Long before Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick embarked on The Blair Witch Project, Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler posted a website advertising their film about the Jersey Devil and the murders attendant on its legend. Chicken and egg considerations aside, this technically astute mockumentary places similarly eerie occurrences in the context of the media mentality that made Witch such a hit in the first place.
Loner Jim Suerd (Seward) is jailed for the slaughter of his companions while camping in the Pine Barrens investigating an unexplained New Jersey myth for the public access show, Fact Or Fiction. But documentarist David Leigh (Beard) isn't convinced that the self-proclaimed psychic and the media-tarred psycho are one and the same, and sets out to expose the flaws in the evidence and the media's part in manipulating the truth.
Meticulously forging archival footage, interviews, cable outtakes, press clippings and graphics, Avalos and Weiler have performed a minor cinematic miracle. Shooting exclusively on digital video, then editing using their desktop, they brought the film in for a remarkable $900.
But the structure of this dazzling dissertation on the capriciousness of the press, science and the justice system is every bit as ingenious as its construction. Exploiting the credibility and pizzazz of the Errol Morris brand of documentary, it lures the viewer ever deeper into a conflicting morass of "facts" that makes it impossible to see the wood for the trees. It's ambitious, sophisticated, intelligent and desperately unlucky to have been discovered only after the Witch phenomenon had erupted. Yet, it still demands to be seen.