Keep boozing friend, it doesn’t get any better.
In its foolhardy attempts to be twisty-turny mysterious and oh-so-clever, Book of Shadows also commits the cardinal sin of forgetting to be even slightly scary. As mentioned, Berlinger chucks in subliminal cut scenes all over the place, which we can never be sure are flashbacks or flash forwards, though none of this matters as they actually add very little to the plot. These little vignettes are never frightening and just end up confusing the already completely muddled narrative, while also successfully looking shoddy and cheap, much like everything else in the movie.
The original film worked, chiefly, because we never got to see exactly what it was that was tormenting our unfortunate protagonists. The occasional ethereal shot of a pile of rocks, or an eerie figure made out of sticks was quite enough to set the pulse racing. Here, the filmmakers decide to up the ante and give us more than the the occasional glimpse of the undead horrors stalking the gang. This is a huge mistake. What we do get to see amounts to an odd looking woman and a bunch of young kids in period dress and lousy white ‘ghost make-up,’ twisting and turning their bodies like a broken animatronic mime, in that odd jerky way that horror films would have you believe that ghosts move.
The occasional flash of these spectral goons might have had a stronger effect, but Berlinger simply shows us far too much, rendering his attempts at jump scares pathetic and ineffectual. Put simply, it’s not scary if you see enough of the monster to work out that it’s just a guy in makeup or a mask. Then again, if the director had a clue how to light a night-time scene, these little moments might actually have worked.
Glug!!! Yeah, it’s not helping, is it? Don’t worry, there’s drinking games at the end…
Most upsetting about this abomination of a film is the way that nobody involved appears to have taken any time to check if any of it hung together as a coherent story or even, y’know, actually made sense. A lot of crazy, paranormal stuff goes down, yet nobody appears to act in the way that any sane person would under the circumstances. Upon arriving at the ruined house, Jeff informs the group that a massive tree, which most certainly was not there before, has magically appeared in the centre of the site. Of course, nobody believes him, but then Jeff, rather than being confused and maybe a little frightened, just acts like it’s no big deal and continues with the tour. Later on, when looking back at his rediscovered tapes that reveal all sorts of spooky happenings occurred that night, the gang then notices that the tree has then shrunk to the size of a sapling. Nobody seems particularly startled, just mildly perplexed, as Jeff casually states, ‘See? I told you there was something up with that tree.’ They then continue watching the tapes, and the tree, whatever its arcane significance, is never mentioned ever again.
Elsewhere, the group appears to react to Tristen’s heartbreaking miscarriage exceedingly well. Moments after they leave the hospital, everyone, Tristen included, are sharing jokes and tittering like nothing ever happened, before getting on with the much more important business of solving this darn mystery. It is an inordinately ridiculous moment in an inordinately ridiculous film. Perhaps she wasn’t that bothered about keeping the kid. This might explain why, like everyone else, she was getting immaculately shitfaced the night before.
The massive piss-up might also help explain exactly why the campsite was wrecked and nobody can remember a damn thing. But, no. In the parallel universe of this movie, this option is not even open to debate. Clearly, this must have been the work of the supernatural.
There are countless other inexplicably absurd moments littered throughout this dog’s dinner of a movie, my personal favourite being the moment where the guys watch a tape of the tape that they are watching being buried. It beggars belief that nobody involved with the production of this film realised that this is just plain daft. Of course, it helps to have a psychic character on hand to explain away all that stuff that doesn’t make sense.
Looking for clues, Kim implores Jeff to ‘watch the tapes backwards. When asked why, she simply says, ‘I don’t know.’ And lo and behold, her helpful hint actually turns out to be the key to solving the whole damn thing. Handy! Oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT! Oops…
Mmmmmm……sweet beer numbs the pain…
As if this flick wasn’t offensive enough, Berlinger (a big metal fan – he would go on to direct Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, which was actually pretty awesome) also packs his film with a mind-numbing heavy metal/rap-rock soundtrack that bludgeons the senses, bleeding the film of any inkling of subtle tension it might have possessed, while also reminding you of just how dire the U.S. music scene was at the turn of the century. At least there’s no “Livin’ La Vida Loca”. The moment Marilyn Manson begins to snarl and squeal over the opening credits, you know that the adroit subtlety of Sanchez and Myrick’s picture has been chucked out the window and the impending movie experience is going to be as about as refined as a prison yard shanking.
Blair Witch was suggestive and mysterious, while its offspring is noisy and dumb. In an early scene, someone makes reference to how the first film’s complete lack of sex was totally ridiculous. This film duly attempts to make up for it with gratuitous boobie shots and one of the most curiously un-titillating and out-of-the-blue seduction films in horror film history. It’s actually a bit of a laugh.
Berlinger’s film is stacked full of nonsense and clichés, but is also, admittedly, full of idea and invention. Interestingly, there are many subtle parallels with Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 corking haunted-house-in-space flick Event Horizon, in its imagery, premise, and the-tapes-reveal-all denouement, but it’s all so ham-fisted that you probably won’t care. It crams a lot of weird shit into its running time, yet still doesn’t add up to much, taking a seed of an idea from the first film and spinning it out into something truly awful.
As the climax approaches and things begin to descend into schlocky, confusing slasher whodunit nonsense, you may find yourself asking what any of this has to do with the first film. There may be some sort of hidden message about violent art inspiring real-life violence, or something, but considering Blair Witch featured precisely no on-screen violence at all, this theory, much like this plague of a movie, is almost certainly a load of old bollocks.
In the summer of 1999, Joe Berlinger and his crew went into the woods of Burkitsville, Marylandto shoot the sequel to The Blair Witch Project. This film will make you wish that they, and their godforsaken footage, were never seen or heard from again.
Take a Drink: every time someone acts like no normal human would act under the circumstances. (‘I’ve just had a miscarriage.’ ‘ Hahahahahahahaaaaa!!!!’)
Take a Drink: every time a character drinks…then wonders why they can’t recall what happened for the last 12 hours.
Take a Drink: every time the rap-metal soundtrack reminds you how bad the music scene was in 2000.
Take a Drink: every time you feel like clawing your own eyes out.
DRINK!!!: to forget this godawful movie.