Wicked Wednesday: The Cleansing Hour (2019)

Exorcisms. We love them. Horror loves them. They probably exist more on our screens than they ever have in real life. The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism, Chi sei?. The list is seemingly endless.

The Cleansing Hour (which I will probably accidentally misspell as “The Cleaning House” on one or more occasions in the post) is one of the latest in a long legacy. But when a subgenre is as well-travelled as this one, what can you do? Well, make it as modern as possible.

Friends Max and Drew are a couple of charlatans. Each week they broadcast a live stream of an exorcism on their show, The Cleansing Hour. Led by ‘Father Max’, every week a new person is freed from the demon within them. It’s pretty handy that they always find someone new that’s possessed and always in time for a new show!

My initial thought was that modern audiences would never go for something like this as truth. Then I remembered how successful ghost hunting shows are and quietly stayed in my place.

But one night, the friends run into some trouble: their guest doesn’t arrive. So at the last minute, Drew’s fiance Lane steps in as the possessed. But once the show gets going, the cast and crew soon realise that Lane is a little bit too good at being possessed. When she goes off script, spews blood and sets a man on fire, everyone on set realises that Lane is actually possessed.

The demon gives the two men until the end of the stream to “lift the veil” otherwise Lane and seemingly everyone else is doomed.

As the viewer count rises, Drew and Max must outwit an actual demon. Only the demon gives them an incredibly difficult time. They must admit their sins to the world, watch their friends die and go through intolerable pain.

Each revelation brings Max’s lies to the surface. But he and Drew are finally able to keep the demon at bay enough to begin exorcism rites. Though is that all the demon wants? Or are the men truly playing with something they should have never dug up?

It wasn’t too surprising to me when I discovered that this was initially a short film. It has the right amount of story to fill 20 minutes. Here, things feel a bit padded. I see no reason why this needed a 90-minute run-time. (Dear filmmakers, studio execs and everyone else in between: we don’t need long movies.)

I didn’t really see anything wrong with The Cleansing Hour but I certainly didn’t enjoy it. There were some fun, gimmicky bits, but I found my mind wandering more often than I’d like to admit.

This movie is getting mostly good reviews. Which brings me to the same conclusion I almost always come to with contemporary movies I don’t like: aesthetically I hated everything about this. For a movie released in 2019, it feels so dated. It looks dated. The dialogue is dated. The way the characters are handled is beyond dated. And as someone who likes movies to look nice, I just couldn’t get my mind engaged.

I am sorry. But I never claimed to be anything other than shallow!

The Cleansing Hour was brought to my attention when I saw someone discussing it on Twitter. Their argument at the time was unlike most horror movies these days, The Cleansing Hour actually had a solid ending. According to the discussion, it’s “lazy” to have ambiguous endings.

And yeah. When I read the thread I thought “Oh definitely! I love when things happen in movies!” But upon watching this, I realised I just love ambiguity in an ending. Things left up to the imagination is often what I love best about horror (prime examples of this: Black ChristmasIt FollowsThe Thing). I don’t think leaving things up in the air is lazy at all. Or perhaps the original reviewer and I had two very different things in mind.

Unfortunately, I did find a lot of The Cleansing Hour ambiguous despite its “concrete” ending. I found myself constantly referring back to the incredibly-detailed summary on Wikipedia to help me. There’s no shame in needing help, and I certainly needed it here.

Exorcisms movies are really difficult to make unique and special. At its core, you’ll always have the same elements. Despite the daunting battle to stand out, The Cleansing Hour certainly makes a valiant effort.

Wicked Wednesday: The Company of Wolves (1984)

For years Angela Carter’s work has tempted me. Her mixture of feminist themes and fairytales seem so appealing… and yet, I haven’t gotten around to a single story yet.

But after watching The Company of Wolves, I feel even more intrigued by her work.

This movie could only exist in the dreamy corners of 1980s Britain. It’s bleak, for one, with nearly all the colours being drained from the screen. The one colour that stands out? Red. Red lips and a red cloak.

