We wish we could tell you Judge Patrick Naugle, our lover of the trashiest horror movies ever to ooze onto DVD, found some redeeming qualities to this movie. He couldn't, but at least his review is more entertaining than the movie itself.
Miss Blair is back in town.
One of the most successful independent films ever, The Blair Witch Project was the ultimate marketing giant; the Internet, commercials, word of mouth. The Blair Witch Project had more marketing behind it than the end of the world. As is always the case with out-of-nowhere success stories, a sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 followed close behind on the original's heels. High anticipation and low box office is what greeted this vastly inferior horror sequel executive produced by original creators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 comes to us on DVD with a bonus soundtrack on the flipside.
Facts of the Case
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 picks up somewhat where the last film left off…except that, in this reality, the original film was fiction. The film starts in 1999 when five youngins' decide to go out and spend some time in the same forest where the original Blair Witch Project took place. The players include Jeffrey (Jeffrey Patterson), who is capitalizing on the success of the film by making trinkets and selling them; Kim (Kim Director), a Goth chick who loved the original film; Erica (Erica Leersen), a real-life Wiccan who wants to shoot down modern day misconceptions about witches; and finally Stephen (Stephen Barker Turner) and his girlfriend Tristen (Tristen Skyler), a couple who are planning on penning a book about the "Blair Witch" hoopla.
The five adventurers head off into the Burkittsville woods (specifically to the original foundation of the cabin of child killer Rustin Parr) where the original Blair Witch Project was filmed. There they set up camp with video and surveillance equipment in hopes of seeing the famed "Blair Witch." Jeffrey (a video nut who should be working for Microsoft) gets everything in order and starts the filming. Now what? Well, for these five noodleheads it's time to party like it's 1999. They get out some booze and proceed to get tanked up like my Uncle Jimmy at the "Naugle Family Reunion."
The next morning our little sinners awake to find that a few things have changed. As soon as they open their eyes they find a storm of shredded paper of their work and documents (it's a sight to behold…sort of like "White Christmas" in the bowels of hell). This is just the start of all kinds of weird stuff that begins to happen to the Blair Witch hunters. The group heads to Jeffrey's place (an old abandoned factory) to look at the video footage shot during the night. There they see and experience things that they don't understand…and fear.
Are these events the work of tainted beer? A greedy movie studio? Or maybe, just MAYBE…it's the Blair Witch.
Boredom is the last thing you want your audience to feel when they watch your film. Whenever I go to the movies I wear my watch just in case. Many films fly by with no need to use my timepiece. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was a big exception. During the hour and a half this film played I got to know my watch so well that I was thinking of taking it to Malibu and spending the weekend with it. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 dragged on and on…over hot coals. The original Blair Witch Project also seemed to drag, though this worked to its advantage as it pulled out the tension and suspense from the audience. The medium of video was also used in the original film, andBook of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 also uses videotape. However, the bulk of it is shot in 35mm, breaking from the originality the first film possessed.
The idea behind Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is fairly interesting—use the first film as a fictional backdrop for the sequel. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is reminiscent of the superior Wes Craven's New Nightmare. In that film Craven also used fictional films as a backdrop for an altered reality; Freddy was fiction on the screen, but through the course of the film he comes alive in the "real" world. The difference between Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is that the Nightmare On Elm Street lends itself better to the idea of fiction becoming reality; Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, on the other hand, was produced for the sole purpose of making a pretty penny.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 and was obviously taken from an excellent source print. Blacks were solid, colors bright with no bleeding. Digital artifacting was non-existent and I spotted no edge enhancement at all. Unlike its predecessor, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is a wonderful transfer by Artisan Entertainment.
Audio for Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was equally as impressive. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French and Spanish), the sounds and effects were taut and well placed. Since this is a horror film, creepy effects leap out from all directions (for those of you with a surround sound system). Subwoofer was not used as much as preferred, but overall the mix is excellent.
For bonus materials Artisan has done a nice special edition (even though the film completely tanked on its initial release). The first are two commentary tracks by director Joe Berlinger and composer Carter Burwell (who also scored the films O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Fargo). Berlinger's commentary track is well done for those who want true insight into the making of the film. Right from the start Berlinger lets us know that he's going to be pretty candid about this film. He tells us that the title card in the opening scene is something that he doesn't agree with but was something the studio wanted. He and Artisan seemed to have had more than a few disagreements during the filming of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. The track moves along very briskly and is a nice listen to the behind the scenes happenings on Book of Shadows. Score composer Carter Burwell's track is also fun, though it's only three scenes long. Each one goes into depth about why Burwell made a certain decision for a certain instruments, et cetera. For you music score buffs this is a nice way to peek into the mind of a Hollywood musician.
"The Secret Of Esrever" is an original piece that I have never seen on a DVD before. It gives you instructions on how to catch weird and horrific secrets in Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. When you watch this piece backwards, letters in the corner of the screen spell out secret messages on where to find images and secrets in the film. A very cool extra for a movie that wasn't quite so cool. [Editor's Note: Esrever…reverse…spelled backwards. I get it. Ha ha.]
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 also has the distinction of being the first DVD plus CD in one. On one side of the disc is the DVD film and the extra features. On the other side is a CD of the entire original score by Carter Burwell and a few songs by Godhead, Tony Iommi (featuring Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters), and Steaknife. Though I am not a huge fan of most of the music, this is a really nice way for completists to get everything in one nice package (though the package says not to play this on an in-dash car CD player because of possible damage to audio systems).
Finally there are the typical production notes and cast and crew biographies to round out the special features. A theatrical trailer is included, but must be accessed though the DVD-ROM portion of the disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've already mentioned a few things that are wrong with Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Allow me to mention a few more. The actors, while competent, are sorely lacking in real charisma. The only standout is Jeffrey Patterson (who, ironically, plays the character of Jeffrey), the town resident who was once locked up in the loony bin. He has the chops to become a real star if he can pick better films than this.
Production values are good but with nothing we've never seen before. A girl eating an owl. Oh, that's scary all right. Some tricky camera work. Ohhhh, terrifying! The effects flux back and forth from good to cheese (the flashback scenes looked especially fake).
Finally, the whole idea of video and reality that was behind the original was what made it so special. The creators of the first film (Myrick and Sanchez) actually came on board to executive produce the cruddy sequel. What where they thinking?
I'll tell you what they were thinking with…their wallets.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is a one big excuse for a sequel. Though it's not something I will watch over and over again, the original Blair Witch Project had loads of originality and was an excellent twist on the horror theme. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is just a rehash of much of the crap that is out there today (Urban Legends 2: Final Cut, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, the list goes on and on). For features, audio, and video Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 comes up with high marks; but for originality it's missed the mark.
Guilty for being a shoddy horror sequel without much fun behind it, but free to go as this is a packed disc with some firsts for the DVD format.
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