Saturday, June 12

Book of Clusterfucks, or Five Ways to make Blair Witch 2 better...

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) is the literal reverse of everything that made The Blair Witch Project a success as both a horror film and an enormous box office sensation. The beauty of the original's simplicity is buried under of a mountain of Hollywood pander towards teen crowds looking for a convoluted mindfuck. Instead of snowballing tension that climatically collapses like in the 1999 film, Joe Berlinger's rushed sequel simply falls in on itself. All this despite competent acting (Burn Notice's Jeffrey Donovan as the lead) and an effective score from Cohen brothers-regular Carter Burwell.

I must personally say that my affinity for The Blair Witch Project has grow by bounds over the past couple years and that's coloring my position on its "sequel". The whole Blair Witch universe provokes vocal positive and (usually) negative reaction, but even the biggest hater has to at least have a tiny bit more respect for the original after experiencing this laborious grind. Although this mess may not totally be at Berlinger's feet. Apparently Artisan disliked the director's more ambiguous take on the feature, shot "traditional" horror exposition, and inserted the sequences into their own final cut without Berlinger's involvement. To be honest, I'm unsure what's Artisan and what's Berlinger. Book of Shadows seems fundamentally broken either way.

The most memorable thing about this outing is Artisan's DVD having the great concept of an Audio CD side with tracks from the dated soundtrack and Burwell's complete score. I guess it's a shame the bottom rotted away from the "franchise" after this, there are worse things spawned into a series, like sparkling vampires and the sexually frustrated girlies that love them. Still, it's fun to ponder what could have been (substantially) changed to result in a better Blair Witch sequel, especially when the ingredients are already in there somewhere. Some of these will work better if you've seen the flick semi-recently:
  1. Have Jeffrey (Jeffrey Donovan) really be a serial killer fresh off a stunt institutionalized ready to take a group off into the Black Hills for some bloody playtime with his own delusions. Ground this sequel in cold reality; not some dumb Hollywood hocus-pocus. This is hinted at as a possibility in the beginning, but is quickly cast off as another unimportant twist.

  2. Dump the completely idiotic hick sheriff character that keeps badgering the group pulled straight from an early '80s C-grade slasher. Maybe this was Artisan's contribution?

  3. OR make the old sheriff transform into an equally old codger taking the group out into the woods for a BW tour. That way, there could be a potentially more compelling back story with the guy. Make the guy be a fallout of the Manson Family kicked out for being to extreme back in the late sixties. Imagine the possibilities. Just get a better older actor or Bruce Campbell--might as well go all in.

  4. Replace Kim Director's Kim with a dog. If you can somehow make Ms. Director ugly while sporting goth make-up--you've performed a grave misstep.

  5. If you have the decency to convince Erica Leerhsen to expose her petite boobies, at least utilize full high definition cameras--preferably the Red Epic--in flood lighting.


Hans A. said...

I had no idea, Jayson, that the studio interfered with Berlinger's final cut. I loved the original Blair Witch and was kind of dismayed when I heard what the subject matter of the sequel was going to be about. However, with Berlinger's documentary background, the sequel definitely had the potential to be interesting. I skipped it in the theatres and have a vague memory of watching it on DVD. Still very much love the original, though. Great post, Jayson.

Jayson Kennedy said...

Yeah the sequel's basic premise has potential, but boy is it jammed with so many twists that everything becomes neither scary or surprising. At least in its current form.

Anonymous said...

Despite the critics ripping of the film, I've avoided it over the years for the very same reasons you and others have expressed. But given the sound additions to making it better that you've suggested, I feel the need to actually watch it now in order to understand your overall position. Bravo good sir, I want to watch this pronto.

Unknown said...

I had a late night showing of BW2 the night before it premiered at the theater I worked at when it first came out, and it became one of my favorite horror films. I could go on for hours about it. People didn't look deeply enough into this film, and I would agree that if they saw Berlinger's original cut, it might have enjoyed a better reception. I disagree that Kim was ugly in this film, but then again, I dig goth chicks.

Buscemi said...

I never liked these movies but anyway, who wants to bet that Sanchez and Myrick directed the reshoots? Seeing that their post-Blair Witch track record has been in more conventional horror for the DVD market, it would kind of make sense. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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