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Movie Review

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, sexuality and drug use

Reviewed by: Curtis D. Smith
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Horror
Length:
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
October 27, 2000
Relevant Issues
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

What is the occult?

What does the bible say about the occult?

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?

Questions and answers about Hell

Questions and answers about Jesus

Questions and answers about the Bible

Featuring: Tristan Skylar, Stephen Barker Turner, Jeffrey Donovan, Kim Director, Erica Leerhsen
Director: Joe Berlinger
Producer: Bill Carraro, Daniel Myrick
Distributor: Artisan Entertainment

Prequel: “The Blair Witch Project

Sequel: “Blair Witch” (2016)

Art and money are the two principal driving forces in Hollywood, and more often than not money wins out. And rarely do the two mingle.

Kim Director and Erica Leerhsen in “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2”

Case in point: “The Blair Witch Project” was a mediocre art until a few marketing gurus at Artisan studios saw dollar signs with the potential for one of the biggest mass snow jobs since Orson Welles’ radio rendition of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” The 1938 radio broadcast convinced thousands that Earth was actually being invaded my aliens.

Likewise, thousands of movie-going chumps in 1999 were bamboozled into thinking that the original Blair Witch footage was real. Reports of people passing out, vomiting and fainting in theater aisles ran rampant as moviegoers turned out in droves to see the shaky camera twaddle that had little or no purpose beyond profit and marketing.

It was a huge payoff for Artisan which turned a 140 percent (and counting) profit on the film that was made for between $30,000 and $70,000 (depending on which article you happen to read). To date it has grossed at least $140 million after it was purchased for $1 million at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

Erica Leerhsen, Stephen Barker Turner, Tristen Skyler, and Jeffrey Donovan in “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” That success got the Artisan executives all fired up about doing a hasty sequel to cash in even more, but “Blair Witch” creators Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez wanted to go slow and do a more pensive follow-up. However, Artisan would have none of it and—after tossing the two a bone with an executive-producing credit—went ahead with the “Book of Shadows” sequel anyway.

They hired a team of screenwriters, documentary director Joe Berlinger (“Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” and “Brother’s Keeper”) to give the film an “authentic” feel and then found five unknown actors to supposedly further the story’s authenticity. The result is basically an overwritten, overtly violent, pointlessly disturbing and badly acted R-rated version of the Fox TV show “Freakylinks” which just happens to be the brainchild of the Blair Witch creators.

Disjointed from the beginning, “Book of Shadows” gets even more convoluted and inexplicable as the plot unfolds and it finally deteriorates into a stomach-churning grossfest of objectionable images and disingenuous scares. There is no literal Book of Shadows in the film—and it’s never said why the film was given that name—and (as in the first film) there is still no Blair Witch either, just an invisible, ambiguous force that wanders around wreaking havoc.

The story follows five thrill seekers—the guide (Jeffrey Donovan), a cagey Wiccan (Erica Leerhsen), a psychic Goth (Kim Director) and a pair of research writers (Stephen Barker-Turner and Tristen Skylar)—all in their 20s who decide to camp in the Maryland Black Forest near the ruins of the Rustin Parr cabin. Parr, according to legend outlined in the first film, murdered seven children under the authority of the Blair Witch. Once at the ruins of the cabin the party has a run-in with five other tourists who want to camp at the site and, narrowly avoiding a physical altercation, become convinced that Coffin Rock is the better place to camp. Afterward, the group begins partying with drugs and alcohol until a sudden inexplicable occurrence has them coming to amid fluttering paper (a shredded research piece that was brought along) and mangled camera gear set the night prior to record the goings on.

Turns out the group cannot remember about five hours of the night and rush back to the guide’s house in Burkittsville to piece it all together with the remaining video recordings. But the nightmare has just begun as the group starts experiencing terrifying hallucinations and visions that cross over into reality.

Before long the local authorities are questioning them as suspects in the murder of the five other tourists who were mysteriously killed Blair Witch style the night before at Coffin Rock.

While the roundabout approach to the story is clever (by telling it from beginning to end to middle and back to end again), “Book of Shadows” on its basic level never gets beyond the disjoined plot contrivances.

