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John’s Horror Corner: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), another great, low budget movie that was unfairly judged.

March 28, 2013

MY CALL:  Another great, low budget B-movie that was unfairly reviewed as a theatrical release, which it shouldn’t have been.  [B]  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Suckers for found footage and video analysis should turn to Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 (2007, 2010), Grave Encounters (2011) or Grave Encounters 2 (2012).  If you want some great B-movies then aim for Dagon (2001), Bleeders (1997) or The Hazing (2004).

We recently addressed sequels that nobody expected, wanted, and were completely unwarranted.  Such movies include Sinister  (2012) and its inevitable sequel and the questionably titled The Last Exorcism Part 2 (2013).  Book of Shadows is such a movie.  Nobody could have figured how this story could possibly continue without simply regurgitating the same movie all over again with different actors.  Not the case with this one.  This was a thoughtful, well-crafted sequel which had its own feel, style and story.  It managed to continue the legend from the story arc of the original while proving to be a solid stand-alone film of its own.  It opens with a typical in-the-spirit-of-good-fun nonsense disclaimer:

“The following is a fictionalized re-enactment of events that occurred after the release
of The Blair Witch Project.  It is based on public records…[blah, blah, blah]”

The Blair Witch Project (1999) was a shaky found footage movie.  Book of Shadows continues the legacy with paranormal investigation-style video analysis within a traditionally filmed movie.  Like its much more recent follower Grave Encounters 2 (2012), Book of Shadows opens with pop-culture acknowledging the fame of its predecessor (treated as a movie within the newer movie)–in this case using MTV News, late night shows, E! News and real news casts, followed by a brief documentarian approach with the testimony of Burkittsville locals.

CC_Meta_BlairWitch2

Goofy, likable Jeffrey Donovan

Jeffrey Donovan (Changeling, USA Network’s Burn Notice) does a fine job as Jeff, a witch store propagandist with a troubled past and a painfully average mind living in Burkittsville.  He leads Blair Witch Tours and comes off as simple, easily manipulated and quite likably candid and enthusiastic.  We also get an introduction to how poorly he was treated in a psychiatric facility that operated under 1800s-like moral practices.

Disturbed Jeffrey Donovan

Assembled for a Blair Witch tour, Jeff leads Erica the “good witch” Wiccan (Scream Queen Erica Leerhsen; Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Kim (Kim Director) the psychic goth, and the overly academic couple Tristen (Tristine Skyer) and Stephen (Stephen Barker Turner), who are investigating the Blair Witch legend and mass hysteria.

Here’s Kim the Goth.  She’s a psychic.

These folks think she’s weird because she’s a psychic.
Kim knew they’d think that.

This is Erica.

Erica likes laying in the grass and being one with nature.

Kim knew that, too.

I really enjoyed the soundtrack.  The opening credits have us soaring above the defoliated Fall woods in a late overcast afternoon to Marilyn Manson and a scene of campfire overindulgence is most perfectly complemented by Queens of the Stoned Age.  These add a good deal to the erratic, confusing, mysterious mood.  But the weird events, Jeff’s past, Tristen’s dreams and nervous breakdown, weird and disturbing visions, random clips of violent imagery, and (more than anything) strange discoveries while reviewing their recorded footage (after they all black out overnight) are what really drive this movie.

Tristen is freaking out and having weird visions.

When they watch the video playback, even Kim thought that was shocking!

The gore was weakly presented and the special effects, in general, were limited.  But special effects really didn’t seem necessary for this movie anyway.  It was effectively driven by the mystery of the story which is slowly unveiled.

Jeff is the focal point of an ensemble cast film. We see alternating scenes of the present, in the form of flash-forwards in which Jeff and the others are interrogated by coarse Sheriff Cravens (Lanny Flaherty; Signs, Men in Black 3, Waterworld), and the past, what we would call “the main movie.”  As the movie ends see how the interrogations end.

Some people may have thought this movie was dumb, but I find it a pleasant surprise; more of a great B-movie than a lousy major release.  We see what the characters see, we receive hints that things are not what they seem and that we’re “missing something,” and soon we have the reveal stage during which we see what really happened.  At times you might even question what is “really” happening.

Even seeing this movie a second time, I find it satisfying.  I hope you hear what harsher reviewers say, but see what I see so that you can enjoy this movie with me.

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