Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Blair Witch Project Film Review

The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project, a nearly fully improvised film, has three students exploring the woods around Burkittsville in search for the mythical Blair Witch that used to haunt the area in the 1940’s and has been blamed for the disappearance of children from the local area. It is a film within a film that has been shot completely in first person and the three actors carry the film camera with and record all the events both mundane and terrifying.

A remarkable feat of the Blair Witch Project is its use of improvisation. Apart from a loose frame for the story and the introduction, which starts in the town, the actors are more reacting to what the producers put them through, as Tatara states: “Nearly all of "The Blair Witch Project" is improvised. Myrick and Sanchez's truly inspired approach to the film was to let their cast wander the woods for several days with a tape recorder, 16-millimeter camera, and home video camera in tow, documenting the distant noises and disturbing warning signs that their "directors" were leaving for them in the cover of darkness.” (Tatara, 1999:2) illustrating how much the actors were on character when disturbed at night without following a script, which further adds to the realism the directors were seemingly heading for. The whole situation was catered towards the three characters slowly losing their minds and perhaps by interfering as little as possible the directors managed to achieve that effect perfectly.

Figure 1. Bleak (1999)
Another great contributor to the believability of the film is a little child, whose mum is being interviewed on the first day. While his mum tries to tell the myth of the Blair Witch to the camera, her child repeatedly claps his hand over her mouth as if trying to quieten her. As a toddler, it would be unlikely that the child would have been told to do that which further adds to the tension and uneasiness of the Blair Witch Project.

The three main characters in the Blair Witch Project decided to use their real names, to further add to the realism of the film within the film which perhaps also lets more of their own personality seep into the characters they are portraying. Ryan says: The three actors use their real names, and it's a choice that reflects the conviction they bring to the roles. The way the narrative unfolds is straightforward and framed as a documentary, but it wouldn't work without some finely calibrated judgment by Donahue, Leonard and Williams. Each establishes a defined personality, and their responses to every new crisis are very persuasive. They illuminate character, even in the gathering darkness. The aura of credibility in The Blair Witch Project owes much to their contribution.” (Ryan, 1999:2) demonstrating the importance of these actors as their well-defined characters contribute to the illusion of  their reactions to the events unfolding around them, through this means all the inter-character interactions, arguments and emotions may be felt as more real by the viewers.

Figure 2. Lost in the forest (1999)
As the Blair Witch Project makes use of first person camera only, the characters never recap which leaves the viewers to fill in gaps that are off camera, there is also a considerable amount of information just portrayed through sounds at night, when the film on the camera is nearly black and characters as well as actors are at their most vulnerable, as Cover states: “The film draws us in with hints about what's happening off camera. Whether you believe completely human evil or something mystical is at work, there's ample evidence to support your theory. "The Blair Witch Project" creates a waking nightmare with the most basic ingredients: our instinctual fear of cold, hunger, darkness and unseen predators. It shows that our grip on sanity is weaker than we believe, and our fears are stronger.” (Covert, 1999:2) perhaps illustrating how both actors and characters together dip into the madness he shooting of the film has held for them, which again greatly amplifies the realism-like style that definitely seems to be achieved by just mixing the absence of a few everyday comforts together with a local myth, that has driven the main characters anyone to their brink of insanity over time. 

Figure 3. Insanity (1999)
The Blair Witch Project is a low budget film that has gained great reputation by not showing the monster that has been hinted at for so long but still being utterly terrifying, as Tatara states: “"The Blair Witch Project" is scary because it doesn't really show you anything ... a lesson that other horror directors would be well-served to learn. There's only a brief moment when you see blood, but it registers like a howitzer. For the most part, the soundtrack is what does it to you.” (Tatara, 1999:2) implying it’s not giving the viewers the solution they have become to expect after getting them delivered by films like Jaws or Alien. Which makes the Blair Witch Project even scarier, as it caters to the viewer’s fear of the unknown which, depending on the person, could be much greater than any monster mankind can bring onto the screen.

Altogether, The Blair Witch Project is a film that, even with (or maybe just because) a very low budget, gained a great reputation as it differs from other horror films by not showing the culprit, the hunter at the end and leaving that space blank for the viewer to fill in which might be done with more imagination and finesse than the producers could have ever done and with that provoking the most primal fears to the surface, which might be the reason why it is such a success.

Illustration List:

Figure 1. Haxan Films (1999) Bleak [Still of the Blair Witch Project] available from: http://flowersoffleshandblood.horror-extreme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/blairwitch.jpg (accessed: 24/3/2015)
Figure 2. Haxan Films (1999) Lost in the forest [Still of the Blair Witch Project] available from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-dnVXXEkdQ6U/UFPGQcisKTI/AAAAAAAAL7c/--VDAQEtbAM/s640/The+Blair+Witch+Project+Screenshot+3.jpg (accessed: 24/3/2015)
Figure 3. Haxan Films (1999) Insanity [Still of the Blair Witch Project] available from: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/DuyeQYQqnhk/hqdefault.jpg (accessed: 24/3/2015)

Covert, Colin. (1999) Available from: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/11487466.html (accessed: 24/3/2015)
Tatara, Paul, (1999) Available from: http://edition.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/Movies/9907/22/review.blairwitch/ (accessed: 24/3/2015)

Monday, 23 March 2015

Jordan's Class Self Portraits in Photoshop

All of these are self portraits I made relatively quickly, my sketchbook drawings will be added soon!
First I was really self conscious and didn't know how to start but by just doing lots of quick drawings it really helped me and I had a lot of fun in the end!

Maya Tutorial Fur Presets



Maya Tutorial Texturing --> Networks - X-Ray Shader

In this tutorial I've learnt how to give a lambert texture a glow effect so it looks like it's x-rayed when rendered.

Maya Tutorial Texturing --> Networks - Double Sided Shader

In this tutorial we learnt how to put a different image on each side of the page which creates a believable page turning animation.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Reservoir Dogs Film Review

Reservoir Dogs

 Reservoir Dogs, directed and written by Quentin Tarantino was released to the cinemas in 1992. It begins in a breakfast scene inside a cafĂ© where a number of men are discussing a robbery they are about to commit and then cuts immediately to two people in a car, one has been shot and is bleeding badly while the other is trying to calm him down. The film continues to gives glimpses of the story in an irregular fashion rather than a linear based story line which eventually fills out the missing pieces for the audience and they will realise that the robbery has gone horribly wrong while the question arises of how they got found out so quickly and ultimately, who amongst them was the traitor. 

 Figure 1. Mr Orange (1992)

 One of the notable points about Reservoir Dogs is the non-linear storyline which gives the audience cuts from the present and past, always giving a glimpse from a different part of the time line rather than being a straightforward chronological story which gives the film a certain twist Tarantino fans have become to expect over the years. Turan describes the cut up of the scenes: “None of this is immediately obvious, coming into focus in bits and pieces, for Tarantino has broken his story up and told it non-chronologically. Energetic scenes of the shootout alternate with quiet flashbacks to the planning as well as the emotionally unstable situation at the rendezvous spot, as the surviving gang members scream bloody murder at each other, trying to figure out how an easy job turns into a fiasco while Mr. Orange swoons in his own blood on the floor.” (Turan, 1992:2) perhaps Tarantino used this odd non-linear technique to wrong foot the audience, add a sense of mystery and increase suspense. Often as Turan states following bloody dramatic scenes with quiet conversations and events, toying with the audiences adrenaline and emotional state.