Rosaleen is a stroppy child. When her parents return home from a trip, she refuses to leave her room to see them or her sister. Her mother puts it down to being “that age”.

That night Rosaleen begins to dream, and we enter a fairytale world filled with wolves. In her dream, her sister Alice is killed off by a wolf. Thankfully, a wolf that is, has Granny puts it, “hairy on the outside” not the inside.

In some ways, The Company of Wolves plays out like an anthology movie. Only here the framing story dominates and the short stories in between are fleeting. Following Alice’s funeral, Granny warns Rosaleen about men whose eyebrows meeting the middle (also known as a unibrow, Gran). She then tells her grandaughter a story about a woman, her two husbands and a werewolf.

As Rosaleen’s village is terrorised by wolves and werewolves, the fairytales march in and out of her dream – sometimes unannounced. As she draws closer to a sexual awakening (of sorts – actress Sarah Patterson was only a very young teenager here), hands and heads begin to fly.

It’s quite clear that The Company of Wolves was made on a budget. But I think that only adds to the fairytale ambience. It feels like we’re looking into an imaginary world, one that exists in dreams and is most definitely not real.

The special effects also impressed me. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing its werewolf transformations. For the most part, they look excellent (though fairly dated).

Now, I’m not saying this movie should be remade, but I could see A24 doing incredible things with the framework. I think a modern take could be more daring with both messaging and imagery. The film seems to be holding back at times. I think that’s due to a few things: 1) the age of the main actress and 2) censorship in British cinema at this time. Without either of those restrictions, I think this film could have really flown.

But Angela Lansbury would have to reprise her role as Granny, obviously.

The Company of Wolves is definitely the type of film you revisit. It’s filled with enough imagery and symbolism that you could take something away from it each viewing. It’s beautiful and soft yet dangerous and pretty disturbing at times.

Everything said – this movie was partially produced by Cannon, which both pleases and amuses me to no end. We love you, Cannon.

Wicked Wednesday (ok it’s Thursday, close enough): Mortuary (1983)

For the first time in years, I actually forgot to post on Wednesday. Oops?

We can probably blame two things: 1) England’s new lockdown really has messed with my perception of time. 2) My pre-order of Second Sight‘s gorgeous Dawn of the Dead set arrived in the mail. I was so excited to force my husband to watch the Romeo classic that I completely forgot all about Wednesday. 

And in my defence, this week’s movie is a touch forgettable. Well, other than that scene where Bill Paxton frolics through a cemetery. Than man could make a mark on anything. 

Mortuary follows young Christie in the aftermath of her father’s death. She’s convinced that he was bludgeoned to death, but her mother, Eve, is more convinced that he died of drowning in the pool. 

But Eve seems to be keeping something secret. One day, Christie’s boyfriend, Greg, sees her performing a strange ritual with the owner of a mortuary, Hank Andrews. When he tells Christie this, she seems even more convinced that her father’s death was not a straight-forward drowning. 

Greg and Christie become concerned when their friend Josh disappears during the ritual. Unbeknownst to them, Josh was picked off by a figure sporting a look not too dissimilar from the ritual participants’. If you’re going to get killed, at least it’s convenient that it’s in a mortuary warehouse. 

The couple begins looking into Josh’s disappearance, but strange occurrences make Christie paranoid.  One day she’s followed home by a strange car. She’s then attacked by a hooded figure that night that she’s convinced was trying to kill her. 

Christie is certain that Eve is involved in the strange happenings. But is she really? Or could the killer maybe – just maybe – be the not-so-right-in-the-head son of the mortuary owner?

I mean. Who’s to say? Certainly not at all a giveaway that the killer’s ‘mask’ is just a piece of white latex that just look like his regular face. 

Mortuary benefits greatly from a good cast. Paxton is wonderfully goofy here, clearly destined for great things. And I’d watch Lynda Day George and Christopher George in anything. The performances certainly elevate the average story to something more entertaining. 

