Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Reviewed by Jason Coffman
Rating: 8 Beans
hether or not you enjoyed "The Blair Witch Project" has little to do with whether or not this movie will be enjoyable; by the last half-hour or so, every viewer is equal. Personally, I very much enjoyed the original film-- I did not, however, enjoy this one. Although it is promising for virtually the first full half of its running time, it completely falls apart before it finally staggers painfully to an ending.
A young man named Jeff who spent some time in a mental institution comes home to Burkittsville, the town which has become famous since The Most Popular Student Film of All Time. To make a living, he builds stick-men, makes piles of rocks, and (eventually) decides to give tours of the spooky wooded areas outside of town. His first trip out is with a group of four people:
1)Erica: A Wiccan. They're like earth children. I know this because Erica mentions the Wiccans' community with the Earth at least once in every scene. She wants to learn from the Witch. Go figure.
2)Kim: A Goth. Ostensibly, anyway... she wants to go on the trip because she liked "The Blair Witch Project." She's pale and wears black clothes. Also, she's psychic.
3)Stephen & Tristen: Intellectual-types, one out to figure out what is behind the Blair Witch legend and one pregnant with his unwanted child.
They go into the woods, proceed to drink heavily and smoke the Demon Weed until they all black out. They wake up, and shredded papers fall from the sky like snow-- the papers being, of course, all the work Stephen and Tristen have done. None of them have a clue as to what has happened, what they did, when they passed out... or how the writers are going to make an interesting film from there on out.
In a lot of ways, "Book of Shadows" is the most post-modern film to come along in quite some time: its characters exist in a world that is aware of the existence of the first film, and who know that film is fiction. Much is made of how the public reaction to that film was due to its deliberately misleading promotion, and the marketing blitz that followed in the film's wake is effectively satirized.
Unfortunately, though, it's hard to maintain a satirical voice when the language is stunted. Once the action moves into Jeff's big warehouse home, the actions that follow seem as calculated and predictable as those of Jim Carrey's belching Grinch (though sadly, less marketable). Apparently to make up for the lack of tension, much of the film is made up of a series of misdirections meant to disorient audiences (Look there! No, that didn't happen. Look there!), and their repetition grows quickly tiresome.
By the end of "Book of Shadows," what really happened, what was perceived by the characters, and what the audience sees have become so warped and unreliable that no clear narrative can be pulled from it. The only certainty I had was that if it had ended about 15 minutes sooner, it would have made just as much sense. That's saying something for a movie that only lasts 90 minutes in the first place (except in Norway, where they probably got a pretty steamy extra minute of footage).
The "realism" that made the first film enjoyable is completely absent here-- this one is a horror film, very obviously. A horror film masquerading as a post-structuralist essay on the nature of mythology and media and their effect on perception, but a horror film nonetheless. Perhaps a second viewing of the film would be more entertaining; sadly, the first viewing did not pique my interest enough to warrant a second. I would imagine most viewers will likely feel the same.
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