A decade ago, a low-budget horror movie became the ultimate Sundance Film Festival game-changer. And in a new look backward by Michael Atkinson, it might be possible at last to figure out what it all meant. ---
Atkinson raises some intriguing points, most notably how easy it is for the comforting lull of traditional film syntax to make real unease impossible. He also recognizes that despite the film's remarkable box-office success, it took the mainstream movie world nearly the entirety of that decade to latch on to Blair Witch's in-the-moment urgency in films like Cloverfield and Quarantine -- probably because it took that long for the stigma bestowed by Blair-bashers to wear off. For me, the experience of viewing it cold at Sundance '99 remains one of the four or five defining movie moments of my life. Atkinson doesn't get it any more right than when he writes, "The lucky ones who saw it at Sundance, not knowing a thing about it, at the legendary late-night showing and then emerged into the mountain nighttime, could make millions bottling that experience."