In a new feature here, I'm giving hated movies one more try. Were they actually good, or were my first instincts accurate? To kick off, we'll take a look at one of the most reviled sequels of all time: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Worthless horror...or something more? You probably know the answer, but where's the fun in giving it away?
The original Blair Witch Project is a very polarizing film, and has been since the day it was released. I remember sitting in a theater on opening night, and looking around when the lights came back up. There was a girl crying, there were people screaming at how stupid the ending was...it was intense. Like it or not, though - it was incredibly profitable. The fact-or-fiction of it all was pretty bold at the time, as was this newfangled storytelling device of "found footage". Given these facts, it was a no-brainer that people in Hollywood wanted to figure out a way to make more money.
And that's why we have Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. The title itself doesn't even make a lot of sense, since technically there was no movie called Blair Witch. So naming this one Blair Witch 2 is essentially meaningless. But let's continue to the premise.
Got that? Good. Because this is the part that I actually found to be the most interesting. This whole movie exists in a meta dimension, where characters are reacting to a movie that their film is based on...but not really related to. So referring to it as a sequel isn't entirely accurate.
I will concede that after only 12 years, this movie is horribly, horribly dated. It has the 90s oozing out from every interestingly-pierced orifice. But if you can make it through Marilyn Manson's "Disposable Teens" being played over the opening credits, there's a good chance you'll be able to power through the rest of the proceedings.
Our main character is ostensibly a guy named Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan, who thankfully grew up to be much more attractive). He lives in Burkittsville, and runs an online store and tour company that capitalizes on - you guessed it - The Blair Witch Project. One aspect I wish the filmmakers had spent a little more time on was the aftermath of the original film in the small town. We see "interviews" with local residents - some of whom believe, but most of whom wish those three kids had never made a movie and called it a documentary. It's an intriguing, real-world perspective for what is basically a horror spin-off.
Sadly, there's not much more in the way of bright spots. A douchebag, a Wiccan, a goth psychic and two grad students (it's already begging for a punchline) spend the night in the Black Hills, aka the supposed stomping grounds of the Blair Witch herself. They build a fire and proceed to get CRAZY FUCKED UP, drinking approximately a dozen bottles of hard liquor and smoking about four pounds of weed. But then something totally strange and unexpected happens:
They all black out! Can you BELIEVE it?
The rest of the time is spent trying to piece together what happened during their missing hours, where all of the camera equipment was destroyed and the grad students' work was ripped to shreds. The movie then curiously pulls a location change, leaving the Black Hills entirely in favor of Jeff's home. Which is an abandoned factory, because FUCK YEAH 90s.
As the gang reviews their tapes, they begin to realize that they're the ones responsible for trashing their own campsite...but in a possessed, creepy sorta way! Naturally they all begin to turn on each other, there's a miscarriage involved, and it's all edited together with bits of scenes that haven't happened yet, showing them being questioned by the police one by one for a series of grisly murders.
Things really just get more incoherent from here, to the point that I don't think it's worth describing in detail. What I will say, however, is this: I think it's incredibly impressive that rather than just brutally murdering these people, the Blair Witch instead decided to erase their memories, pit them against one another, and supernaturally edit video footage...just to fuck with them. Demonic forces these days are so unpredictable!
In the end, I actually don't regret revisiting this one. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was (dare I say) a little ahead of its time. At least when it came to being self-referential and existing in slightly altered version of reality. And I don't think I'm giving it too much credit, because DAMN most of this movie is pretty bad. The rest of the cast is forgettable, save for our wacky Wiccan played by Erica Leerhsen. She's far from a household name, but I recognized her as 'actress' from Woody Allen's highly-underrated Hollywood Ending ("Your father. Johnny he's your father! You can't kill your FATHER!").
I suppose you could view this film as a cautionary tale, of sorts: Don't get greedy. People liked The Blair Witch Project, and sure - maybe we wanted more. But we didn't get more of The Blair Witch Project. What we got was cheesy-looking gore, pointless gratuity, and a hard-rockin' soundtrack. A disappointing footnote in a sad chapter of modern horror. You win some, you lose some.