Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Directed by Joe Berlinger
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rushed out in time for Halloween is the sequel to last year's no-budget blockbuster, The Blair Witch Project. This time, Artisan Entertainment gave acclaimed documentarian Joe Berlinger a $10 million budget to make a more staged dramatic film, based on the mythology created by the first film, which was a revolutionary experiment in using pseudo-documentary for a horror effect. That film was source of great controversy, with many people disregarding it for its lack of special effects or stylized dialogue. Some critics, including myself, hailed it as a triumph in the horror genre, making the biggest strides of any film since Hitchcock's Psycho. So, how do they appease those who wanted a slick Hollywood frightfest, and still stick to the powerful mythology that many appreciated? Well, that's a question that really answers itself, in a horribly awkward way.
In the fall of 1999, after The Blair Witch Project became the surprise hit of the past summer, the small town of Burkitsville, Maryland was clogged with tourists looking for the real Blair Witch. Most people figured that it was a work of fiction (as it really was), but local resident Jeffrey Donovan (played by Jeffrey Donovan) believes it is real, or at least says he does to sell his line of merchandise. He has a website where he sells T-shirts and stick figures, and advertises "The Blair Witch-Hunt" -- a tour of the Black Woods, where patrons can see the locations for the movie, and join an expedition to look for more evidence of the witch.
On his first tour, he is joined by writer Stephen Barker Turner (again, played by Stephen Barker Turner, so you can see the pattern from here) and his girlfriend Tristine Skyler, who want to do some on-location research for their next book. Also along for the ride is Erica Leerhsen, a Wiccan who is concerned about the public image of her religion, and wants to try communing with her maligned sister. Finally, there is Kim Director, a goth chick who just thinks "the movie was cool", and wants to see some more freaky stuff. And then, surprise, surprise, things start to go terribly wrong.
Now I thought that making a Blair Witch sequel would be impossible, but the temptation was too hard to resist. Nobody from the first film was associated with this one, except for directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, who receive executive producing credits. Currently, they're working on a prequel, which I still have hope for. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, however, is hopeless.
First of all, it is impossible to recapture the moment created by the first film. The barrier is crossed, so something new is needed. So, Berlinger went ahead and made a standard horror film with references to another, but without using any of the documentary principles from his previous work, like Brother's Keeper. It's not just that the screenplay is bad, or that the actors are clueless in their roles; the film itself doesn't make sense. Berlinger keeps on inserting bloody montages that are meant to shock, but for no reason other than being violent. A consistent timeline is nowhere to be seen, with the film jumping around constantly. The story isn't built properly, and languishes in ambiguity.
Basically, what is missing is the illusion of reality. In a rare moment of insight, the Jeff character says that video never lies, but film always does, or something like that. You may recognize some people in Blair Witch 2, like Kim Director, who has been in Spike Lee's last three films, or Lanny Flaherty, a familiar character actor who plays the local sheriff like someone from American International Pictures' central casting. These lies seem more like the work of Roger Corman than a documentarian who used to be dedicated to truth. This film is one, big, confused lie that keeps on growing, just like any lie that a person merely says. This one was committed to celluloid, and will stand alongside Halloween 2 as another case of a good idea being destroyed by Hollywood.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan