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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In all the print that has been devoted to the original `Blair Witch
Project,' most of the discussion has been centered around the remarkable
advertising strategy that managed to parley a quirky, low budget independent
film into a multimillion-dollar box office success story. Of far greater
interest actually is the arc the film traveled in terms of its critical and
audience reception. Actually, this phenomenon can be easily charted by
scrolling through the reviews of the film found on either imdb.com or
amazon.com. If you look first at the earliest evaluations of the film -
when it was still an unknown entity riding the film festival circuit - you
will note the almost universally rapturous response the movie received from
viewers caught off guard by the originality of its concept and the
uniqueness of its execution. However, if you continue to scroll through the
reviews with the passage of time, you will notice a rather extraordinary
development that occurs. At about the time the film officially opens to
immense media scrutiny and unprecedented box office success, the reviews
suddenly undergo an amazing change in tone. Due to the buildup of
expectations resulting from the above elements, viewers begin to tear the
film apart, mercilessly declaring it to be cheapjack, annoying, hopelessly
overrated and totally lacking in terror or suspense. Rarely have I ever
seen such a violent backlash against any film (though just try to find
someone who will admit to liking `Titanic' nowadays - one begins to wonder
just who were all those people who collectively managed to fork over all
that cash to the tune of $600,000,000 in the United States and Canada
alone). In many ways, though `The Blair Witch Project' may have made a ton
of money (it is easily the most profitable film ever made), it may
ultimately have been a pyrrhic victory for its makers since an audience that
feels it has been `ripped off' once is not one who will be favorably
inclined towards your next project.
Perhaps this helps to explain the dismal box office performance of the sequel, awkwardly entitled `Book of Shadows: Blair Witch Project 2.' As one who actually liked the original film (and, yes, I saw it long after the initial media hype had died down), I can't say that I expected much from this newest addition to the franchise. The first film was such a unique work stylistically that, even less than most films, it definitely did not cry out for replication. Actually, this new film starts off rather well, choosing to acknowledge the reality of not only the original project but also the media ballyhoo and frenzy that attended it. The film cleverly lampoons the cottage industry that sprang up around the first film, catering to tourists who descended in droves on the once-peaceful town of Burkittsville, Maryland, where the original fictional `documentary' was set. Taking over the reins from the first film's creators, writer Dick Beebe and writer/director Joe Berlinger create a scenario in which a group of fans, obsessed with the original film, embark on a `Blair Witch' tour that, naturally, turns out to be more than they bargained for. By eschewing fancy special effects of any kind and hewing closely to the `reality' conferred by its documentary style approach, the original film managed to convey a real sense of mounting terror as the people involved became more and more terrified and confused by what was happening to them. The makers of the sequel attempt to create essentially the same impact here but with far less effectiveness. Part of the problem is that the demands made on a big budget studio production are obviously worlds apart from those made on a small independent film in which experimentation and imagination are often allowed - and even, at times, encouraged - to flourish. As a result, the makers of the new film violate the very less-is-more credo that made the original film work in the first place. Thus, as these new characters begin to spiral down into confusion, terror and madness, we are offered a plethora of quick cut glimpses of demons, ghosts, flashbacks etc. that are more distracting than terrifying. We could believe what was happening to the characters in the original film because the single-camera technique made it all seem so plausible and real. This film just feels like the typical stock horror film, filled with fancy techniques but little of the stuff that true nightmares are made of.
More often than not, the viewer feels more like laughing at the silliness of the proceedings than gasping. Eventually, even the dialogue seems to be providing an almost subconscious running commentary on the film itself as the characters yell out at various points such pearls of wisdom as `This is too weird' and `This makes no sense.'
The story does a nice job at the end showing how what is captured on film or tape may not necessarily correlate with the facts of history. And, I guess, we are also encouraged to read the film in two ways - as both a genuine horror story in which the Blair Witch is somehow exercising her supernatural powers or as a study of mass psychosis playing havoc with a group of emotionally off-kilter people. Yet, in the long run, `Book of Shadows' just doesn't seem worth the effort. Any way you slice it, a horror film that doesn't horrify has failed to live up to its calling. Stick with the original model this time around.
I went into "Book of Shadows" expecting the worst, and that might be the reason I liked it. The hook of the first film was in its ambiguity and its divergence from the mainstream horror genre, hence it would've taken some seriously original writing to recreate such a film again in sequel form. "Book of Shadows" certainly didn't follow the same suspense strategy but it did present some original ideas as to how the sequel should be made. The movie is certainly less suspenseful but offers a little more gore and shock value coppled with a lot of really good heavy metal music. I liked the movie and it actually reminded me more of the "Tales from the Crypt" shows than the "The Blair Witch Project". The characters are fun to watch and Kim Director plays a very interesting goth chic...which I liked. Furthermore, the plot itself, although thin, provides many twisted and spooky scenes that make a horror film that is easy to enjoy but still leave you asking questions at the end of the movie. If you really didn't enjoy the first movie, don't bother with the second. However, if you're a fan of the genre check it out a few times.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Movies that do not walk you through it and leave some interpretation are
great in my book. Blair Witch 2 is one of those movies. The ending had me
confused at first and then I thought about it. As I see it there are 2
different possibilities. There's the idea that what you saw the characters
do is actually what happened and then the Blair Witch doctored the tapes and
killed those people. I find this idea a little hard to believe because the
whole thing with messing with the tapes is strange but it is the Blair Witch
The other idea is that they blacked out or were seeing things different when the crimes happened. Like when Kim had that confrontation with the clerk Peggy. What she thought happened was she got p****d at Peggy stormed out while leaving the cash. But what the tapes revealed was that she cut Peggy's throat. So Kim thought she didn't kill Peggy but I think she did. I believe the second theory because in the beginning Jeff says that film lies but video always tells the truth, we saw the film but the video cameras were the video. I even listened to the commentary track and the director even says himself that there are many possibilities.
Whew! Enough explanation of the ending (hope I didn't ruin it). They movie is kind of ironic in the fact that it is making a big deal about the commotion of the first movie and that it was in fact not true. Lots of dream shots and other things to freak you out. I highly recommend seeing this. Plus the music rocks (like that sweet credits tune)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How does one set out to produce a sequel to probably the biggest
Hollywood gatecrasher in history? For Artisan, the answer is that you
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.
Why is this film so hated? Yes, it's pretty dumb and no where near what the original was, but what I liked is that the people in the film are aware of the existence of The Blair Witch Project, and in the beginning it even has some nice clips from real reviews. I was entertained throughout this whole film, and enjoyed the twists and turns, even though, yes, they are pretty ludicrous. The overall plot is suspenseful and mysterious, and why would anyone expect the same thing as the original? I can see why as a sequel it would not work, but as a stand-alone horror film, I thought it got the job done well. Oh well, I guess I am easy to please...
BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 / (2000) * (out of four)
"The Blair Witch Project" was a one of a kind hit; it had original ideas and a story about three filmmakers who become lost in a local wooded area while filming a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch. That was one of the best movies of last year, and now "Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" is clearly one of this year's worst. It is completely contradictory to the original, contains not a single character we care about, and is recycled from about every other horror film released within the past five years. After comparing the two movies I am disturbed.
"Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" (the title is meaningless) has not one strand of decent plot impression. There is just scene after scene detailing an assortment of unfocused misfits on a field trip to see the related sights and settings of where events in "The Blair Witch Project" took place. There is Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan) the leader, an ex-patient at a mental hospital, Stephen (Stephen Turner) who is writing a book on the "Blair Witch" phenomenon, in the company of his girlfriend, Tristen (Tristen Skylar), who is pregnant but is hoping for a miscarriage. Also among them is Kim (Kim Director) a Goth, and Erica (Erica Leerhsen) another practicing Wicca who wants the Blair Witch to be her mentor. These characters smoke a seemingly endless amount of pot, apparently engage in ritualistic sex, had have strange experiences when they wake up the day after they set camp having no recollection of what happened the night before.
There is such a struggle for good storyline the filmmakers provide the characters with excessively blunt dialogue to reveal important information and plot points. However, to get anything out of the writing, one would have to care about the characters, and the movie provides no reason anywhere for us to concern ourselves with any of the characters. There is no development or introduction, nor does the film contain any motive or reason. This is unfortunate because the only thing holding the movie together is the mystery of what occurred during the five hours the group cannot remember. How are we to concerned ourselves with the inactive conflict if we do not care about any of the characters?
Perhaps the biggest flaw with "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" (and there are many) is the fact that it is never scary or suspenseful. I was somewhat curious about what happened to the characters during those mysterious five hours, but there is no clarification. Some of the scenes have potential to involve us with horrific material, but never on the recognizable level of the original "Blair Witch Project." The film often builds tension, but forgets, or does not know how to relieve it. The sequences that do attempt to answer our disputes are cluttered and distraught, although they do contain disgusting, disturbing, and violent nightmare imagery.
What really bothers me with movies these days is how so many provide inquisitive, thought-provoking questions but never the long-awaited answers. A specific scene in the movie has one of the characters ask what is happening. I think just about everyone in the audience had the same question on their mind the movie has no answers.
Attracted by the film `The Blair Witch Project' hoards of film fans have
been pouring into the small town of the film. One such group books onto a
`Blair Witch Hunt' tour to camp in the woods and see the sights. When they
awake the next morning to find their camera equipment smashed, 5 hours
unaccounted for and their film hidden in the same spot as the film from the
original movie they are unsure what happened. However as they replay the
video tape they notice some very weird things.
Undeterred by bad reviews I decided to watch this film on television the other night. Initially I was impressed by the idea, instead of following the original movie, the sequel twists the idea of the original as a documentary and presents it as a film but then uses the film to present another story that is `in the real world'. Conceptually this was quite clever and I was drawn in by it. Sadly this didn't last very long and it wasn't long before it became quite an ordinary film that wasn't creepy in any way and was actually quite dull.
The plot is interesting interesting enough to keep me watching anyway. The twists are the end are meant to be horrifying and perhaps surprising but by then all they got out of me was an `oh' of vague interest. For most of the film it is noisy chat and fake surprises and creepy goings-on. They didn't work as the film felt very trashy and uninvolving. The gore and flashed edits of violence were supposed to keep us guessing I think but they only served to numb me to the film, as did the occasional dream/fantasy sequence. It was a shame as it was a clever idea and had some good bits in it but the delivery let it down.
The direction is very plain and doesn't manage to build an air of suspense anywhere near as well as in the original, resulting in a rather boring series of scenes punctuated by `scares' that don't work. The cast don't really help either, they don't come across as real people and it is hard to care for such as self important group of people who are walking stereotypes the goth, the witch, the college boy etc. At least in the original we got to see them break down and become more afraid during the film here they could be the cast from any teen horror movie.
As you may have guessed I'm not a big fan of teen slasher movies but Blair Witch was much more than that and traded on atmosphere that was it's strength. By throwing in gore from the very start and having tonnes of little imagined scenes of horror, Book of Shadows loses that strength and becomes a movie that lives and dies on it's ability to scare. Sadly the originally good idea doesn't scare and remains `interesting' and nothing more. It is a shame that they had to make this film as it won't satisfy those who like their horror creepy or those who like it bloody.
"Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" follows a group of fanatics obsessed
with the Blair Witch legend in the aftermath of the film's first
release. Among them are a mentally-unstable local; a husband-and-wife
team of graduate students studying the Blair Witch; a self-proclaimed
Wiccan; and a depressive goth. The five camp out in the ruins of Rustin
Parr's home, where the Blair Witch tapes were "found," and experience a
mental blackout in which they each fail to recount several hours of the
night. In a daze and confusion, they retreat to the group leader's
warehouse- turned-home, where their individual psychological breakdowns
lead them to a disturbing truth.
I'm just going to say it outright: I love this film. It was, and continues to be met with hostility from fans of the original, which still quite frankly baffles me. It's not nearly as terrifying as the original film, but it is ingenious in its own way. Rather than approach a sequel with a rehash of the first film's material, co-writer/director Joe Berlinger offers something different: a narrative within a world in which "The Blair Witch Project" was real footage a world inhabited by characters who range from unabashed believers to academic skeptics, to people who simply "thought the movie was cool."
