Book of Shadows: Blair Witch II
book of shadows: blair witch 2 | blair witch | the blair witch project | sequel | joe berlinger | dick beebe | jeffrey donovan | stephen barker | erica leerhsen | adventure | mystery | thriller | united states | witch | witchcraft | lanny flaherty | kim director
Film: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch II
Director: Joe Berlinger
Writer: Dick Beebe and Joe Berlinger
Starring: Jeffrey Donovan, Stephen Barker and Erica Leerhsen
To start this off, my sister and I got this DVD pretty early into it coming out. We both really liked The Blair Witch Project and when we heard there was a sequel, we were excited. We both liked it for different reasons from the original. I’ve seen this movie a handful of times throughout the year. I could see that it falls short of the original, but has some interesting aspects for sure. The synopsis is a group of tourists arrive in Burkittsville, Maryland after seeing The Blair Witch Project to explore the mythology and phenomenon, only to come face to face with their own neuroses and possibly the witch herself.
We start by being shown different television programs giving a feel of how much of an impact the original had. This film establishing that the mythology of the Blair Witch is real, but admits that the film was just a film. We also see that Burkittsville has become a tourist attraction and the residents, despite wanting it or not, have capitalized on it. We meet one such resident of Jeffrey Patterson (Jeffrey Donovan).
He makes tiki-men from sticks from the Black Hills, sells dirt from the Rustin Parr ruins as well as t-shirts, coffee mugs and things to this effect. He states that he didn’t get to see the film when it opened, because he was in the hospital. There’s hesitation to what he says and we see why. Jeff was in a mental hospital.
He also runs a tour of the woods where the Blair Witch was filmed. This is actually his inaugural tour group, but his website is a bit misleading about it. The group he’s taking out is made up of Stephen Ryan Parker (Stephen Baker Turner), Tristen Ryler (Tristine Skyler) and Erica Geerson (Erica Leerhsen). Stephen and Tristen are a couple that are writing a book about the Blair Witch and whether it was history or hysteria. She is also pregnant. We learn later that she doesn’t really want to seem to want to keep it where Stephen does. Erica is a witch of the Wiccan faith and wants the Blair Witch to guide her.
They stop at the cemetery to pick up the last member of the group, a gothic woman named Kim Diamond (Kim Director). The movie subtle introduces she might have a touch of psychic abilities. They stop off at a gas station to get beer and food. It should also be pointed out that we get brief flashes of things that we will see much later on as well. We also learn that a crime was committed at some point with Jeff, Stephen and Kim being accused of committing it.
Jeff brings a bunch of equipment out with them. He sets up a bunch of cameras and has camping gear. They are going to spend the night in the Rustin Parr ruins. The first odd thing is that there is a giant tree in the middle of the ruins, which wouldn’t make sense, since the house was built in the 1800s and the tree is much older than that. It would have been built around it. No one aside from Jeff finds this odd though.
The group parties pretty hard. They have a lot of beer and marijuana. They are having a good time until another tour group shows up. An argument ensues with the other group claiming they have permit to shoot footage there. Jeff calls them on the validity of this. To avoid a fight, Stephen thinks quickly and tells them they saw something at Coffin Rock. The other group leaves.
The group continues to party to the point of blacking out. They wake up the next morning to find all of the cameras have been smashed and all of the work that Tristen and Stephen has been destroyed. Jeff believes it was the other group, but then accuses Kim, because she claims to see where the tapes are. They are exactly where The Blair Witch Project tapes were found. They leave the woods when Tristen is bleeding.
It turns out that she had a miscarriage. Everyone goes back to Jeff’s so he can watch the tapes and figure out what happened. Things continue to get weirder and weirder where people start to see a little girl, they have strange markings on themselves and people black out for periods of time, not knowing what they did. The tapes are also not showing what happened to them during their blackout and the large tree is not there.
There’s where I want to leave this and I will say again, this is an interesting sequel to The Blair Witch Project. This one is more of a traditional horror film, unlike its predecessor that is of course, found footage. I’ve always been under the impression, if this would have had any other name, it would be better. I can see now that isn’t necessarily the case as the Blair Witch aspects are really ingrained.
Where I want to shift this first is hiring Joe Berlinger to write/director this film. He is a documentary filmmaker with doing the Paradise Lost docs are being his most famous for me. The infamous aspect is that studio interference took the product me made and added stuff to make it more traditional. Many are wanting his cut of the movie and it would be interesting to see for sure.
What I do really like here is the idea that what is on film lies and perception is really what we make of our reality. I feel this helps bridge what we get in The Blair Witch Project to Blair Witch. I love that this movie has hidden messages in it. We see things play out and then we get to see what the truth of it all through the tapes that are played. There isn’t necessarily anything supernatural here, but it could be argued for. What I really like though is this correlates to the research that Stephen and Tristen are doing with is this supernatural or hysteria causing people to do what happened.
The real driving force here is the acting, but I don’t think it is great across the board. I really like Donovan in the role that he’s playing. He just comes off as this wild and crazy guy. We don’t really even need the scenes of him in the mental hospital as that just feels like overkill. Skyler is solid in the role she has. I’m not a fan of Stephen, but I think that Turner plays the role very well. Leerhsen we get to see nude so that’s nice and she did fine for what was needed. I do like Director for sure as well as Lanny Flaherty as Sheriff Cravens. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed as well.
Next would be the effects. This movie is really playing a lot with things might not be real. To really play this up we get flashes of scenes and it isn’t until the reveal that we get a better look. There is a bit of CGI, but to be honest, it was used pretty creepy for me. The practical effects are good and I think that the cinematography was well done also. I don’t really have any complaints there.
The last thing would be the soundtrack. I think this is something else that Berlinger wasn’t a fan of. It does feature a lot of ‘neu-metal’ that was popular at the time. Not really the music I was listening to, but it does tickle a bit of nostalgia. It does seem to fit for what they needed as well. The movie also uses sounds well in making characters think something and then realize it isn’t real as well.
Now with that said, this movie isn’t as bad as some people claim, but I do think we have some missed opportunities as well. The playing with perception here to what they think happened and to what really did is interesting. The acting I think for the most part is pretty solid across the board. This movie is shot very well and I think the effects we got were good. The soundtrack isn’t necessarily my thing, but I do still think it fits for what is needed. As I’ve said, I’ve seen it a bunch of times. I can see its flaws and I think it is above average, but falling pretty short of being good.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10