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To cash in on all of the "real world" hype of the events in the first film, a man from Burkitsville, Maryland opens a "Blair Witch Hunt" tour, which shows patrons various locations from the original film. A bunch of college students decide to take the tour, and wind up in Rustin Parr's house. There, they decide to camp for the evening, but in the morning, they realize they didn't sleep and they don't remember anything that happened the previous night. From there, they go back to town, and discover that something...or someone has come with them. Written by
Unhappy with Joe Berlinger's version of the film, Artisan opted to re-shoot certain scenes to add more "traditional" horror movie elements and re-cut the movie to make it more commercial. Berlinger repeatedly states on the DVD commentary that he doesn't like the changes that were made and that they ruin the ambiguous tone of the plot. See more »
The movie's action is set in Burkittsville, MD, which is in Frederick County, but at the end the characters are seen being hustled into what is clearly labeled the "Howard County Courthouse," which is located in Ellicott City, MD, nowhere near Burkittsville. See more »
How does one set out to produce a sequel to probably the biggest mainstream Hollywood gatecrasher in history? For Artisan, the answer is that you don't. Not really.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, while attempting to extend the Blair Witch mythology, maneuvering it into the treacherous franchise waters, is instead an excursion into the hysteria surrounding the first film.
The Blair Witch Project made silver screen history by parlaying what was, by Hollywood standards, a no budget production, into a phenomenon. But when this inevitable sequel was pushed through production, a much more polished but just as murky film was the result.
For BW2, Joe Berlinger -- best known for the documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (and Paradise Lost 2) -- was brought on board, subsequently seizing an actual budget and creating a piece that, while reveling in a self-awareness of the first film and its mystique, does its best to subject another group of woods-bound youngsters and viewers to psychological and other forms of terror.
The first fifteen minutes or so of the film is probably the best, with opening scenes that are comprised of television footage discussing the Blair Witch Project, which include an appearance by none other than Roger Ebert. That leads directly into some documentary-style interviews with residents of the town of Burkittsville, Maryland regarding the impact the film had on their lives, and includes a cameo by Berlinger.
Soon, we meet the latest witch aficionados as they venture into the abyss of the Black Hills -- on the inaugural run of the Blair Witch Hunt -- setting up camp at the Rustin Parr ruins and mocking the first film, including Heather Donahue's much-imitated hysterics, but that's not all. Erica, the twenty-something witch, comments: `The Blair Witch Project. Ok. Two guys and a girl sleeping in the same tent, night after night, and no sex? It makes no sense (sic).'
INTO THE WOODS. AGAIN.
Beyond that, here's a brief synopsis of the film: the five characters -- a Wiccan, a goth, two Blair Witch researchers and a mentally-ill tour guide -- go into the woods with a battery of cameras, lose several hours of their lives, and spend the remainder of the film holed up in a Civil War-era factory that's been turned into a dwelling, reviewing footage they'd shot in an attempt to piece things together.
As this is going on, it's discovered that another tour group has been ritualistically murdered at Coffin Rock -- probably during the blackout. Action is quickly traded for claustrophobia, and a more psychological and conceptual horror flick emerges, one with little (intentional) humor.
Much criticism has been leveled against the performances turned in by a group of relative unknowns, although each of the actors and actresses probably has a brief moment or so as a better angel of the film, and Kim Director is solid in her portrayal of the cynical goth character.
What distinguishes this project, however, is its meditation on mass hysteria and popular delusion -- or at least its effort to do so.
The film plays with `reality,' sorting through layers not only of memory, but also media -- and the possibility of the existence of supernatural elements -- as the group pores over the various video tapes they've brought back, grappling with the latest Coffin Rock murders and whether or not the killer or killers is in their midst.
Jeff, the abovementioned tour guide character, who also sells Blair Witch memorabilia on the Internet, delivers a significant line in the film, explaining that while film lies, video doesn't. Is the truth out there?
For discerning home video enthusiasts, one valuable aspect of DVD commentaries is the occasional insight into the intrusiveness of studio overseers. In the case of BW2, it's revealed that Berlinger was forced to intercut shaky-cam gore scenes throughout, something that was, in my opinion, the worst element of the film.
Another noteworthy DVD disclosure involves the fact that a striking shot over the November woods of Maryland, originally written with Sinatra's `Witchcraft' in mind, ended up being scored by Marilyn Manson's `Disposable Teens.' Two things probably account for the decision: the target demographic most likely wouldn't recognize or like the song, leaving them doubtful to buy the soundtrack; Marilyn Manson was called in to supervise the music, excluding of course the original score.
I actually purchased BW1 on video for some strange reason (charmed, I'm sure), but ended up quickly selling it on eBay after finding myself unable to suffer through it a second time. BW2, however, resides in my permanent collection.
A technological aspect of the DVD worth mentioning is the fact that the other side of the disk is a CD featuring the entire original score and a few of the soundtrack's more pop-related offerings.
BW2 has been called many things, including a wretched waste of celluloid (not to mention videotape) and an unforgivable festival of clichés.
What it comes down to is this: BW2 is a movie that I hate to admit I loved. Although some performance and execution flaws might outweigh any uniqueness in the eyes of most viewers, for what it attempts to do -- in taking on the task of making a sequel that shouldn't have been made, defying many expectations along the way -- I give this box office flop a B--.
In case you missed BW2, or don't you feel you have the stomach for it, not to worry: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, the creative team behind the first Blair Witch, are reportedly working on BW3: the attack of the prequels.
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