Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 – USA, 2000 – reviews

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‘You can’t go forward until you go back…’

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (also known as Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows) is a 2000 American psychological horror film directed and co-written by Joe Berlinger.

Main cast:

Jeffrey Donovan, Kim Director, Tristine Skyler and Erica Leerhsen.

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The film was immediately greenlit upon pitch due to the surprising success of its predecessor, the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project. Stylistically different from the first film, the story revolves around a group of people fascinated by the mythology surrounding The Blair Witch Project movie; they go into the Black Hills where the film was shot, and we witness their subsequent psychological unraveling.

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Originally conceived as a psychological thriller and meditation on mass hysteria, Artisan Entertainment re-cut Berlinger’s film, altering the soundtrack as well as making editing changes. The footage of the main characters murdering the foreign tourists was shot just weeks prior to the release date, and was incorporated in the film to add more visual violence.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was released to largely negative reviews from critics and audiences; it was, however, a financial success, grossing $47 million worldwide against its $15 million budget.

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Contemporary reviews:

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is a not a very lucid piece of filmmaking (and contains no Book of Shadows). I suppose it seems clear enough to Berlinger, who co-wrote it and helped edit it, but one viewing is not enough to make the material clear, and the material is not intriguing enough, alas, to inspire a second viewing.” Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com

Book of Shadows might almost be the sequel to the website; it tramples on suggestiveness, on any hint that supernatural mischief can’t be known. The real demon, the film says, is us. Actually, the only thing vaguely demonic here is the ease with which a movie as scary and original as The Blair Witch Project can be downloaded into oblivion and compressed into this week’s product.” Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

“Even when Book of Shadows isn’t patting itself on the back, it’s displaying its paucity of imagination with easy allusions to past horror flicks: The Omen, The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead. Eeesh. That tendency to cannibalize and sample from other horror flicks, made popular by the “Scream” series, is worse than dull. It’s parasitic.” Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

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Recent reviews:

“In Book of Shadows, Berlinger took his hatred of the first movie’s dishonesty and made an entire film out of it, commenting on the danger of blurring the line between fiction and reality. Had Artisan stayed out of the edit bay and let the man do his job, perhaps Book of Shadows could have been something truly special.” Brendan Morrow, Bloody Disgusting (May 2016)

“It was the Artisan reshoots that added an inexplicable framing device of sorts involving Jeff’s history in a torture-prone mental hospital. Even with this nonsense, one can see interesting ideas about possession, filmmaking, and belief littered throughout, but the narrative is overworked to the point that no concept or storyline really gains much momentum.” Chris Cabin, Collider

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Blair Witch 2 was a controversial sequel to a film that already sparked enough controversy on its own. Book of Shadows, if for nothing else, takes an interesting path for a franchise that could just have as easily turned down Straight-To-DVD-Rehash Boulevard, but it tried something a little different, putting the character in a world where The Blair Witch Project actually exists.” Jeremy Kirk, Film School Rejects

Cast and characters:

  • Kim Director as Kim Diamond
  • Jeffrey Donovan as Jeffrey Patterson
  • Erica Leerhsen as Erica Geerson
  • Tristine Skyler as Tristen Ryler
  • Stephen Barker Turner as Stephen Ryan Parker
  • Lanny Flaherty as Sheriff Ronald Cravens
  • Lauren Hulsey as Eileen Treacle
  • Raynor Scheine as Rustin Parr
  • Kennen Sisco as Peggy

Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard appear in archival footage as fictionalised versions of themselves.

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