For example, several sequences featuring the lead actor in an insane asylum have nothing to do with the story. Other scenes include a recurring vision of an undead girl and a group of seven undead children, and while the group of seven children are symbolic of Parr’s murders the image of the solitary girl goes unexplained. Numerous other apparitions, apparently designed for spookiness rather than story support, take place with little or no clarification.

But it’s the film’s repugnant imagery and overall wickedness that is most deplorable. The explanation for the Coffin Rock “copy cat” murders is detailed in sickening specificity over and over leaving little to the imagination. And several visions of violence and dark spirituality, experienced by the campers after the murders, offers little in the way of acceptable entertainment.

There’s so much evil in this film that it’s not even worth detailing it all or citing Bible verses that explain why it is so horrific. The film’s profanity, nudity, brutality and scariness alone earn it an R rating, but how it avoided an NC-17 label is a mystery. Suffice to say “Book of Shadows” contains virtually no morally redeemable content and it is a complete waste of time, resources, money and celluloid. If that’s not enough to warn you away, Marilyn Manson heads up the soundtrack. I rest my case.

Editor’s Note: “Book of Shadows” contains nearly 100 instances of profanity and about 2 dozen exclamations taking the Lord’s name in vain. Several instances of nudity and sexual situations (near full female frontal nudity, rear nudity) and abuse of alcohol and drugs (pot) is also present.

Viewer Comments
Absolute garbage. Blair Witch 2 is an insult to the first film which was a clever movie that preyed on fears such as being lost and not knowing what’s after you. While the first Blair Witch never showed what was after the filmmakers it gaves us enough to form theories and was brilliantly shot and acted. Blair Witch 2 is a standard horror movie that tries for a clever concept and fails miserably. The film has an entertaining first five minutes with convincing performances of townspeople talking about how the first film affected their town, a few good sky shots of the woods, and a few decent creepy moments. But all this adds up to 15 minutes of entertainment value in a 90 minute film. The acting ranges from so-so to terrible with characters going from calm to hysterical in a matter of seconds. The characters are all unlikable especially the sheriff who is played simply as the typical overacted mean redneck.