With a common interest, they set out into the woods to find some evidencebut all goes awry when one of the women suffers a premonitory miscarriage, and they are forced to retreat to the leader's home, which is where the film becomes a full-blooded psychological thriller. What is real, and what isn't? Where is the Blair Witch? Outside, lurking in the forest? Possessing one of the characters? Is she even there at all?
These are the kinds of questions the script toys with, and the result is wildly engaging. The performances are top-notch, and the film is peppered with disturbing scenes and images, and some ghoulish scenarios. The score lends an oppressive tone to the movie, and it is steeped in an atmosphere of complete unease that grows more and more pervasive as the five characters bear witness to the inexplicable. The film plays its cards well and is careful in its subtlety, which leads to a downbeat and twisted conclusion.
Overall, "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" has been harshly criticized by fans who it seems haven't taken the time to try and understand what it's attempting to do. It is not a rehash of the original film, and it never aims to be. The approach taken is commendable and rather brilliant, and it manages to establish an ever-increasing sense of oppressiveness that grows on the audience, which is the real catch here in my opinionit is genuinely unnerving to watch, and that's something rare these days. 8/10.
Which wasn't much, by the way. Beyond some clever advertising and
(occasionally) creepy atmosphere, Blair Witch 1 wasn't what it was cracked
up to be. I tried very quickly of everyone saying how beautiful that
particular emperor's clothes were.
The second film is actually much better, although most people, having slavishly (and inexplicably) dedicated themselves to the rambling and decidedly un-scary first film, will not be willing to choke this one down. It's more of a mainstream horror film, meaning it has a plot and some vague sense of thematics.
It is the theme which most people missed that I found the most interesting. The camera in this film turns on itself, and shows that once something has been filmed, it takes on a life of its own apart from the realm of what we call fact or fiction. I'm reminded of Robert Wisdom who said in Todd Solondz's generally superior _Storytelling_ that "once you put it on paper, it all becomes fiction." It's the same concept here, with film. A story which may or may not be true, turning itself inside out so many times that neither the audience nor the characters know for sure what the truth is anymore. It's a cautionary message and a reprimand which seems to have generally gone unheeded.
I'll probably see this again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Book of Shadows is technically the follow up to the 1999snoozefest, "The Blair Witch Project," but has few ties to the original. This movie is not a true sequel to BWP. It mentions the original film as a work of fiction, and it is debatable if the BWP2 storyline exists in the same continuum as the first film. BWP2 has better writing, effects, and production values than its predecessor. It is unfair to compare the sequel to the original, as the second installment isn't even a true horror movie. Book of Shadows examines the experience of supernatural phenomenon as it is experienced in reality. The question is: Are the events in the movie objectively happening, or are they subjective experiences of the participants based on collective delusion? The film maintains a constant level of tension and creepiness, but genuine scares are few and far between. That said, I believe that the filmmaker's intention was not cheap frights. Viewers are shown the events though the victims eyes; you spend most of the film trying to figure out what is going on. The confusion is played out less through plot advances, but rather through character development. The writing is decent. Every character but the Wiccan has believable dialog. There are also some great scenes that show a level of cinematography that is not evident in the grainy original. The BWP used amateur video to create the mood of the original. There are no scenes in the movie that are technically well done. BWP2 has some well architected images that invoke tension by their design. The only point where this movie suffers is in its attachment to the original film. This is not a great movie, but people will hate it because of its association with the BWP. The film is based on the cultural event surrounding the BWP, not the movie. Audiences may not have been sure if the footage in the original movie was real or faked. Even if they knew it was 'just a film,' there was still doubt about the subject matter. Was there a real Blair Witch legend? Was the movie based in fact? Was there a disappearance? BWP2 focus on the confusion created by the uncertainty. If you were frightened by the original BWP, it was because of the mystique, not because of what you saw in the film. This movie examines the effects of mythology and belief on the collective perceptions of the believers. If this movie had focused on some other phenomenon than 'Blair Witch Hysteria,' it would not suffer from the backlash of the original. I think this is a good flick and worth a rental (if not the price of admission). Don't expect a horror film; this movie is working at a higher level.
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