Posted on November 16, 2011 by Steven Dawes
Available at Amazon.com
“Video never lies Kim… film does though.” – Jeffrey Patterson
Blair Witch 2 holds a special place in my black heart. No so much because of the movie itself, it happens to be the first movie my wife Lilly and I went to see together (somewhere along the lines of a 3rd of 4th date.) We were both fans of the 1st film (me more so than her), and as it was the autumn/ Halloween season so seeing a scary movie seemed like the thing to do at the time. It was incidentally the inaugural “dinner and a movie” date ritual that became a cornerstone of one of our favorite things to do together to this day. During the few times I’ve watched it since, I get a twinge of nostalgia, and did so again during this last watch for reviewing purposes. But does nostalgia a good movie make?
It’s hard to think that both BW and BW2 came out over a decade ago. I still recall the buzz the BW phenomenon created like it was yesterday. While BW drove the masses to new horizons in fear and terror, BW2 didn’t get the same kind of love. Looking back on BW2, I recall how much people hated it and bashed it up and down with lead pipes and whatever they could grab to hit it with. I remember such critiques along the lines of “It’s not a Blair Witch Project film”, “It made no sense” and “It’s not very scary”.
And to be fair, these are all valid arguments. Heather and company from the 1st film are nowhere to be seen here and the movie has nowhere near the amount of shaky camera footage to even feel Blair witchy. And I also agree that this wasn’t a very scary movie (especially when compared to the 1st one). And while I understand the notion that BW2 made no sense, I feel that this line of thought stems from my belief that people came out to see BW2 expecting it to be a direct sequel, and people were so frustrated that it wasn’t that they failed to really watch what was going down on screen.
In my opinion, BW is one of the most misunderstood flicks in horror history. It wasn’t meant to be scary, it wasn’t meant to be more of the same; it wasn’t even meant to be like a documentary. What it was meant to be was an unsettling mind job, it was meant to be play with the concepts of reality, it was meant to aim the shaky camera back at the audiences and the craze of the first film, but most of all it was meant to play with the idea of truth. A few of my horror savvy pals caught on with multiple viewing and have appreciated it since, but I was lucky enough to enjoy and relish it for what it was the first time around. I gave this movie a lot of accolades in the day, and I sailed a lonely ship doing it.
At its core, this film is a statement about our perceptions of reality. The film goes into subjects such as hysteria, a variety of observations and deductions concerning the obsession and phenomena of the first movie, thoughts about the camera fetish society the world was becoming at the time (and in an eerie way foretold how obsessed we would get with “reality” on film when you look at the schlock of reality shows we’ve been plagued with since BW2’s release), and the angle of “real life” vs. “recorded events”. The story is told in flashbacks and bits and pieces, and a series of quick shots while turning the “documentary” angle of BW on its head. This last aspect was probably where most of the audience hated it movie so much.
But to those who didn’t like it years ago and haven’t seen it since, I say you need to see it a second time. And for those who haven’t ever seen it, you should give it a go. Either way, when you do watch it, keep an open mind and an understanding that BW2 intentionally separated itself from the 1st movie. That may sound like a strange angle to take (this film sells itself as a “reenactment” of real events instead of a documentary) when the 1st one was such a unique film experience at the time and could have easily gone the route of “wash, rise, repeat” (like the Paranormal Activity franchise is doing). But I applaud the direction and angle the director and writers took with this one. I think you might appreciate them as well if given a fair chance.
And while on the surface it’s about perception and reality, there is an underlining theme that leaves you with unanswered questions. Specifically, the story behind BW2 , which could be taken as a “psychological” one where paranoia, mass hysteria, hallucinations, mental black outs, insanity and other mental conditions are to blame for the events that take place. Or could it have all been “supernatural” related? Were all of the weird events spurred on by the witch’s involvement after all? All of their weird perceptions and actions are staples of “possession” and “induced hallucinations” and other aspects common to the supernatural (which at times mirrored some of the things experienced in the 1st movie). This flicker show leaves you to draw your own conclusions, and it does so with in a very spooky fashion the more you think about it.
But while I praise this movie lots, there are issues I still have with it to this day. There are angles this movie throws at us that I still don’t get as to why they were there. Jeffrey’s trip to the nut house a year before brought nothing to the movie save for an easy plot angle for the sheriff to hate him. Erica’s lie about her parents didn’t make any sense to me either. Also note that “Book of Shadows” in the title doesn’t make any sense since there is no sighting or even a mention of said book to begin with. And while the main cast all delivered fairly solid performances, some of the lines were bad and at times doesn’t gel with the plot until you get more details later in the film (this works sometimes, but it didn’t here). Oh yeah, the guy who played the sheriff could be a contender in the “worst actor in movie history” league. Finally, I think the quick shots and revelations later on in the film went way too fast and it ruined some of the impact it should have had.
But on the whole it’s a very solid film and pulls off what it wanted to do in a very chilling manner. It’s also perfect for Halloween season viewing, now is the time to watch it. So open your mind, don’t take your peepers off of the screen (you might miss something), and let it all play out before you try to understand what took place in those woods, and what the group brought back with them.
4 out of 5 Rising Flames
Review by Steven Dawes