 Figure 2. Warehouse (1992)

 Billson calls Reservoir Dogs a postmodern film, not only because of the nonlinear storyline but also in the way the characters behave: “It is also very funny. They may not realise it, but these are post-modernist felons. They dress like the Blues Brothers, deconstruct Madonna lyrics, squabble over who gets the coolest sounding code-name and wind each other up with sneers of, "Bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan, ain't you?"” (Billson, 2014:2) perhaps Billson is referring to the spirit of post-modernity in the film. With a new age of villain which is more obsessed with his image than the job. Where villainy and crime have adopted almost a sense of cool even to a comical extent which Reservoir Dogs portrays again and again in various scenes of arguments. Even the characters clothing as Billson states is a chime back to the Blues Brothers, perhaps famously one of the most “cool” villains in Hollywood productions.

 Thompson states that the nonlinear technique explains the characters in rather unique way: “"Reservoir Dogs" throws its characters into an anonymous heap and lets the jumpy flashback narrative sort out their personalities, flaws and contributions to the plot.” (Thompson, 1992:2) which perhaps tries to mirror a more lifelike experience as the audience gets to know the characters well over time and at the right time to make sense upon reflecting rather than being thrown the most important facts right at the beginning and letting the story roll from there, like most narratives do. It also shows fast pace glimpses of the characters at their normal states of minds and at their worst, in dire situations people reveal their true nature and perhaps Tarantino uses this story technique to further accelerate the audiences understanding of the main characters.

 Figure 3. Torture (1992)

 One of the probably most memorable scenes in Reservoir Dogs is a torture scene in which Mr Blonde dances to radio music and mutilates the ear of a police officer who doesn’t seem to have any information to surrender. Thompson writes to this scene: “A quintessential scene finds Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) terrorizing a hostage in the empty warehouse. Mr. Blonde does not want information about the informant. He's doing it for sport. While a radio plays a bad song from an FM ''Sounds of the '70s" retrospective (a running joke here), Mr. Blonde begins dancing, singing and brandishing his implements of torture - a razor, a can of gasoline, a lighter. He then begins to mutilate his victim.” (Thompson, 1992:2) illustrating Mr Blonde’s enjoyment while torturing the man. This scene is probably one of the most shocking and iconic scenes of the film, it shows humanity at its most gruesome and how close to home certain gruesome events can hit. It brings an almost primeval fear of our fellow man to the surface as unthinkable deeds are performed without seemingly any form of provocation or reasoning. The scenes truly horrific nature is then made almost surreal by the music and dancing, like being thrust into a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland where nothing makes sense and sound track to a catchy song is played over a scene of mutilation and torture.

 Altogether, Reservoir Dogs is a deeply enthralling film for an audience that a taste for violence on screen. Plot lines are twisted and that come together over time rather than being explained upfront. It is an example for nonlinear, postmodern storytelling and has strong characters, which are explored in a jigsaw puzzle manner. The only criticism of the film is that of the deep overpowering accents of the main characters coupled with the loud over bearing scene sounds and music which make at least for some viewers perhaps the dialog of the film a little difficult to always interpret.

Illustration List: 

Figure 1. Tarantino, Q. (1992). Mr Orange [Still of Reservoir Dogs] available from: http://www.cultjer.com/img/article/2013_06/reservoirdogs_3_mr_orange/img/tim_roth_mr_orange_reservoir_dogs.jpg (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Figure 2. Tarantino, Q. (1992). Warehouse [Still of Reservoir Dogs] available from: https://40.media.tumblr.com/d3491a3f4cfc4ceef7fd89fffc1c2e7f/tumblr_n07qtaRfaF1rlfjfao1_500.jpg (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Figure 3. Tarantino, Q. (1992). Torture [Still of Reservoir Dogs] available from: https://thecinefilewrites.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/reservoir-dogs-06.png (accessed: 22/03/2015)


Thompson, Gary. (1992). Available from: http://articles.philly.com/1992-10-30/news/25998760_1_informant-andrzej-sekula-fake-names (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Turan, Kenneth. (1992). Available from: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-30/entertainment/ca-760_1_reservoir-dogs (accessed: 22/03/2015)