Before there was THE WITCH, there was THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.
Release in the summer of 1999, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is undoubtedly one of the most influential horror films ever made, single-handedly – despite the fact that it wasn’t actually the first of its kind – turning the “found footage” style into a bona fide sub-genre. Like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD before it, the low-budget film continues to spawn imitators too numerous to even keep track of, but very few movies to employ the POV filmmaking technique have managed to capture even an ounce of what Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez did out in the woods back in the 1990s.
The brilliance of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, aside from being a genuinely terrifying exercise in restraint, was the groundbreaking marketing campaign, which ensured that the film became a cultural phenomenon. At the time of its release, many were convinced that the tragic tale of three young filmmakers was a documentary rather than a horror movie, and the marketing played up the realism of the film to the extent that it was easy to believe it wasn’t merely a work of fiction. Made on a budget of just $60,000, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT skyrocketed to the top of the box office charts.
Along with the film’s financial success came a full-on deluge of products intended to capitalize on the phenomenon, including everything from comic books to video games, and young adult novels to trading cards. Yes, there were BLAIR WITCH PROJECT trading cards, which is pretty crazy when you think about it. As for toys, yup, there were those too. And if you didn’t already gather it by the headline of this post, it’s precisely those toys that we’re here to talk about today. So let’s find some figures, shall we?!
The most well-known of the BLAIR WITCH figures came courtesy of McFarlane Toys, released in 2001 as part of the fourth series of the company’s popular Movie Maniacs line. Of course, we never actually saw the titular witch in the original film – or the much less popular sequel – so Todd McFarlane and his team were given the creative freedom to literally design a character not actually present within the franchise.
Two different figures of the so-called Blair Witch, sculpted by Gabriel Marquez, were released, and they’ve been labeled “Tree Witch” and “Dread Witch” by fans. The figures are mostly the same but have very different head sculpts, with the former looking like a tree and the latter, well, appearing to be rocking some seriously badass dreadlocks. Both toys came with mini “stickman” replicas and, like all figures in the Movie Maniacs line, movie poster display stands.
In the year 2000, Japanese toy company MediCom added THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT to their Kubrick line, comprised of small scale block-style figures that aren’t all that different from LEGOs. The set featured mini-mates figures of ill-fated characters Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams, and also came with a stickman and various pieces of evidence – including a handheld camera and a bundle of twigs. The flip-top box had a replica “Missing” poster on back, with brief descriptions of each character. You can still find the sets for fairly cheap prices over on eBay.
That same year, MediCom also released a Kubrick set in tribute to BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2, a sequel that saw release just one year after the original film hit theaters. Mini-mates of main characters Stephen, Eric, Tristen, Jeff, and Kim were included in the set. To say the very least, it’s a true testament to the massive popularity of the BLAIR WITCH name, at the time, that we actually got toys depicting the characters from the sequel. In fact, it’s almost hard to believe that they even exist!
Not only did BOOK OF SHADOWS get a set of mini-figures, but it also spawned its very own toy car. Released in 2000 by Playing Mantis, under their Johnny Lightning umbrella, the die-cast metal collectible was a scaled-down replica of the GMC 2500 “Blair Witch Hunt” van that the characters drive around in the much-maligned sequel. I can’t imagine these sold very well, but I have so much respect for Playing Mantis that they bothered to make them. And anyway, it’s hard not to respect a company named Playing Mantis. I mean come on. That’s genius. And adorable.
Also courtesy of MediCom came what is unquestionably the strangest BLAIR WITCH tie-in product of them all, dubbed “The Missing Bear.” A rare Japanese exclusive, the plush bear is all black with what appears to be grayish bloodstains all over it, and it comes with accessories including a backpack and a miniature replica of the infamous house from the film’s ending. A red stickman is sewn into the bear’s face, because why the hell not? Many thanks to BLAIR WITCH production designer Ben Rock for bringing this adorably strange product to our attention.
And that’s all, folks. It may not seem like much, but considering most horror movies – no matter how popular they become – don’t result in the production of a single toy, it’s pretty awesome that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was brought to the toy shelf by three different companies. So if you’re a fan of the franchise, run some searches over on eBay and add all these awesome goodies to your collection!