Erica’s preachy dialogue seems shoehorned in by the Wiccan-Anti-defimation league and then shifts gears to being a possible evil force. Too many questions are never answered. Why isn’t the store clerk’s murder mentioned in the news report? Why does Erica say the Blair Witch isn’t evil when she has committed all those murders? Why is the first Blair Witch blamed for the murders at Coffin Rock when the first Blair Witch was inspired by REAL-LIFE murders? Why was the tour guide in a mental hospital when he was a kid? What’s going on? Drug induced blackouts? Hallucinations? Demonic Possession? Black Magic? Why do the townfolk start off normal then act like typical horror movie weirdos? What Book of Shadows, there is no book in the movie so why is it in the title? These are just some of the questions that this movie puts forth and doesn’t answer. Sick violence that is unnecessary and would have been just as strong if it was talked about rather than shown. Sleazy nudity and profanity. Tiresome witchcraft references and black magic rituals. One of the worst movies of the year. My Ratings: [1/1½]
—Andrew, age 24
…In BW2, there is almost full frontal nudity a few times, rear nudity a few others, and quickly flashed sex scenes and depravity… —Mark Wagie, age 23
When I saw Blair Witch 2 I noticed that the bands POD and Project 86 were in the movie’s music line-up. It’s weird because these two bands are Christian! I was blown away when I later found out that Marilyn Manson picked the bands to be in the movie. I don’t know what’s up with that, or the significance of it, but it’s been on my mind for the last week or so… If anybody else has any info on POD [song “Lie Down”] and Project 86 [song “Ps”] in relation to the Blair Witch/Marilyn Manson I’d like to hear from you. This is just plain weird to me. My Ratings: [1½/1]
—(M)att, age 19
This is in answer to Matts question about P.O.D appearing on the soundtrack of this movie that is NOT Christian. I recently went to P.O.D’s concert and I was wondering why they played in the same show as others bands that hated Jesus. I was offened that they could be so hypocritical. I was hoping I would have the chance to ask them why they did this. Well, that came true, after the show I went around back and met them. My friends and I went on their tour bus and watched their music video that wasn’t out yet. When we asked them why they played in shows such as the one we attended that had a girl on stage flashing and a band hating Jesus… they said this… They said that people like us Christians are already saved. They are reaching out to people, to kids that wouldn’t hear this any other place, and even if they would they would run at the first hint of the thought of Jesus. They are reaching out to the unsaved. Not those who don’t need it. It can be very controversial, but I think its a good way to get Marlyn Manson fans to listen to Christian music, like it, respect it, then relize that they mean God when they say Jah, and these awesome guys love Jesus. I think its a good idea what they are doing. P.O.D is also a bunch of really nice guys. They were the only band that came outside after and talked with everyone. They enjoyed talking so much that it was my idea to go. So, guys, stay strong in Christ and ALWAYS remember… You are Representing Jesus in everything you do. My Ratings: [1/3]
—Shawna S (Nausetccod), age 18
P.O.D. and Project 86 are doing what all christians should be. Going to where God is most needed to spread his love. So lets not condemn them… lets support them. In answer to what the songs are about… I know P.S. by Project 86 is about the horrible addiction of Pornography. A very straight forward, well written song. As for Lie Down by P.O.D. I’m not sure. But please support these bands while they are in some very tough areas, and in persecution. Lets not let the persecution be coming from their fellow christian brothers and sisters in Christ.
—Jon Pomp, age 16
POD aren’t hypocrites. Yes, they play with bands that don’t like Jesus. But they do it to get HIS message across. So what if Marilyn Manson picked them to be on the soundtrack, maybe he likes their style. Did Jesus always go where he was welcomed? No, he went to places where they didn’t want him. That’s what POD does; they try and give people his message. THINK ABOUT that before you call someone a hypocrite.
—Sean, age 15
The Blair Witch 2 is definitely the creation of producers being handed bags of money, even they won’t deny this. However, the fact remains that they did their best not to make the film a complete waste of the viewers money… and it deals with a lot of disturbing issues that those of weak heart and analytical mind might not get. I disgaree with those who say the movie glorifies evil, quite the opposite. This movie takes a note that is a wakeup call to those who live in ignorance of evil. Unlike the old “lovey dovey whitebread” folks who get butchered for having sex or whatever the slasher films excuse for it is… the people here are at the Core not horrible, but generally disillusioned people who are looking for something meaningful in their lives. They don’t have God certainly, but they don’t have much greatly as. The girl while a preaching Wiccan seems at first to have only vague understanding of her own spirituality (disagree if you will) she seems to have done it more for rebellion against a father she isn’t close to. The “Goth girl” is dillusioned with life and the two bickering grad students are trying to find something in their theories while the troops leader is hoping to make money. None of them are idealistic though, they’re just normal people fluttering through life with no direction or real creed… it doesn’t make them bad either… it makes them really the majority I think. The Blair Witch though is mind numbing soulless evil however. Call her a ghost, call her a demon that has taken advantage of people curious about real belief and suffering, call her a manifestation of the people entering the darkness of the human spirit while not having light behind them. The result is absolutely chilling in the ramifications. It’s a horror movie though that deals with the utter manifestation of depravity in its purest form (I note the irony of the statement) and it is designed to not comfort, but chill. Perhaps it will motivate people to examine their own lives. —Charles Phipps, age 19
This movie wasn’t good, even from a horror standpoint. Don’t waste your money or time seeing this film. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Ryan, age 18
The reason why this movie got an R rating instead of an NC-17 rating is because the MPAA exists for the big studios. Larger studios will always be given kinder ratings than smaller studios. This movie is just another example of the MPAA’s double standards. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Josh Johnson, age 20
I saw the first movie—but I would never go to see this one. It deals WAY too much with the occult and glorifies evil. One of the girls in the movie is a Wiccan (a sect of witchcraft) seeking to “clear the name” of the Blair Witch. And for those that don’t know, a Book of Shadows is a Wiccan book that they use to write all their spells and incantations in. Add this to all the profanity and nudity, and I think that this movie will give Satan an excellent foothold. —Nicky Leon, age 17