Retro Review: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

Written: March 2002

The spine-tingling thriller that shocked the box office in the summer of ‘99 returns with a sequel. Does every film that makes $200 million need a sequel? I think that’s the question people should ask before watching see this one.

“Book of Shadows” opens with a group of 20-somethings scurrying off into the woods near the town of Burkittsville, Maryland. Burkittsville was the town nearest to the events that happened in the first film, “The Blair Witch Project”. As this group meets and greets each other, the film lays claim that a variety film fanatics have flocked to the place where the first film actually took place.

In a sweeping shot that follows the group’s van through the thicket of Maryland we learn that the group’s leader is a tour guide of the “Blair Witch Hunt”.

His name is Jeff Patterson and he is convinced that the first film was full of factual evidence that could lead them to uncover the actual secret of the real Blair Witch. If they could just capture the witch on film.

As the film lets the audience get to know the group we find that there really is something wrong in Burkittsville and that this group could be cursed by it.

The actual film, “The Blair Witch Project” was a fluke at the box office and showed that a small independent film could enchant the masses with a couple shaky handheld cameras. I liked the whole idea of what the film entailed and the pure magic of how it grasped a lot of attention. But how do you make a sequel to a fluke?

What Artisan, the company who spawned the whole Blair Witch phenomenon, did was hire a documentary film director and tell him to spawn a sequel to the phenomenon.

What the final result becomes is a cross between an early Friday the 13th sequel and a “Wiccan” haunting.

Can all you horror fans remember the early Friday the 13th sequels? I am talking about 3 and 4. The first film in the Friday the 13th’s was made on a shoe-string budget and eventually spawned 7 sequels.

This tradition became a horror phenomenon in the early 80’s with other series like “Nightmare on Elm Street” (Freddy Krueger) and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (Leatherface). Each of these franchise spawning ventures became a phenomenon and electrified generations. They were a lot like “Blair Witch” is today. Create an original horror concept film for peanuts and then cash in on the sequels to make a studio.

Hollywood still says that “New Line Cinema” is the house that Freddy Krueger built. Could Artisan be far behind?

I guess I should make my point about the film itself. “Book of Shadows” is so very similar to the early Friday the 13th sequels that it was almost déjà vu. We have a very basic premise that allures some co-eds back to the horror. The tour in this case is the excuse. Then we always have to have a naked drunk girl get killed to send the film into a tailspin. Then you have the other co-eds stop and say, “Oh gee, are we really apart of something bad?”. This film should be shown to students about how horror hasn’t changed in 15 years.

I shook my head for nearly ¾ of this film as I just couldn’t believe how desperate a studio like Artisan is being in producing this sequel. There are blatant scenes that involve an excuse to play a “heavy metal” anthem so that we are reminded or coerced into buying the soundtrack. What about the only food left in the tour guide’s house happens to be “Kentucky Fried Chicken”? Come on.

The only saving grace I found in this trip down cliché lane were the characters played by Erica Leershan and Kim Director. Erica is a strong woman figure who really stands up for what she believes. I liked that she wasn’t like all the other horror genre girls. She was strong and did all she could to follow her path.

Deep down I think a lot of society outcasts will like the persona of “gothic” Kim. Kim is by far the most interesting character in the film and injects some desperately needed sarcasm into some scenes. She was a scene stealer.

To conclude I can really only say one thing, Artisan is the house that the “Blair Witch” built. Nuff Said!!

(1 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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