Book of Shadows : Blair Witch 2 Review

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A year on from the original, five young people venture into the Black Hills to further explore the legend and visit the sites made famous by the film. Led by Jeff Patterson and helped along by beer and dope, things soon get out of hand.


While it would be difficult to match the media mayhem that surrounded the release of The Blair Witch Project (1999), it's fair to say that Book Of Shadows is one of the more eagerly awaited sequels for some time.

As co-writer/director Berlinger has acknowledged, satisfying both fans and critics of the original was never going to be easy, not least since the production had to be squeezed into an extremely tight schedule to meet the simultaneous US/UK Halloween release date. Sadly, that Blair Witch 2 is something of a rush job is all too evident in the resulting film.

Eschewing the "shakycam" technique that nauseated so many cinemagoers first time around, Berlinger has wisely chosen to go his own way, fusing genuine TV footage with documentary-style interviews and more "conventional" techniques. The first 20 minutes are very strong, developing the is-it-real-or-is-it-pretend? theme of the first film by recapping on the furore surrounding TBWP in a montage of real clips and interviews with so-called Burkittsville locals, the sequence shot through with a dry humour that niftily pokes fun at the phenomenon. So far so good.

The director maintains the pace as he slips into the main plot of the film - and fans of gore who felt let down by the original can rest assured that the blood and guts quotient is suitably high. In look it's all very slick, and Berlinger at times evokes the haunting beauty of Sanchez and Myrick's original film, bleaching most of the colour from the film to sinister effect.

What lets it all down is a deeply confused plot and an, at times, embarrassingly cheesy script. Once the group have decamped to Jeff's spooky warehouse lair it's as if the writers feel the need to increasingly rely on schlock tactics and lame surprises to liven up an increasingly dull story. Interesting themes are touched upon - collective illusion, group hysteria and society's persecution of the loner - but they are not developed, Berlinger instead opting for a hackneyed possession sub-plot, and a series of clumsy non-sequiters that suggests the witch can change what's been filmed (yes, you get to see the witch this time), but never really explains what her motivation might be.

The whole enterprise starts to feel amateurish, finally grinding to an abrupt conclusion, as if the filmmakers themselves have run out of ideas and enthusiasm. But while the actors gamely give it their all, it is disappointing that a film with so much potential has apparently been sacrificed to the demands of the marketing department.

Lacking the edgy claustrophobia of the first film, this is below average formulaic horror laced with a few flashes of visual brilliance. Devotees of the original will be sorely disappointed.