Ten years ago this month, The Blair Witch Project launched in the US, earning a fortune for its producers and distributors and creating a template for the way independent films were shot and marketed.
Produced for about $US35,000, the indie phenomenon raked in nearly $250 million at cinemas worldwide and spawned a host of imitators and spoofs.
Yet, a decade on, it's not a stretch to say the movie has been a dark curse on the careers of its creators and principal cast. Co-writers/directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick declined to be involved in the sequel, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which bombed, and they rejected offers to make The Exorcist 4 and Freddy vs. Jason.
They've since directed a handful of genre films that have gone straight to video, and are now mulling ideas for a low-budget, contemporary Blair Witch sequel. "I can see how people think we're one-hit wonders," Myrick, 46, told The Los Angeles Times. “I'll be the first to admit that I've put a lot of pressure on myself to relive the Blair days. I can get down on myself sometimes."
The tale of three student filmmakers who disappear in the woods while making a documentary about the legend of a local witch was shot on camcorder without a formal script. The innovative marketing campaign utilized a website which enticed audiences with bogus news reports, historical time lines and video interviews.
Its success inspired a gold rush of do-it-yourself filmmakers to buy Hi8 cameras and shoot their own movies. Its influence can be seen in mainstream films like Scary Movie and Cloverfield. Among the many spoofs were The Bare Wench Project, The Blair Bitch Project, The Blair Witch Rejects, The Wicked Witch Project, The Bare Hick Project, Da Hip Hop Witch, The Tony Blair Witch Project and The Blair Witch Mountain Project.
The actors who played the movie's three lead characters haven't exactly prospered. Michael Williams went back to his day job moving furniture in upstate New York in between guest appearances in TV shows and starring in Myrick's 2009 movie The Objective, a supernatural thriller about US Special Operations forces who get lost in a Middle Eastern Bermuda Triangle while searching for a Muslim cleric.
Heather Donahue was in Blair Witch 2 and has scarcely worked since. Joshua Leonard has acted in quite a few indie projects including Lynn Shelton's Humpday, a comedy about two straight guys who find themselves performing together in an amateur porn video, which was warmly received at this year's Sundance festival.
Myrick still dreams of creating another be-Witching movie experience. “I'm a firm believer that you're where you're at by your own choices and, for better or worse, we're operating on a small level by choice," he told the Times. "We've got a lot of movies left in us." He added ruefully: "They may all be Blair movies, but that's better than nothing."