Today's Great Horror Movie Trailer: The Blair Witch Project, the super low-budget first-person film that took the 1999 Sundance Film Festival by storm and had a rather incredible run as an almost urban-legend-like phenomenon before it opened for all of America to see.
The Best Thing About It: The silence. The utter blackness of it all. Heather Donahue's trembling confession comes out of an inky darkness and total silence that leaves basically every horror option on the table. That's what the movie does best, too, and despite some of the initial Blair Witch Project audiences complaining about a lack of gore or payoff (despite that latter charge being utterly baseless), it's what makes the movie truly special.
Contributing Factors: The legend of The Blair Witch Project being real -- that is, a presentation of actual found footage of three disappeared filmmakers -- began with just a few lines: "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." So simple. So insanely provocative. Also, the few images from the film that were chosen for this clip are so stark and ambiguous: handprints on a wall. Leaves on the ground. A local. A corroded reel of film. No context to speak of. And then: Heather, running for her life.
Better Or Worse Than The Movie It Advertises?: In many ways, this trailer feels like a part of the movie it advertises. More than almost any other movie, The Blair Witch Project is indivisible from its marketing campaign, which turned a film into a phenomenon and worked its audiences into a tense frenzy. The film stands up on its own. The trailer makes it even better.
Final Assessment: One of the most impactful trailers of its time. Utterly chilling in its own right.