Heather Donahue

“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.”

This is how The Blair Witch Project begins.

Heather Donahue
Heather Donahue

I think enough time has passed for me to talk comfortably about this movie without feeling bad for dishing out spoilers. If you haven’t seen this movie, skip to the second-last paragraph because this Women Who Wow Wednesday post, which continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, will center on Heather Donahue, one of the three students who disappeared in the woods in Maryland that year.

If you’re still with me, then you’ll know the whole movie really wasn’t more than a perfectly timed viral campaign to garner attention and load the theater seats with curious moviegoers. Three student filmmakers didn’t really disappear. In addition, what happened in the film didn’t really happen, except it was all part of the planned filming schedule scripted to provide a documentary-style backdrop to what would occur twenty years later.

What I’m referring to is today’s entertainment industry’s absolute quest to fill our minds with reality show madness. I’m positive I said that correctly without offending, don’t you think? Mind you, I have nothing against reality shows—I’m an avid fan of Hell’s Kitchen. But does every channel now have to have reality TV?

It all started with The Blair Witch Project. Thank goodness for The Walking Dead.

The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project

Nonetheless, when the movie came out, the producers made the film on a razor-thin budget of $60,000. That’s right, sixty grand. Peanuts. It went on to make $140 Million. Yes, you read that right. I’ll say it again—one-hundred-and-forty Million bucks. It was big. Some moviegoers had to leave the theater because they were getting sick from all the motion blur that was taking place.

Anyway, let’s get to the heart of this post, as you don’t need any more of my long-winded backstory.

Heather Donahue, along with Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams (their real names), travel to the woods to explore the legend of the Blair Witch. Leading the team with her straightforward attitude, Heather makes it clear she’s in charge, requesting of the makeshift crew not to produce a movie they’re shooting into a cheesy affair. As Josh fills in the first filming slate, he can’t help but ask if there should be an honorary opening of the veins to christen the first slate. Of course, he’s being facetious—little did he know what a foreshadowing his words would be.

There’s no simple way to say this. In the woods, they get lost. As time pushes forward to an inevitable conclusion, Heather attempts to keep the crew together by remaining positive in spite of the odd noises they hear each night just outside their tents.

The creepier things get, the more Heather tries to rally the guys to not lose faith. She holds on to the belief that things would eventually get better.

They don’t get better.

And as much as Heather tries to remain calm, she loses it, too, which isn’t much different than anyone else in that situation. However, she has the fortitude within herself to come back and lead the others—a trait all true great leaders possess, regardless if they win or lose in a battle.

That, in itself, is a perfect reason to study the character Heather in this film.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you watched The Blair Witch Project? What do you think of Heather?

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12 thoughts on “Heather Donahue

  1. Heather was one of the best parts of The Blair Witch. In your research for your latest book did you see her brilliant performance as a government agent tracking UFO;s in the mini-series Taken?. Spoiler she isn’t a good guy.

      • The thing with Taken is it covers 50 years three generations. The miniseries is 20 hours long and Heather is in the last half. Dakota fanning is brilliant as the child product of alien genetic manipulation

  2. I thought the concept was brilliant, but in the end I was maddeningly disappointed when I saw it at the cinema. I thought the hype was better than the actual film. I remember similar public disquiet about Cannibal Holocaust and whether that film was based on true events. (Lost and found film footage etc).

    Keeping the Blair Witch and the threat hidden was a sensible idea. I don’t think I was the only person disappointed by the monster appearing at the end of Cloverfield. The film was so much better when you couldn’t see it.

    You’re right about reality tv becoming an easy option for producers and execs. And I think we’re now reaching a stage where ‘authentic reality’ in films -the kind of CNN rolling news footage of Superman’s enemies arriving, for example – is almost obligatory. Still quite effective though when done properly.

  3. I rather like this film, mostly because you NEVER SEE the Blair Witch or what precisely is chasing these kids. I know that’s a reason a lot of people hate this movie.

  4. Blair Witch really is a classic. The mythos behind it and the talk/rumours that could be heard everywhere was a part of its charm. For example, I remember that I was in secondary school when it came out and everybody was talking about it- “Is it real? is it fake?” etc and on one particular lunch time somebody had crafted one of those weird stick symbol things that are in the movie and then placed it in a copse. People who went out for the cheeky lunchtime cigarette came running back inside very shook up and yelling- “Its real, its real!”
    Such a classic.

  5. There are a few passably good reality shows. ” FACE OFF ” comes to mind, & ” Dominic Monaghan’s Wild Things “. I even watch ” Ghost Hunters ” just for the fun of it, a mindless thrill.

  6. when i was young, so long ago that i can not remember i went to a conference on weird stuff. there were mind readers, seers and glass balls everywhere. but there was something in the air. an excitement of some sorts. i believe we can spook ourselves. by the way today’s blog is for you and i hope you like it. And yes i know how to capitalize. just getting your attention.

  7. I did at one point gird my cinematic loins to see this film, eons after it was in theaters. I found it to be an innovative project. Maybe I should see it again. 🙂

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