This will certainly appeal to anyone who wants a more sophisticated slasher. It looks nice, and it certainly is worth it – just for this scene alone:

Wicked Wednesday: Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

Cannibal serial killers. Toni Basil. Demons on Alcatraz. Music by DEVO.

These are all things that, on paper, should make an excellent movie that’s right up my alley. But sometimes what is presented to you in doesn’t quite turn out like you had imagined (a bit like how this election is going).

Slaughterhouse Rock is a 1988 slasher film – at the tail end of the decade where the slasher genre was really starting to feel like well-trodden ground. The film tries its best to shake the formula up by introducing supernatural elements and an absolutely bonkers backstory.

Alex is a seemingly normal college student, only he’s haunted by nightmares of grizzly deaths on Alcatraz Island. He becomes convinced that he’s losing his mind, even more so when his friends tell him that he predicted the murders of a rock band there

As Alex’s dreams continue, they get worse in severity. They begin to blend in with the real world. He sees hands bursting through a wall on a date. His girlfriend and professor find him in a burning bed. He’s eventually convinced by his Introduction to Psychokinesis professor, Carolyn, to go to Alcatraz after his friends find him floating above his bed.

For some reason, Carolyn insists that everyone go to Alcatraz. Guess we need bodies to get up that body count.

She’s informed Alex that his dreams could be trying to tell him something. According to a manuscript by some native medicine men, a white man at the turn of the century had stolen their secrets. Driven mad, the commandant began to kill sex workers and eating them. Carolyn is convinced that the commandant’s body is somewhere on the island and his spirit haunting the place.

Soon after arriving on the island, Alex becomes separate from the rest of the group. He meets the ghost of Sammy (Basil), the lead singer of the band Bodybag, who tells him that she’s the one who accidentally freed the spirit.

As Sammy teaches Alex how to speak to spirits and, I don’t know, hover outside his body or something, the rest of his friends are being killed off. In true American Werewolf in London-style, Alex is haunted by the ghosts of his dead friends. His brother Richard was quickly possessed by the commandant’s spirit and making quick work of the group.

There are some incredibly bizarre decisions made throughout the film, sprinkled throughout to give the film its feature-length. My least favourite of the time-wasters has to be the scene where Krista (not me) is raped. She escaped (yay Kristas everywhere) using her own guile, only to be the first to be killed off anyway. AND has the most brutal death scene. I guess if you show your boobs you’re just asking for it.

Cue hard eye-roll.

The demon-brother is blown up. All is seemingly well. The ghosts of the commandant’s victims are seemingly at rest. Hooray.

This is a pretty by-the-books supernatural slasher. I enjoyed parts of it, particularly Toni Basil, the spirits, the commandant’s backstory and the make-up effects on the demon. But ultimately, it was just a bit boring. I really hated the treatment of Krista’s character. Not just because this is the first time I’ve ever seen a character with my name, but because she actually had some spunk. Just a dated way of handling women, I guess. But that never justifies anything.

And I will not hear a bad word about Toni Basil. The woman is a legend. She’s easily the most fun person to watch and her ghostly spirit adds a fun sprinkle of camp. Her costumes are incredible.

Honestly, I was expecting a bit more “rock” in my Slaughterhouse Rock. It’s a missed opportunity to only show Toni dancing once and with no performance scenes! WHERE ARE MY GHOST CONCERT SCENES AT? A true case where the film had the ability to take its unique plotline to 11 but stopped short at a meek 5.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! The night might not the way we wanted but here we are. I’m simultaneously watching Grady Hendrix talk about Dracula’s penis on the Shudder Fest Live Stream and learning about England’s new lockdown from the PM’s announcement.

What a life, eh?

Despite the fact that this October was one of the worst I ever had, I still managed to watch some great movies, listen to some incredible people and read good books. As ever, everything might seem dark, but you have to appreciate the light where you can find it.

First of all, thank God for Shudder. All day we’ve had various panels to stream: from horror icons to a discussion on the future of Black horror to (of course) discussions on vampire books from Hendrix himself. While we can’t party, at least it’s nice to feel connected with fellow fans online.

