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.