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Many famous icons come to mind when horror is mentioned, but none stand out more so than Stephen King. The author may as well be credited with inventing the modern-day interpretation of the genre, given his range of terrifying novels have fuelled nightmares and lingered in the dark corners of empty rooms for decades.
If considering his well-known pieces of work, such as Pet Sematary, The Shining and Christine, it’s already enough to spark fear into your heart. Pair that with the fact that the writer has produced over 60 different books, and you know you are dealing with a master of the twisted art of terrifying people.
With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that there might be a film out there that King himself would deem too scary, but there is. There is one movie in particular that King confessed he had to turn off because he found it was just “too freaky”.
Interestingly, just because one person finds something scary doesn’t mean another person will. There is no universal language when it comes to horror, and as such, some people are scared by the paranormal, and others get more terrified about situations they can see themselves in, such as gory flicks about serial killers. The film that scared Stephen King the most, though, has had a similar effect on a number of people, and that’s likely because it famously combines the two fundamentals of what makes something scary: the real and the surreal.
The Blair Witch Project was released in 1999 and sold as a true story. It wasn’t, of course, but the found footage aspect made it incredibly believable. Pair that with the actors in the film, to whom the filmmakers gave no direction and instead were just put in the same situation as their characters. It remains one of the most hands-off approaches to film-making, and the results are truly shocking.
“They wanted to keep it as naturalistic as possible,” said Blair Witch actor Joshua Leonard, “It is the three of us filming each other and recording each other. And we would have no direct interactions with the directors of the film while we were making it.”
The Blair Witch Project follows three friends as they walk through the forest to try and find the legendary ‘Blair Witch’. Their harmless hike turns south when strange things start happening, and they believe they are being stalked. Moments such as discovering relics, loud noises, and tents rustling in the night were all done by the filmmakers who otherwise remained off camera, meaning the jump scares that viewers saw of the cast were genuine.
“The first time I saw that movie, I was in the hospital, and I was doped up,” said King. “My son brought a VHS tape of it, and he said, ‘You gotta watch this.’ Halfway through it, I said, ‘Turn it off. It’s too freaky. I can’t.”
“I had the same experience,” recalled Eli Roth, who was speaking to King about the film. “I was like, ‘I have to turn the lights on.’ I was so disturbed by the end of the movie. I get chills thinking about how scared I was.”
This film combines the paranormal with the real; as viewers experience the true terror of the three actors, they too begin to believe in the legend of the Blair Witch and get uncomfortable watching the film. It is a testament to the filmmakers that a horror buff like Stephen King would be left petrified by their filming technique.