Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
The real treat in this film is the presence of the talented, beautiful, and mesmerizing Kim Director. Under the expert direction of Joe Berlinger, Ms. Director gives a fantastic performance and saves this movie from being the typical lackluster sequel. It is very unfortunate that the screen writers didn't expand her role in the film once it was realized the magnetic power and intensity of Director's work. This was a star making turn, to say the least, but somehow she was not utilized as she should have been. Her talent has never really received the recognition it deserves, except by those in the film industry who used her in creative project after project. Another outstanding performance by Director was in an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, involving fan conventions and a seductive con woman. She is dynamite in that part as well and it is obviously a tongue-in-cheek tribute to her work in Blair Witch II. Kim Director is an artist, a master of her craft, and the true star of this film. It was an act of genius to cast her and she is the only reason to see this movie. A very significant reason.
A formula for a movie this bad only comes around a few times, and it should definitely be studied and observed to prevent future tragedies of it's kind.What happens when a studio wants to cash in on a wildly successful movie but can't get the original director? Then hires someone known only for making documentaries with no experiencing directing narrative-driven fiction? And that director doesn't even like the first movie? And then that director makes the exact opposite of the movie they want out of pure spite for them and original film?You get a cinematic 30-car pileup like "Book of Shadows." Whereas the first film was a fake documentary that showed a group of people fall to pieces in a realistic situation and at the end only hinted at something supernatural, Book of Shadows is a more generic horror movie that makes no attempt to seem like a documentary at all. Staffed by a team of insufferable, banal characters with no interesting or redeeming qualities. They are all apparently based on people who all serve as a metaphor for the people "effected" by the first film, like Wiccans, Goths and people who thought the movie was real. The director put so much thought into what they were supposed to represent, he forgot all about how to make them compelling character in the actual film.The movie is laden with subtext and hidden meaning, but that doesn't justify it's existence. Now, not only is the film a mindless, generic, incoherent and totally unentertaining mess, it's also extremely pretentious and smugly satisfied with itself. Like an especially dimwitted dog who takes a poop on your carpet because he's mad at you and grins at you like he actually accomplished something. But at the end, you're going to have to clean the carpet, he has to sleep outside, and nobody won here.One half of this film is motivated by greed, the other half is motivated by wrath. You put the two together and it's like mixing nerve gas, everyone in the room dies horribly.The director apparently blames the studio in some regard for the movie's poor reception due to the heavy editing they did. But honestly? Even just from watching the footage that actually made it into the film, it's easy to see there wasn't much to salvage.It's rare to see a film that's cheap cash grab AND insanely pretentious, but Book of Shadows pulls it off. It's one of my top ten worst movies of all time.And no, "Book of Shadows" doesn't mean anything.
A film best described as an "interesting failure", this sequel didn't have me holding my hopes up very much - seeing as just about all reviewers gave it negative marks. In my mind, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was one of the scariest films I've ever seen, and any film following that is going to look bad in the process. So I kept my expectations extremely low and went to see this sequel on Halloween. It's a film that borderlines on genius and very nearly manages to be extremely scary, but loses all credibility with a cast of poor performers and some cheap shock tactics. Indeed it's easy to be alarmed by the "jump in your seat" shots of objects smashing through windows or instead be disgusted by some gruesome hallucinations our friends have - a woman rips a man's stomach open with her nails, another girl is seen to eat a dead bird - but the underlying themes in this film are the ones that make it interesting.Looking beyond the obvious shock/gore tactics, this film's main theme is that of perception - and whether we (the audience) or they (the people in the film) are truly seeing what's going on. Clever editing is used to build up to the chilling revelation and the ending was, for me, a very good one. Sadly the true horror of the situation is underplayed in favour of a high dosage of unwanted comic relief, poor acting and a whole slew of supposedly disturbing/horrific moments which actually turn out to be unintentionally funny.Whereas the first film established a back-to-roots documentary approach, this film in turn goes overboard with the exploitation tactics to appeal to a young audience. One character wanders around naked for much of the film while repeated clips of a bloody murder are shown throughout the film. The one interesting character in this film is the tour's guide, an ex-mental patient who finds his sanity breaking down as the film progresses. Played by Jeffrey Donovan, the acting is spot on and he turns in an excellent portrayal. It's just a shame that the others don't live up to his standards. The actress playing the pregnant woman is forced to do a lot of humiliating things and her acting skills are frequently laughable - of course this is not helped by inane dialogue like when she sprouts about dead children looking up her skirt. Her husband is not much better, being as he is a bland puppet, while the Wiccan character in this film I found to be extremely irritating. Finally, the actress playing the goth shows glimpses of a real talent, but for the most part she's simply obnoxious. And don't get me started on the intrusive music used at every opportunity.While it simply cannot live up to the first film, this is more interesting to watch than your typical mindless slasher or gorefest. The film is based around some real deep-seated fears of madness and chaos and with a better execution, I think this may have been as good as the original. Just enjoy all the general weirdness going on as the film messes with your head and let it suck you in. My favourite parts of this film were when the camera footage was being pieced together and revealing some pretty bizarre stuff. The shock ending is powerful too. As a follow-up, BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 sucks, but it almost stands on its own as a complex, partially successful piece of psychological horror.
After the incredible success of indie found-footage horror The Blair Witch Project (1999), it was hardly surprising when a sequel was rushed into production—so quickly, in fact, that the creators of the original weren't quite ready to make another movie, hence the appointment of Joe Berlinger as writer/director. To his credit, Berlinger doesn't go down the obvious route, churning out an uninspired rehash of the first film; instead, he takes a different path through the woods, delivering a self-aware piece revolving around the hysteria created by the original Blair Witch Project. OK, so it doesn't work all that well, but he definitely gets points for trying.Berlinger's film opens in documentary style, with interviews from fans of The Blair Witch Project, as well as the residents of Burkitsville, who have taken to exploiting the film's success by marketing rocks and stick-men as souvenirs, and offering guided tours of the locations. It is one such tour into the Black Hills that provides the basis for Berlinger's movie: local entrepreneur Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan) leads a group of four Blair Witch enthusiasts to the house of infamous child killer Rustin Parr, where they set up camp for the night. When the group wake up in the morning, they are shocked not only to find their equipment trashed, but they have no recollection of the previous evening. Finding Jeff's video cassette's buried in a hole, the gang return to their guide's home—a disused factory—to review the tapes, hoping to piece together the events of the night before. While doing so, they suffer a series of scary supernatural events. Meanwhile, the bodies of a rival tour group are found disembowelled on nearby Coffin Rock Book of Shadows received quite the critical mauling upon its release, but I think that there is actually a decent idea underneath all of the spooky shenanigans: a group of people suffering from amnesia desperately trying to understand what has happened to them, but horrified by what they discover. What makes the film less than successful for me is its glossy, MTV-style editing and the thoroughly unlikeable characters: I hated the flickery, grainy imagery, but not nearly as much as I disliked every single person in the film, from mentally unstable tour guide Jeff, to tough goth chick Kim (Kim Director), to sexy Wiccan Erica (Erica Leerhsen)—although she at least had the decency to take off all of her clothes.As a rock/metal/alternative music fan, I at least enjoyed the excellent soundtrack, which features Marilyn Manson, Death In Vegas, System Of A Down, P.O.D., Queens Of The Stone Age and Rob Zombie, but I can't help but think that with just a little more care in the character development department, and with a little less of the showy stylisms, this could have been a whole lot better.