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Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

The original Blair Witch Project was a sensation, both a triumph of marketing and a redefinition of the horror genre. It was a unique film, the classic example of the little film that could (some say the most successful independent film ever). So what was the plan for the sequel? How about "let's take away everything original about the first and add in every formula and convention present in horror movies." The results are mixed. Book of Shadows is interchangeable with most other horror films sitting on the shelf at the local Blockbuster, with only its association to the original lifting it above complete mediocrity. Again, the line between reality and fiction blurs, but this time it is not as evident. The actors use their actual first names. In a nice twist, many of the principals are fans of the movie. However, this time, the blood and violence is on the screen for all to see.

One of the unique things about The Blair Witch Project was its reliance on the imagination of the viewer. Creators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (who serve as producers here) intricately crafted a rich history surrounding the town of Burkittsville, Maryland. In the meantime, Blair Witch related material is appearing in novels, comic books, and video games. They showed little on screen, letting each person take away something unique. The same detail and history (of people like Rustin Parr and Elly Kedward) appears here. Many of people were terrified. Lots of others thought the entire movie was stupid. Book of Shadows starts off promising. Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan, Bait) is leading four tourists on a tour of the woods where The Blair Witch Project occurred. This is the first non-documentary for director Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost). Berlinger, together with Dick Beebe (House on Haunted Hill, The Net), wrote the story. Initially, it is about the line between fact and fiction. Tristen (Tristen Skylar, Getting to Know You) and boyfriend Stephen (Stephen Baker Turner) are writing a book about the Blair Witch phenomenon, each one taking a side on whether it was real or not.

The final members of the tour are Kim (Kim Director, Bamboozled, Summer of Sam) and Erica (Erica Leerhsen). Kim is partially psychic and a goth girl, complete with all black clothes, white makeup, and heavy black eyeliner. Erica believes in Wicca, and believes that the Blair Witch Project set back her movement three hundred years. The group accompanies Jeff to the remains of Parr's house (where authorities found the tapes from the original movie). One of Jeff's goals is to document any sort of paranormal activity in the area, so he sets up a number of cameras. The five spend the night getting drunk and smoking pot, and wake up in the morning with no memory of the past five hours. There is torn paper falling all over the place, and all of Jeff's cameras are smashed. The five return to Jeff's house (an abandoned factory of course) to analyze the tapes, which were underneath the house.

Once in the house, the movie begins a slow descent into typical horror movie theatrics. Something is happening to them, and no one knows what. Berlinger frequently and unsuccessfully uses quick flash-forwards. They show the kids interrogated by the local sheriff and numerous scenes of knives stabbing bodies. Everything does fit into place by the end of the movie, but these quick cuts serve only to remove any sense of tension created. Strange things then begin appearing on the tapes. Book of Shadows then movies into familiar territory. As odd things occur, the five become increasingly paranoid and suspicious of each other. Because of the success of the original, a large amount of scrutiny is a given for Book of Shadows, but the sequel is especially disappointing since it quickly moved towards the middle, eschewing any sense of originality. Also, don't be surprised when the third movie comes out. Regardless of how Book of Shadows performs at the box office, plans were already in place for a trilogy, with the last film helmed by creators Myrick and Sanchez.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, sexuality and drug use.

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