Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 Review

“… the perfect movie to watch after The Blair Witch Project so you’re not too scared to go to sleep.”

Despite tales that it was a terrible film, last night I watched Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. This “sequel” to The Blair Witch Project follows six characters who, being fans of the original film, decide to travel into the woods where the three filmmakers supposedly went missing and see what they can find themselves.

Like the stories had warned me, this movie was terrible. But before I start ripping into it, let me talk about what I like about it. What I like, nay respect, about Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is the fact that it takes a different approach to a sequel. Instead of the movie just following a couple of more people going into the woods with handheld cameras, Book of Shadows builds its story much like Human Centipede 2, wherein the main characters have seen, and are obsessed with, the first film in the franchise. In the case of Blair Witch 2, this allows us to see the partial impact that the first film had on the world, and especially those living in Burkittsville (the setting of the first film). Now that what I like about the film is out of the way, let’s talk about why it was terrible.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is about as different as you could get from the first Blair Witch film. Why they even decided to call it “Blair Witch 2” is beyond me, because not only is this film stylistically different, but also tonally so. To start off I want to talk about the time period in the films. When watching the first Blair Witch, despite the timecards and camera designs the movie feels timeless. This is something that i think is important for a film because films live forever even though time still progresses. Book of Shadows on the other hand just screams early 2000’s, which might have been cool at the time but now plays out like one long punchline. But hell, even if you don’t compare Book of Shadows to its predecessor it is still a bad movie.

First of all, the film is not scary. I’m aware that feelings are subjective so some people may find this film terrifying, but to me it completely missed the mark. Instead of having a coherent storyline that allowed for fear to build throughout the film, what we got was a scattered mess with ‘jump scares’ that made absolutely no sense within the context of the film. The only thing that really scared me was the appearance of the little girl that looked like she was ripped straight from ‘The Grudge’, but looking back not only did this appearance come out of nowhere with no build up, but it was also pretty fucking stupid. That’s the exact opposite reaction you want in a horror movie. You want audiences to look back and think “Holy shit, that movie was scary”, not “Holy shit, I can’t believe I was scared of that”.

Book of Shadows also tried to match its predecessor by saying “Hey, this story is real too!”. Of course it isn’t (duh), but the film would have been better had they not tried that shit all together. Like I mentioned before, I appreciate where the story was going when the movie started. I didn’t need a gimmick to get me interested, but they chose to add one anyway and it ended up backfiring when you start to see the ridiculous, borderline ‘David Lynch-esque’ cast of characters. At least the film made me laugh (even though it was mostly unintentional) throughout.

This next paragraph will deal with the ending of the film, so if you want to watch this movie for yourself for some reason, you might want to skip to my rating.

The ending of Book of Shadows is really where the film falls apart for me. Throughout the film we are lead to believe that the group of people are being terrorized by the Blair Witch because they hung out in the forest for a night. This was stupid, but it was fine. The ending of the film revealed that not only was the Blair Witch never present, but everything that we saw was a fucking lie. There is no faster way to lose my respect that pulling a poorly executed “Fight Club” ending. So it turns out that everyone got drunk and high and then started killing each other. And that’s what the movie is about. I did appreciate how dark the film got at the end, showing footage of what really happened, but my problem is that this revelation came completely out of left field. There are no clues throughout the film, it just kind of happens. There is also a ‘Red Herring’ of sorts that manifests itself as the main character being in a mental hospital. It would have been one thing if the film pulled the twist that the dude went off the deep end again and started killing all of these people, but even people who were supposedly sane were murdering each other. It made less that no sense; we’re talking negative sense. We see all of this shit happen, and get invested in it, and then we get the rug pulled out from under us at the last second when it is revealed that the main characters were possessed or high on PCP or some shit and we were lied to.

Ultimately Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch 2 is not a good movie. It is poorly written, is full of sub-par acting, is most definitely a time capsule of the early 2000’s, and even though it is a horror film it made me laugh more than it made me scared. Really, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is the perfect movie to watch after The Blair Witch Project so you’re not too scared to go to sleep.

I give Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 a D

UPDATE:

So I found out that there is a fan edit of this film that “Takes the sequel to The Blair Witch Project back to what it was supposed to be by restoring as much as possible the director’s original intentions and stripping out the studio’s forced changes”. This fan edit was recommended to me, and since I like the Blair Witch series (mainly the first film) so much, I decided to watch it.

This fan edit takes out quite a few things that were present in the final cut of the film, but also restructures other facets of the film. This really helps with (what I understand to be) the director’s intent on what the film should have been. It essentially shuffles the film into a more linear progression, rather than the sporadic mess that we got. I appreciate this, and it does allow me to better view the film in a way that the director (allegedly) wants; and the film does improve. There are still some key issues with the film that weren’t so easily solved with the fan edit, but I think that is a problem of this particular fan (steFANedit) not having the original footage to cut from.

These issues manifest themselves in many ways, one of the more prominent being the fact that when the film is cut the way that the director (supposedly) wanted it, it leaves out a lot of the ‘travel’ between scenes. This means that a character will be in the middle of a conversation on one side of the set, but then magically teleport and be in the middle of a different conversation in a matter of a second. Again, I don’t blame the person who edited this because they had to essentially work magic on the footage that they had access to. But these issues can’t really go unnoticed.

I’m not saying that this fan edit is bad; as a matter of fact I did like it more than the original. I just don’t think that it can be viewed as a finished product; but rather a guideline for what could have been. Watching this fan edit gave you the outline for the director’s (alleged) vision, but I personally wouldn’t tell someone to watch the fan edit without having seen the original.

So in review: Is the fan edit better than the original cut? Yes. Does it turn a pile of shit into a masterpiece? Absolutely not. Is it a cool novelty to see what could have been? Absolutely.

I don’t really feel like I should give this fan edit a score of it’s own, but if I had a gun to my head I would give it a C.

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