"Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows" Movie Review

Before I start the review proper, let me first say that I didn't like the first Blair Witch movie one bit. I sat there watching a bunch of ninnies run around scaring themselves half to death under poor lighting conditions, and on my emotional barometer the experience hit right between standing in line at the grocery store, and waiting at the bus stop.

The rest of the theater certainly didn't feel this way (in fact, halfway through the movie a fellow patron in her mid to late 20's staggered out of the theater in tears). So I can't really blame the movie just because it didn't do it for me. I put Blair Witch into the category of things that aren't really too much one way or the other. Like butterscotch pudding, or mid-size sedans.

So when it's up against standards like that, you'd think that the Blair Witch sequel would have to strike me as either much better, or much worse. And while I'll break with conventional wisdom and say that Book of Shadows is actually better than the first movie, I temper that statement by adding that it's not really THAT much better.

Parts of the movie I liked. Parts of it I didn't. Overall, it didn't rate much more than a shrug.

Fully 10% of the movie is involved with repeated flashbacks to the time the main character spent in the loony bin. All of which are every bit as trite as you'd expect - in several flashbacks, he's in an actual straightjacket, and he's actually bouncing off the walls of an honest-to-God padded room.

Furthermore, I thought the past of this character was entirely irrelevant, and as it ends up, I'm proven correct. (The only sense in which this aspect of the character is relevant is the sense in which it's lifted whole-cloth from The Last Broadcast, a movie which predates and presages Blair Witch both in the sense that it's about scary things that happen to a paranormal photography crew, and in the sense that it bored me halfway into a coma.)

I liked the first third of the movie a lot, in so far as it involved a series of meta-comments on the original movie, as well as the phenomenon of Blair Witch fandom, vis a vis the way in which people will apparently buy anything over the internet. All of which had a lovely satirical Roger and Me kind of feel, without actually furthering the story of the movie a whit.

You probably know this part already, but basically what happens is a guy and his Goth friend lead a tour group composed of two "scholars" and a twitty little Wiccan girl on a Blair Witch tour based on the original movie. Which is to say, the ruins of the old house. Which is to say, they sit around a campfire and get stinking drunk. Then they lose a few hours, freak out, and run back to the guy's house, which is actually a cavernous 18th century broom factory filled with yard sale furniture and Blair Witch merchandise which the tour guide has been selling on eBay.

The middle portion of the movie is spent wandering around the creepy old factory house with the characters all wondering what the heck happened last night. This part effectively creeped me out on several occasions, and special mention must be given to the person or persons in charge of lighting the set, who made everything look creepy without wimping out and making everything look just plain dark.

The final third is pretty standard who's-going-to-get-it-next, with very strong is-this-really-happening overtones, and a dead owl thrown in for good measure.

After the movie is over, a tutorial appears which flashes a series of letters in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, and you are instructed to wait until the end of the mini-documentary, then rewind the tape and write down all the letters in sequence. When parsed correctly, the letters are supposed to give you clues to spooky things that you can find hidden in the movie.

To save you the trouble of juggling a pen and your remote control, the letters actually spell out:

D-R-I-N-K Y-O-U-R O-V-A-L-T-I-N-E

Just kidding. (I can't take credit for that joke. That was Robert's.)

The letters actually spell out "door rug grave mirror water" so naturally we had to watch the entire movie in rewind looking for the hidden messages and spooky things, except I kept forgetting what was on the list, so I'd point at the screen and say "Wait! Go back! THERE'S a book! Right there in the drawer!" And then my friends would sigh and hand me the list again, and I'd read the list and apologize, and five minutes later I'd get all excited and point out a lamp in the background.

This cute little find-the-hidden-message gimmick was, in the end, quite tedious all around, and really not worth the trouble. Nevertheless, it's nice to see people try new things. Maybe next year we can watch Blair Witch 3 and look for Waldo.

Summary: Better than butterscotch pudding, but not as good as chocolate fudge pudding.

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