Being a horror fan is the best. Following the new format of their August festival, Arrow Video FrightFest: October Digital Edition was entirely online this year. Just live streaming The Stylist on Sunday morning made me feel like I was hanging out with other fans again. Sure I was in my sunny living room, not a dark cinema, but we can only pretend.

I watched Jill Gevargizian’s short film back in 2017 and was completely in love with the entire thing. It’s easily my favourite horror short. It’s the perfect bite-sized bit of terror. The movie expands on the life of stylist/serial killer Claire (played by Najarra Townsend, who reprises the role). We get to know more about her inner life and her motives. She’s a dark and twisted woman. It’s both difficult to watch and impossible to look away.

The movie was so gorgeous, and it was great to see Kansas City as the setting. I can’t wait to see more from Gevargizian. More local horror from local authors!

One of the best books I read this month was John Boden’s Walk the Darkness Down, a Western horror. The characters are all twisted and the enemy is one of the most disgusting I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about.

On the nonfiction side of things, both Leila Taylor’s Darkly: Blackness and America’s Gothic Soul and John Bloom’s (aka Joe Bob Briggs)  Evidence of Love were both obsessive reads but for very different reasons.

Taylor’s book looks at the goth subculture through the lens of a Black American woman. She looks at everything from Siouxsie Sioux’s questionable cover of “Strange Fruit” to the ‘haunted’ houses of derelict Detroit. She writes so conversationally that her memoir blends in seamlessly with her critiques of culture. Listen to this one in audiobook form.

Evidence of Love was just an endlessly entertaining bit of true-crime fiction. This is one best gone into blind, but coming full circle – it’s thanks to Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires that I learned about this book.

I hope you’ve all had a good October. I hope it was filled with plenty of good spooky things. I ate a gingerbread mummy and played about two and a half hours of Animal Crossing just to trick-or-treat with my ‘friends’. Now I’ll be indulging in whatever horror movie I want because that’s at least one thing I can control.

Happy Halloween!

Wicked Wednesday: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

I’m not quite sure why Trick ‘r Treat passed me by for so long. The movie came out on DVD in 2009 – the year I had first gone to college. My friends and I were obsessed with the local movie rental place in the fancy area of Milwaukee.

So something like this should have been right up our alley. And yet, here I am over a decade finally playing catch-up.

There are probably two reasons I’ve avoided it for so long:

  1. I get this movie confused with Satan’s Little Helper way more than I should.
  2. Movies this lauded always intimidate me because there’s always a pressure to “like” something that everyone else in the community does.

But I was in the mood for something that just bled Halloween spirit. It finally felt like the right time to watch the iconic Trick ‘r Treat that dons everyone’s favourite Halloween movie lists.

And…

Well…

I thought it was ok?

I’m starting to think I might be delusional. Between this and my enjoyment of Book of Shadows, I’m starting to feel like a contrarian even when I don’t want to be.

Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology movie of sorts. Several different stories are woven together over the course of Halloween night. We have a group of terrible teens, a couple of creepy men, and a group of girls out on the prowl for men.

The one image linking them all is the presence of Sam, a small kid-like figure that keeps an eye on everyone. He watches over the town, making sure everyone follows the traditions of Halloween. Those who stray from tradition or ignore the Halloween spirit soon find themselves to meet a gruesome demise.

I struggled the most with the aesthetics of the movie. I love a visually-appealing film, and most movies in this era just aren’t my jam. That’s totally a personal choice. I’m sure most people will love it. If I don’t like a film visually, I tend to check out more easily. That being said, I do love the shots of all the jack-o’-lanterns. So eerie and beautiful.

The pacing was overall pretty snappy until the final scene where Sam fights a grumpy old man. The scene seemed to be twice as long as the rest of the movie. I was so bored by the ‘fight scene’ that I got up, looked for a snack, made a snack because there were no ready-to-grab snacks, and came back to find that the scene was still going on!

