The Blair Witch Project

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.

Wicked Wednesday: Solstice (2008)

This week’s movie taught me two things:

  1. How to spell solstice.
  2. 2000’s title graphics are the worst.

And perhaps a third: sometimes when you make one of the most influential movies of all time, it’s really difficult to make a worthy follow-up.

Solstice is the third movie from director Daniel Myrick, who was the co-director of The Blair Witch Project. Arguably one of the most ambitious independent films of all time. One of the first to really use the internet to its advantage to create a mythos bigger than “just a movie”.

So when you make something so creative, where do you go from there? Well…I guess it’s making one of the most cookie-cutter horror remakes you can.

Now I don’t dislike Solstice. Though it’s difficult to have any strong feelings about it. It’s pretty damn boring.

In some ways, the premise very similar to Midsommar (which had to have taken plenty of inspiration from the Danish Midsommer, of which Solstice is based on). A girl seeks peace following the death of her sister. Let me know why so many vaguely-pagan movies love dead sisters. Thanks.

Following the suicide of Megan’s twin sister, Sophie, the Christmas before, Megan goes to her family’s beach house for some rest. Tagging along with her is her motley group of friends – including Sophie’s former boyfriend.

It’s not easy having fun around a girl whose sister just died. And the weekend is essentially ruined by Megan’s assistance that her sister is haunting her. She keeps finding the toy bear on a keychain that Sophie died with. No matter how much she tries to get rid of it, the little bear finds its way back.

When Megan meets Nick, the boy from a local gas station, she finds a kindred spirit. The two bond over local midsummer folklore. Nick gives her a magazine on local traditions and later explains to her that midsummer is when the world of the dead is closest to the living.

As the weekend moves along, Megan becomes more tightly wound. Following a meeting with a local gent, she begins to suspect that there is more to the mystery around Sophie’s death than she originally believed.

The mystery is semi-decent. If you’re willing to sit through a few slow-moving scenes, Solstice isn’t too shabby. In some ways, it subverted all my expectations by not being a slasher. Though I think the movie could have done with a good killing. Just for a bit of spice, I guess. But this movie is certainly one thing: forgettable.

I often believe that making a movie that evokes nothing from its viewers can be the worst type of movie. If I hadn’t had The Blair Witch Project on my mind so much recently, I might not have ever taken the time to watch this. And going forward, the only thing I’ll probably remember about this one is who the director is.