Friday, 23 September 2016

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

Year of Release:  2000
Director:  Joe Berlinger
Screenplay:  Dick Beebe and Joe Berlinger
Starring:  Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristine Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner
Running Time:  90 minutes
Genre:  horror, supernatural

Recently released from a psychiatric hospital, Burkittsville resident Jeffrey (Donovan) decides to cash in on the phenomenal success of the recently released movie The Blair Witch Project, set in and around his small home town.  Selling merchandise from his website, he also starts up a Blair Witch tour to take tourists on a camping trip around the woods to see the sites featured in the movie and associated with the Blair Witch legend.  Equipped with an arsenal of video and recording equipment, his first tour group consists of Stephen (Turner) and his pregnant wife Tristen (Skyler) who are writing a book about the Blair Witch phenomenon, Erica a Wiccan who wants to commune with the spirit of the Blair Witch, and Kim a Goth who claims to be psychic.  The first night they are interrupted by a rival tour group, but Jeffrey and friends trick them into going elsewhere.  The following morning they wake up with no memory of the previous night, to find up that Stephen and Tristen's notes have been completely destroyed, and Jeffrey's tapes have been buried.  However far more horrific discoveries await them, and their situation becomes more nightmarish as they try to find out what happened during the night.

This was rushed out exactly a year after the release of The Blair Witch Project.  It opens up with a disclaimer claiming that the film is based on a true story, and the director Joe Berlinger had previously, and subsequently, worked only as a documentary film-maker, but this abandons the found footage format of the original film for a more conventional style.  The film opens with a series of news reports about the success of The Blair Witch Project, and the negative impact that it had on the town of Burkittsville.  Initially, at least, it is almost a commentary on the first film, the groups represented by the tour group were all the most drawn to and affected by the original.

This was slated by critics and audiences on it's original release, and is widely seen as a failure.  When I first saw it in the cinema back in 2000, I loved it.  I thought it was cool, gory fun.  Watching it this evening, there is still a lot to like, but I think it could certainly have been better, and there are scenes in this movie where a much better film seems to be trying to get out.   Director Berlinger claimed that the film was originally intended to be much more ambiguous and really a psychological horror film, but it was re-edited by the studios, with additional scenes of gore added.  To be fair, it's not really a bad film.  It's entertaining and it moves along fast enough.  Some of the performances leave a lot to be desired, it doesn't make a lot of sense, and the second half in particular is pretty confused, but it is nowhere near as irritating as a lot of these "fractured reality/dream" horror films.  It does feel like very much a product of it's time, with the loud goth-rock soundtrack, and flashily edited gore.

  Stephen Barker Turner, Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan and Tristine Skyler in Book of Shadows:  Blair Witch 2

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