I think I’m pretty distracted by my own disappointment that I didn’t love this movie. There were a number of things I really liked about it. The twist in the sort of the women and the serial killer was fun. Though again, I struggled with the pacing. The reveal was revealed, then just kept hitting you over the head with its reveal.

But I’m still confused as to why people love this Halloween movie so much. It’s universally acclaimed. Am I too late to the game that I’ve missed out on the nostalgia? Can you be nostalgic for a movie that’s barely a decade old?

I’d be willing to give Trick ‘r Treat another try in a few years. I loved director Michael Dougherty’s Krampus when I watched it, and I feel like the two have quite a lot in common. Perhaps my anxiety levels are too high to really sit back and laugh at anything. Without a sense of humour, movies like this are impossible to like.

Wicked Wednesday: Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters (1972)

60s and 70s kitsch horror really gets something really right. Decades later, most of it is still watchable. From The Munsters to Scooby-Doo – all of these shows have a lasting style, an flair that makes it still attractive.

Mad Monster Party? left a lasting impression on me when I watched it three (!) years ago. The music, the puppets, the design. It was all a treat for the eyes. So I was intrigued to learn that a TV movie prequel of sorts existed called Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters. Another Rankin/Bass holiday production, but done in a traditional animated style unlike the stop motion of Party. It’s also lacking a great soundtrack which greatly counts against it!

Baron Henry von Frankenstein makes a bride for his monster, which of course means its time to plan the wedding. Only Frankenstein’s assistant, Igor, becomes jealous. But poor Igor is dragged along during every step of the planning stage.

Soon guests start arriving at the hotel for the wedding. The Invisible Family, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy – the gang is all here. The wedding guests begin mixing with the ‘regular’ hotel guests for the laughs of the audience. Meanwhile, Igor is still trying his best to stop the wedding. Though all his best efforts continue to be thwarted.

At dinner one night, the future bride is finally unveiled. She immediately causes all the men in the party to fight over her. As the men fight, Frankenstein asks Igor to watch over the bride and keep her safe before the wedding.

Nothing goes quite so smoothly for Igor as he tries to get the bride to safety. While trying to cross a lava pit, the two are attacked by a pterodactyl (because of course). But she’s eventually taken by a large yeti-like creature called Manzoola.

The wedding party and guests all set out to save the bride-to-be. And she is swiftly saved without an ounce of drama (unless you count a very cross wife of a yeti thing). After all the drama, the wedding is allowed to continue with the usual amount of pre-wedding jitters and hiccups.

While not the most Halloween of storylines, this is actually a pretty cute monster flick for the little ones. The character design is great, and nothing gets too terrifying. Though cute, it is very padded. There are very long sequences of repetitive silliness (that never-ending postal delivery scene – ugh). It hinders the movie from being perfect, but it’s still enjoyable retro fair. Great background for while you’re putting up Halloween decorations. Though I’d be disappointed if you haven’t already done so.

More than anything, though, this little TV movie reminded me I’m due a Mad Monster Party? rewatch.

Wicked Wednesday: Sabrina the Teenage Witch S3E6 “Good Will Haunting”

Well, look who didn’t make it to America? Such is the year of our Lord 2020. So (in what seems to be this year’s theme), I really needed something quick and fun to watch amidst all the general panicking I’ve been doing.

And if anything can put a strained smile on your face, it’s Nick Bakay’s Salem, who has a delightful little opening segment in Sabrina the Teenage Witch‘s Halloween episode from the third season.

Like the year before, Valerie makes Sabrina’s plans for her. She invites herself, Justine and Harvey over to Sabrina’s house for a Halloween movie night in. Though there’s just one problem: Sabrina is already set to go to with her aunts to a party no one wants to go to. One hosted by an aunt that neither Sabrina nor the other aunts have ever met.

When she does manage to get out of it, Aunt Beulah sends Sabrina a creepy doll as a gift.

Soon after, the friends arrive at Sabrina’s with movies (The Bridges of Madison County – all that was left) for a night in. But soon Sabrina finds herself haunted by the talking doll, called Molly Dolly. The doll begins causing mischief. No one can open the doors. Frankenstein’s monster and a mummy appear to chase them.

