thrift store finds: the blair witch files #1- the witch’s daughter

Today we’ll be looking at The Blair Witch Files #1: The Witch’s Daughter, “written” by Cade Merrill, published by Bantam Books in 2000. More about those quotation marks in a bit.

This is the third tie-in novel I’ve encountered made from an R rated horror movie and marketed to kids. You may remember I previously looked at the Halloween series of YA novels and the Nightmare on Elm Street novelization. I find so weird these books are explicitly marketed to young people- of course they’d be interested in them, but it just seems a strange fit. By codifying these movies in lines of young adult novels, it’s essentially like saying “Go ahead, twelve year old child who has no business watching The Blair Witch Project… sneak in and get the shit scared out of you!”

Released at the tail end of the summer of 1999, The Blair Witch Project was a gimmicky horror movie shot on a shoestring budget. Three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods of Maryland while making a documentary about a witch. The movie consists of the found footage of that documentary, detailing the filmmakers brush with the Blair Witch.

BWP was, in many ways, a bellweather for the directions pop culture would trend in the 2000’s. BWP pioneered the “found footage” method of filmmaking used to great effect in movies like Cloverfield, Paranomal Activity, and most recently, Chronicle… but it also presaged the “do it yourself” YouTube generation. One can easily imagine The Blair Witch Project unspooling in a video browser rather than on the big screen. BWP still stands as one of the biggest commercially successful blockbusters ever made, precisely because it was shot with a couple of handheld cameras.

In that same vein, the filmmakers also were one of the first to capitalize on the Internet as a marketing tool for their film. In an innovative and clever fashion, The Blair Witch Project was sold as a true story, with “evidence” of the veracity promoted on the film’s website. I had friends who believed, from the bottom of their hearts, that the events depicted in the movie were real… that’s how effective the promotion for The Blair Witch Project was.

The Blair Witch even become a small cottage industry in the early ’00’s, as unlikely as that seems. There were video games, clothing, comic books… and tie-in novels.

One of the amazing things about all the Blair Witch hoopla was all the ancillary nonsense was played relatively straight. The soundtrack to the film was presented as a mix-CD one of the characters in the movie had really created and listened to. The tie-in books gave new information and tidbits about the supposed legacy and legend of the Blair Witch… and this YA novel, The Witch’s Daughter follows suit.

The premise of The Blair Witch Files: These books are written accounts of encounters with the Blair Witch. The person compiling these accounts is Cade Merrill. He’s the cousin to Heather Donohue, one of the film students who encountered the witch in the film… and has, since the events in the film, become obsessed with The Blair Witch. Cade studies and researches all the weirdness surrounding the phenomenon and documents his findings both in these books and on his website, Sadly, that URL is now inactive but I can imagine back in 2000, this was a slick little instance of synergy between print media and new media.

The Witch’s Daughter was in actuality, written by Carol Ellis, a YA writer most famous for her entries in the Point Horror series of teen horror novels. Emily Withrow has a wonderful run-down of the series and its’ appeal I highly recommend. The Blair Witch Files would last for eight novels, with authors swapping writerly duties throughout the series. The only indication as to who wrote which books come from the Acknowledgements pages a the beginning of each novel:

The Witch’s Daughter follows a lot of the tropes Withrow talks about. Morally simplistic protagonists, ambiguous antagonists, and a “twist” ending you can see from a mile away mark The Witch’s Daughter as tepid entertainment.

Every blog and website I can find insist that the second book in the series, The Dark Room, is fantastic. Perhaps I’ll run across that one someday but I’m not going to be combing my thrift store religiously for it.

Interesting footnote- the book ends with a contest where the winner would receive an all-expense paid trip to the set of The Blair Witch Project 3.

It sounds like an exciting proposition… except, as far as I know, a third sequel was planned but never produced. I always wonder about these types of contests, aimed at children that never come to fruition. Did anyone every win this contest? If so, what was his or her consolation prize?

3 Responses to “thrift store finds: the blair witch files #1- the witch’s daughter”

  1. I’ve always had a weird fascination with the Blair Witch Project. I had one of the books (although it wasn’t a novel, it was a companion piece with newspaper clippings in the form of a “dossier” about the missing kids) and even didn’t hate Blair Witch 2. I’ve always kind of hoped they could find a way to return to the series with a third movie, but after Paranormal Activity, I’m not sure they could do it at all without seeming like they’re hopping on the bandwagon.

    Interesting bit about the contest. If they bothered to pick a winner, I hope s/he got SOMETHING.

    Side note: did you ever read the Worlds of Power (Nintendo) books?

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      I am honestly shocked they have not yet made a Blair Witch 3, or rebooted the franchise. I suppose I should have mentioned it somewhere in my post, but the first Blair Witch movie is really solid and I enjoyed the heck out of it when it first came out. Never got around to Book of Shadows, but always meant to.

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      Yeah, I remember that dossier book! My first roommate in college had one.

      If I had to guess, I’d bet we’ll see another Blair Witch before too long. The “brand” is just too recognizable to let it sit around. Lately it seems to me that’s all Hollywood movies are about, really- brand names.

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