernatural circumstances of their wayward camping trip be as creepy?
Boy, remember the hoopla that ensued around the Blair Witch phenomenon? The Sci-Fi Channel aired that pseudo-documentary so many times, even the witch herself would've preferred a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond on TBS. Computer games and a series of junior novels perpetrated the film's mythology for a younger audience, and while its sequel is arguably one of the worst movies ever made, it sustained the franchise for another year and incited another round of handycam-oriented satire. I didn't know until recently that Oni had published a supplemental one-shot, exploring the haunted history of Blair Witch's Burkittsville, so when I found this issue in a 25-cent bin a few months ago, I decided to save it as a Halloween read. Here's my tagline:
"In October of 2008 one comic book blogger disappeared into a comic book about Burkittsville, Maryland, while writing a review . . . A few minutes later his review was posted."
Okay, so my tag isn't as ominous, but it gets the point across, no? Just as the original film used supposedly real footage from those three ill-fated college students, this Oni issue perpetrates the Blair Witch mythology by claiming ties to an independent comic book, called Witch Wood Said, by Maryland's resident nut Cece Malvey, which editor-in-chief Jamie Rich discovered at the Alternative Press Expo. While that concept is interesting enough, writer Jen Van Meter reveals that her grandmother's maiden name is Blair, making her the perfect candidate to adapt the amateurish Witch Wood Said into a mainstream comic. So, just inside the front cover, readers are thrust into a world where witchcraft may be real, and where comic books are the perfect place to purge one's demons. The three short stories therein would almost be inconsequential, then, if they weren't so darn well drawn. Tommy Lee Edwards' photo realistic illustration (best known from Marvel's Earth X), Guy Davis' expressive detail, and Bernie Mireault's cartoony surrealism balance these stories of a haunted colonial New England perfectly. Just as the handycam was the best way to tell the movie's shocking story, these artists were the best picks for their respective contributions, fleshing out the Blair Witch lore with appropriate reverence.
Plenty of people see scary movies around Halloweentime. Unlike those three poor kids in the woods of Burkittsville, the trick is to survive this hallowed holiday without starring in one. Good luck.
The Blair Witch Project comic book was published in September 1999 by Oni Press.