Meanwhile, Hilda and Zelda attend Aunt Beulah’s party. Despite their best attempts to get out, they find themselves stuck in the insane asylum where the party is being held. They have to do their best to fend off the cast of colourful patients at the party.

Eventually, their brains are swapped with chickens, and it’s brilliant.

The day is saved, and it’s all played off as a prank. And once again, all is well and whacky in Sabrina’s world. The episode is full of 90s sweetness and fun. The peril is silly and certain to be over by the end of the episode.

Watching old shows is always nostalgic. But in a year where we can’t go out and party ourselves, it’s so soothing to watch fictional people getting into high jinks. Thanks for all the vicarious living, TV!

Wicked Wednesday: The Visit (2015)

My poor, suffering husband. With my impending five-week trip to America, I’m running out of spare time. So he accepted to watch this week’s film with me. Because he was so generous, I let him choose what to watch.

He doesn’t really like horror movies. At this point, he’ll tolerate gialli and like things that are tinged with sci-fi. Things like Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatcher (both versions, but mostly 1978’s), and The Fly. And randomly, It Follows. Basically, nothing that is indulgently gory or directed by Eli Roth.

As always, it took forever to pick something. We’re much better at talking about what we want to watch thank actually watching anything. For about four days, we planned to watch Ringu. But we changed our minds last minute and randomly selected The Visit. It was, after all, the film that saw M. Night Shyamalan’s return to form.

We, like a couple of idiots, both admitted over the opening scenes that we didn’t care for Shyamalan’s other work. That’s not to say that he’s a bad director, but he clearly wasn’t to either of our tastes.

Yes, this was all very silly.

The Visit is one of those weird found footage movies that didn’t need to be found footage. The reasoning as to why we have cameras is pretty weak. Two children, one an aspiring filmmaker, are going to visit their grandparents they never met. To commemorate the week together, they decide to document everything. How these young children got such nice cameras is beyond me. But they have them, and they’re also pretty good at getting nice angles.

When brother and sister Tyler and Becca arrive at their grandparents’ farm, things are seemingly off to a great start. Though it isn’t long before everything gets odd. Their Nana and Pop Pop insist that the children stay in their bedroom after 9:30. On the children’s first night at the farm, Becca breaks the curfew to get a snack and spies Nana projectile vomiting everywhere.

And things get increasingly bizarre from there. Things are clearly not alright with Nana and Pop Pop. The children become more and more unsettled, but they blow it off as eccentricities of the elderly. Their mother, who is away on a cruise, seems to agree and is generally unsuspicious.

But when the children’s laptop camera is ruined by Nana’s stove cleaner, their mother can no longer see them.

Becca becomes bolder as the week goes along. She begins to investigate why her mother left home years earlier and never returned home. Each time she interviews Nana about the incident, the old woman becomes dramatically upset and refuses to talk about it.

As the final day with the grandparents draw nears, the children must face the reality of what is going on head-on.

The final twist can be guessed from a mile away, but it is still fun to watch nevertheless.

Unfortunately, and this is a twist you will see coming, neither my husband nor I liked this movie. At all. It felt very long and at times, very unpleasant to watch. There are some excellent moments in this, though. The actors who played Nana and Pop Pop are excellent. They’re genuinely creepy.

But I think this movie fell victim to a number of things. The build-up and creep factor were constantly interrupted with “character building”. Only, I didn’t really like either of the children so I didn’t really care about their internal monologues. There was also a lot of blank space that could have been filled with something (thinking Paranormal Activity-style).

As stated earlier, this didn’t need to be a found footage movie. The interviews broke up the suspense too much. And the reasoning for having the cameras was so weak it became distracting. Unless every child now knows how to work a camera and create excellent cinematography. I do have a lot of faith in this younger generation, but boy, who know they were so talented?

