Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

dir Joe Berlinger
scr Dick Beebe, Joe Berlinger
with Jeffrey Donovan, Kim Director, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner
Artisan 00/US 2 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
It was inevitable, after the profitability of The Blair Witch Project, that a sequel would appear fairly immediately. And here it is. Unsurprisingly, Book of Shadows is much more slick and accomplished than its predecessor. The first film was a dull home-movie affair notable for its bracingly original premise; this one has the humour, grisly violence and sex the original lacked. But it's not remotely scary.

It begins with the Blair Witch hype created by the original film, which unleashed a flood of tourists to tiny Burkitsville, Maryland. The story centres on one tour group, a carefully assembled collection of movie characters: the academic couple (Skyler and Turner) writing a book about the phenomenon, the cynical gothic psychic (Director), the practicing Wiccan earth mother (Leerhsen) and the mental-patient-cum-tour-guide (Donovan). They head out in a Scooby-Doo van to camp in those woods, intending to stay up all night, but in the morning there are five hours missing from their lives. As they try to piece together what happened, all sorts of freaky things happen.

Ho hum. At least this has the same refusal to explain what's going on that made the original so intriguing. But it's all so frenetic and silly that it doesn't really matter. It starts promisingly enough, laughing at the original film's mania--rabid fans, souvenirs, creepy lore and so on. But this is soon put aside as the story starts taking itself ludicrously seriously, the acting gets unbelievably lame and the plot just meanders lazily somewhere between a student slasher movie and a haunted house flick. As a result it's probably the least scary horror film since ... well, there have been too many unscary horror films lately, haven't there? And for the record, there's no mention at all of a Book of Shadows. You probably need to visit the website (and buy a T-shirt) to find out what that means.

[18--strong adult themes and situations, violence, language] 26.Oct.00
UK & US release 27.Oct.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall