Book of Shadows, aka Blair Witch 2 (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Robbins recipe: Angel Heart meets The Shining. Yes, that's right, it's a standard mystery/horror film that has absolutely no relationship to Blair Witch Project in tone or style, except to use the Blair Witch Hysteria as a backdrop for the film, and to make fun of it!
This movie is everything you expect it NOT to be, assuming you read any reviews and/or saw the first Blair Witch film.

First of all, it is the most poorly marketed film of the past decade, despite the fact that it is a sequel to the marketing marvel of the past decade. It is a slick and conventional horror movie. Let's think about that. The world is divided into people who loved Blair Witch, and those who hated it. If you hated Blair Witch, you're not going to see the sequel are you? And if you loved Blair Witch, you are going to find none of those elements you loved in this "sequel." So who the hell is the target market for this movie?


Erica Leerhsen is seen naked from just about all angles, but only in the videotaped segments, the video-within-a-film.

Jeffrey Donovan was seen naked from behind, also on the tape-within-a-film

Second, you would expect the sequel to a film to act as an expansion and semi-homage to the original. This one not only is nothing like the original in style or tone, but actually makes fun both of the film and the people who liked it! (Another marketing masterstroke.)

Third, this is a watchable film, sometimes spooky, sometimes damned funny, marred only by a uniformly unappealing cast of characters, which therefore prevents you from the real emotional identification that you need to make a horror movie work. But, you know what, if I could have liked the characters enough to care what happened to them, I would have thought this was a decent horror movie. Even as it is, it isn't great, but it isn't as bad as its IMDb rating indicates

The film dealt quite effectively with the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding the fourth wall. Remember that the first movie was such a phenomenon because of its documentary feel, and the concurrent internet campaign that made the Blair Witch Legend seem to be part of a real belief system, and made the belief system itself seem to be based on real events. Well, now we know that it was just a movie, so how do you do a sequel? They came up with a workable solution. This film talks about the mania and hysteria created in Burkittsville and the Black Hills by the first movie. It shows how the local people's lives are now affected by tourists and curiosity seekers who come to take pictures and buy souvenirs, and to ask if anything was based on reality. They used five unknown actors, and they all played characters with their own real names, more or less, to make it seem real. Bingo, the wall is back up.

One of the lead characters is a guy who makes a living by conducting the Blair Witch Hunt, a tourist program through the venues of the first film. The rest of the leads are his tourists.

The first four minutes are terrific, absolutely excellent. They show how people reacted to the first Blair Witch movie, and they are mostly interviews with locals, who seem to be an especially daft group, even by the standards of small-town movie America. One character comments that the gene pool in the area is a mite too shallow.

The next forty minutes are not bad at all as a psychological mystery. The tour group spends the night in the ruins of the witch's cottage, surrounded by cameras to record their every move from many angles. They lose several hours of time during the night, and when they wake up, they are surrounded by utter chaos as all their possessions and their film equipment have been destroyed. Then one of them says "we still have the tapes". How could she know that? She doesn't know how she knows. She has some spooky sixth sense, and she just knows it. She even knows that they have been hidden, and she knows where they are hidden. She has The Shining. The others, of course, think she must have been the one who did it.

Well, it turns out that when they get back and replay the tapes, there are time gaps in the recordings that seem to match their own sense of lost time. The camera timer jumps from one o'clock to three o'clock, and nobody can explain it. Perhaps Rosemary Woods was in charge of the tapes. About the same time as the sudden timer jump, there is a faint image which flashes by, and data manipulation shows it to be a naked picture of ---- one of the tourists. Not the one with the psychic powers, but another one who actually claims to be a witch, but has no memory of wandering around the woods naked, and you'd think she'd remember that because it is mid-November. So now the others think she did it. Except for those who think the psychic girl did it, and those who think Rosemary Woods did it.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • something new. It is a two-sided DVD. One side is the movie. the other side is a built-in CD of the complete soundtrack

  • no other significant features

At that point, I was really hooked into the story, which was further enhanced by my curiosity about some flash-forwards to the tour guide being interrogated about the death of some tourists, and flashbacks to some bizarre rites. In addition, strange things were happening to the tourists - skin rashes in an ancient alphabet, visions, and the like, and all this was fairly spooky and the dark humor was fairly funny.

The last forty minutes aren't so good, but I still liked the way it all got wrapped up, handled more as a creepy mystery movie with a supernatural overlay, rather than as a horror film, and gradually unraveling the characters' own sense of confusion about what happened.

The film didn't really supply any closure or any explanation, although it did finally show all the missing parts of the tapes. The point was that the things on the tapes didn't seem to be what really happened but, after all, they defined reality to the outside world. They now represent reality, don't they? All simple memories are, by definition, less real than what's on the tapes. I thought the ending was creepy, spooky, and surprising. It reminded me a little bit of the ending to "Angel Heart", and I liked the fact that they showed everythng but explained nothing, leaving the audience to use some imagination.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 1/4, Apollo 69

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.5, Apollo users 49/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... Profitable. It did $26 million on a $15 million budget, just about all of it in the first 10 days.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. I like a good horror movie, and I especially like it when they have a mystery overlay. In the face of all the critical pans and the IMDb rating, I liked this film. (For reference, I think the first one is probably one of the worst ten films I've ever seen, so if you like that, you might really hate this one)

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