Host taught us this earlier in the year: if your feature film in under 90 minutes, it can still be a feature film. The Visit did not need to be as long as it was. There wasn’t enough happening to fill that time, making the movie feel very long and slow. Good found footage movies rely very heavily on the building of suspense. Unfortunately, this movie became a series of weird incidents with very little plot. If the children could have investigated the mysterious happenings in a different local, I think it would have been more satisfying.

We have only ourselves to blame. When you pick out a movie by a director that you don’t usually care for, chances are you aren’t going to like this movie either, idiot. So this is definitely a case of it’s us, not Shyamalan.

Wicked Wednesday: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

My “to watch” list of movies always gets longer and never shorter. And there are some movies that sit there for years as I grow increasingly nervous to watch them. It might be because there’s too much hype around it or I’m afraid I’ll like it too much. (Yes this is a genuine fear I have.)

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is a movie I have both wanted to watch but avoided for years. This movie has a Reputation for being awful. But it finally came to a point where I was so intrigued by the mystery that I clicked play before I could stop myself.

And what unfolded before me was…surprisingly just ok?

Unlike most horror series, Book of Shadows takes a vastly different approach than the first installment. While the original is an icon of the found-footage subgenre, Book of Shadows returns to a more commercial, standard style. Though it does open with a variety of footage at the beginning showing the hype following the success of the first film.

Book of Shadows is a study into the blurring of fiction and reality. Obsessed with the debate around it is the group of kids this film follows. Some are ardent that it is mass hysteria. Others believe that the mystery must be founded in some sort of truth.

The group take a Witch Hunt Tour led by former psych-patient and Blair Witch-obsessive Jeff. He tells them that they will be camping at the ruins of Rustin Parr’s house, where children were murdered decades earlier.

They set up their cameras and soon get to partying. Though they’re soon interrupted by a rival tour group, who are quickly sent packing to Coffin Rock.

That morning, the group wake up without having any memories of most of the night. They discover that Jeff’s cameras are ruined and Tristen and Stephen’s work for their book is torn to unsalvageble scraps. When Jeff finds his footage in the hole where Heather’s was the year before, Tristen has a miscarriage.

The group pack up after a hospital visit and head to Jeff’s. Once there, the group realise they might be descending into madness. As bits of the night are remembered and the found footage is reviewed, the group become increasingly disconscerted.

As things get more intense, the group become more accusatory and aggressive towards each other. But is it the Blair Witch? Is it mass hysteria? Or is it something else entirely?

When the credits began to roll, I felt genuinely confused and worried that I had also gone crazy. This movie is hated in the horror community and the film world at large. But why?

There are genuinely great moments here. Certainly enough to warrant a watch. Yes, it slowly declines into a slow, boring mush but good god, have I watched worse. A lot worse. Call it whatever you want, but there are movies with a lot less style and vision that have a significantly higher acceptance among both viewers and critics.

I had to frantically search articles about the movie. Was it possible that my tastes were so off? Thankfully, I found a number of articles from the likes of Bloody Disguisting and Dread Central re-evaluating the movie decades following its release. Maybe we can all start a support group.

Like it’s predecessor, Book of Shadows had a lot happening behind the scenes. Only this time, it wasn’t a positive creative force and brilliant marketing. Director Joe Berlinger had a lot of studio interference with this movie. There was pressure after the success of the first film to make this another hit. Apparently, the studio wanted a more straight-forward film instead of Berlinger’s vision of a “descent into madness”.

There’s a supposedly a huge demand for a Berlinger Cut of the film. I’d gladly watch it if it ever was released. There are so many nuggets of interesting bits here, it would be great to explore it again.

I honestly think Book of Shadows is going to get Season of the Witch treatment in the coming years. We can already see it in the articles I linked above. If both films had been standalones, I highly doubt either would have ever received the overwhelming criticism. Neither as iconic as their originals but not nearly bad enough to be as hated as they are.

Now I’ve also heard whisperings that the third film, Blair Witch (2016) is not as bad as everyone says. Count me in. I’m in the mood to be forgiving some sins.