Published Nov 01, 2000To start, it seems like a really bad idea. Last year's sleeper hit, The Blair Witch Project, spawned mimicry and mockery even before it left theatres. As word of the so-called "scariest movie ever made" spread, it quickly lost its power to surprise you with its suggested, rather than explicit, spooks; more than a year later, a sequel seems particularly doomed to be nothing more than name-brand exploitation. Given that, Book of Shadows at least starts with a couple of good ideas. The first was hiring an acclaimed documentary filmmaker in the hopes of recapturing the original's jittery, off-the-cuff feel. (Original creators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez serve as exec producers, though they'll return, supposedly, to helm BW3, a prequel.) Unfortunately, director Joe Berlinger (Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost) has no experience directing actors, having never made a fictional film, and it shows. So that didn't pay off.
The second good idea is its premise: that following the massive success of the movie, the town of Burkittsville, Maryland has been swarmed by film fans like goths to a flame, while locals sell hand-made stick figures and "Blair Witch" dirt. And give tours of the woods. Thus ends anything resembling clever. One such tour features a sceptical pair of white-bread intellectuals, a Wiccan idealist, a cynical goth chick and their mentally unbalanced tour guide. After spending a debauched night of booze-fuelled silliness at the site of the gruesome murders, they wake up with no recollection of a few key hours. The various cameras capturing the event are smashed, but surprise!, the tapes are found exactly where the last footage was found. Ooh, spooky!
Somehow confused that bags of weed with a Jack Daniels chaser have caused memory loss, the whole group trudges off to their tour guide's abandoned factory abode, where premonitions of evil resemble cue cards held up to the audience: watch out, this rickety bridge is the only way in and out. (I hope it doesn't collapse!) They watch the tapes hoping (oh, could it be?) to find evidence of supernatural activity, while slowly turning on each other, and the unintentional comedy dips to a new low. Hilariously bad, with time there's a good chance this will join the storied ranks of classically ill-conceived fromage this is Showgirls bad.