When the trailers for a movie proudly blare something like, “from the co-director of The Blair Witch Project!” the marketing people have to know they’re playing a dangerous game. Blair Witch was a phenomenon at its time, and like a lot of phenomena, the backlash was loud, venomous, and long-lasting. Daniel Myrick has directed four films in the ten years since his and Eduardo Sanchez’s surprise megahit. The first three went directly to video. And then there is The Objective.
While not released directly to video, The Objective seemed to have a very limited theatrical release – apparently, one weekend on one screen with little publicity– just enough to qualify as “released theatrically” (Which is not an unusual practice. Heck, that’s how I saw Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage on the big screen.)
The story: Two months after the 9/11 attack, CIA agent Ben Keynes (Jonas Ball) returns to Afghanistan, ostensibly to contact a local holy man to get his recorded approval of America’s fight against the Taliban. To this end, he is accompanied by a squad of seasoned Special Forces soldiers and a native guide into the holy mountains where the cleric has supposedly retreated.
But of course, where the CIA is concerned, nothing is ever as it seems. At the very beginning of the movie, Keynes’ narration informs us that satellites have detected an unknown energy signature in the mountains, and the cleric is actually their contact, and is hinting that something quite powerful resides there. Possibly Al Qaeda has a new weapon… but the deeper the men go into the mountains, the weirder things become, with phantom assailants, vanishing helicopters, and bizarre symbols blocking their way.
It becomes increasingly obvious as The Objective progresses that it is a better Blair Witch Project 2 than the actual Blair Witch Project 2 ever thought of being. The same tropes are in full play – the compass that doesn’t work, the useless map, the lost party, the largely unseen (and cost-effective) happenings in the night, one outrageous gore moment, one character who is videotaping everything….
Yes, Keynes has a high-tech video camera that sees into various ranges of the spectrum. There is a reason for that. And just as in Blair Witch, the ultimate nature and identity of the title character is unknown and unknowable.
Myrick at least cuts himself loose from the cinema verite technique this time around so it’s easier to judge him as an actual director rather than as a technician - and he’s actually pretty good. The actors have to contend with some pretty outrageous occurrences, but the performances still seem fairly honest and unstrained. It’s a decent enough movie, and certainly different enough to warrant a rental.
I just wish it wasn’t The Blair Witch Project in Afghanistan.
Video quality is high - and the movie has some marvelous footage of the Morrocan landscape, filling in for Afghanistan. The audio quality had to be high, as Myrick could only afford, once more, to manipulate his night terrors with sound. The menu opens with a few brief video clips, and such clips will play over the menu. Careful, some of these could be seen as spoilers.
The disc opens with trailers for other IFC Films horror discs: the intriguing Nightmare (non-anamorphic), anamorphic trailers for Prisoner and the animated Fear(s) of the Dark, and back to non-anamorphic for the Finnish Sauna.
Past that are a trailer, a decent Making-of documentary, a Tribeca Film Festival Interview with Director Dan Myrick and an Interview with Director of Photography Stephanie Martin. Both interviews are intercut with more making-of footage, and Martin's is the more interesting for her tales of working with a crew that spoke as many as eight different languages.
Dr. Freex, 12/23/2008