It’s Halloween time again, and after last year’s week was a mix of psychological as well as bloody horror, both The Blair Witch Project and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are the perfect way to start this frightfest. Note: Anyone looking for 2016’s Blair Witch should check out the Amazon Prime Video watchlist: June 2018 where it was reviewed.
The Blair Witch Project
(USA 1999, directors: Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sánchez)
Three film students make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend, but they find themselves lost in the Maryland forest where something or someone seems to haunt them.
Low budget horror movies don’t come any cheaper than this effort that triggered a series of found footage imitators back in the 90ies. Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean more effective, as there isn’t much happening during the 80 minutes runtime that soon feels like an eternity. What starts as an interesting investigation with interviews by local townfolks soon turns into a series of angry shouting and whining, not only because the group becomes lost in the woods without a map, but because the script is gone as well.
While the cast is believable and the dialogues natural, there’s only so much one can do in a setting where make-believe is the only way to scare the audience. So strange noises in the dark and some weird things found on the ground have to do. The reason why this movie was so successful and is still held in high regard (especially by those who were tired of bloodshed and gore) was because people seemed to believe in the hype and the fake websites the team created. Running around in the woods without having a clue if there’s a malevolent being prowling around or if it’s just one’s imagination sounds like a neat idea, but unfortunately a shaky camera and no special effects is all there is to a background story and characters that are as forgettable and fake as the video material itself.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
(USA 2000, director: Joe Berlinger)
A group of young tourists want to explore the woods of Burkittville, Maryland, after having seen the original The Blair Witch Project, only to lose their grip on reality themselves during the Blair Witch Hunt tour.
Anyone expecting another shaky camera/running and screaming in the woods experience will be disappointed or rather relieved, as this time it feels more like a movie. While some people might mourn that this is exactly what made the original so creative and scary, others might say it was about time that something of a story and character development became visible. Unfortunately, both come a bit short, as these are nothing more than one would find in a slasher horror movie. With actual gore and nudity, it’s obvious that this is more mainstream, but if one perseveres, one will be surprised how things soon change for the cast of forgettable characters.
Playing with people’s perception of reality and if video material can be trusted, it’s a sequel that’s true to its source material. Taking into account that the first part is about the Blair Witch craze, how money is made of it, and how people in the small town react to tourists and fans, it’s reminiscent of Scream 1-4‘s playfulness with the genre. At the end there are even deleted scenes that are commented on, questioning what’s real and what is fiction. So the only problem the movie faces is that it tries to be a typical horror flick when jumpscares sadly don’t work, while criticizing the media and film industry itself. It might not be successful in this, but it’s way more entertaining and accomplished than the first movie.
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