I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Burn the Witch (Blair Witch Part II)

Well here it is Halloween already and fuck if I’ve got into the spirit of the thing. I tried buying a compact disc of John Carpenter’s score to the movie Halloween and I put it on driving around in the pouring rain. And I try to picture that white masked bastard jumping out of nowhere onto my car right when the keyboards do their little electric BYYYOOOOOOO sound and okay, I’m halfway there. But other than that, I mean I got no pumpkins, I got no costume, I got shit.

So what do you do. You follow the halloween traditions our nation and culture have set forth for us. You go to the theater to see the one half assed horror movie that they decided to release right before Halloween. In this case, Book of Shadows: Revenge of the Blair Witch Project Part 2, Return to the Dark Woods of the Burkitsville Horror. (can’t remember the exact title actually so I made that one up, hope the boys at artisan like it.)

Now I gotta admit, I am one who enjoys a bad horror sequel. I got the entire Freddy, Chucky, Michael, Leather and Jason series under my belt and not for nothing. I don’t know what the fascination is. I guess I’m hoping this one’ll be better than the last. Or whatever. But with Revenge of the Dark Witch, I couldn’t help but feel left out.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2You see, I must’ve just missed the hoopla. I remember alot of obsessive type individuals attacking this movie on newsgroups but I don’t believe I actually ever went and saw it. I got out in August so I’m guessing it must’ve come out in June or July. Anyway for any of you who may have also missed it, apparently this is some kind of evil-in-the-woods documentary shot in the dogme 95 style. It was very controversial because alot of people didn’t think it was a real movie, and everyone else thought it was scary or at least made them throw up.

So now that the sequel is out, every critic in the world is itching to tear it a new asshole, and for all different agendas. First you got the people who loved the first one, or respect it as an underdog story, the low budget movie that made ten catillion dollars. These people have no choice but to hate the sequel because it represents everything they are against. It cost more money, it’s expected to make alot of money, and they don’t want capitalizing on old ideas and characters, they want new. Also this is a more traditional movie shot on REAL FILM, FOR REAL MEN, NOT FUCKING DIGITAL VIDEO YOU FUCKERS and with scripted dialogue and a score and special effects and everything normal that was avoided in the first one due to the strict code of dogme 95.

Then you got the critics who fucking HATED the first one, or at least they did after they found out it was really popular. These guys also have to hate the sequel, because it represents even more of the first movie that they already have gone on record as hating. There will probably be a couple of these types who claim to like the sequel even though they don’t, just to spite everyone, or more likely will admit it is bad but make outrageous claims about it being WAY, WAY better than the first one regardless.

Well I’m not in either group, I haven’t even SEEN the fucking thing so what the hell am I supposed to do. Just stay out of this?

No, I’m going to be the moderator. The referee. The cautioned observer. And let me tell you, they’re all wrong. The movie’s not nearly as bad as they’re saying. It’s also not good so don’t let anybody feed you that one either.

What it is is a group of characters go to the woods where the first movie was filmed (actually, some different woods, standing in for the original woods). The town is overrun by tourists because of the movie. They say the legend of a killer witch (or something?) is not true. Then the main characters can’t remember what happened to them at night. They go back to an abandoned factory that one of them lives in, and all kinds of WEIRD shit starts happening.

That is the plot. It doesn’t really follow traditional horror sequel structure, although the characters do seem like they could be in a Freddy sequel. They are all unknown actors but not particularly amateurish, just not really great. I guess this was done to be in the spirit of the first one but again, this is what they did in the Freddy pictures.

What is daring about this movie, and also what doesn’t work, is that there is no explanation for anything. There is no internal logic or implied solution. There is just a bunch of weird shit and impossible shit that happens. How could this video show me doing that, when I know I never did that? It is left up to your imagination to decide. Did they really do that? Or is the video just cursed? What is real and what is hallucination? What is that slimy stuff they poured into the one dude’s nose at the mental hospital? Is there some kind of conspiracy here?

These deliberatley unanswered, answerless questions go against the nature of traditional filmmaking. I think the idea is hey, Blair Witch Part A was popular because it broke all the rules in a fake documentary format. Now let’s continue to break all the rules, but make it look like it’s supposed to be a Freddy sequel. And I appreciate the spirit of it, of trying to make a horror sequel script where instead of linking a bunch of murders together, it links a bunch of weird shit together.

But in the end there doesn’t really seem to be much of a mystery to mull over. Just a bunch of weird shit. So at the end all you can really think is, “Huh.”

* * *

Bonus paragraphs, added later

Upon further ruminational type thinking, I started to decipher some of the motifs, themes and what nots of this picture and realized that there was actually alot more going on than I gave it credit for. In one scene a character is interviewing the others on a camcorder and says, “Video never lies. Film does,” and of course the movie immediately switches to film.

I thought that was just a joke at the time but now that I think about it, I think it is supposed to mean that the video footage in this movie is “real” and everything else is the subjective experiences of the characters. There is alot of work to set up different kinds of influences. There is alot of beer and pot and alot of talk about group hysteria and debates about subjective reality and if someone really believes something then isn’t it true and all that other academic horse shit. The movie also opens claiming that it is a “re enactment” based on hours of interviews.

So this is an interesting and challenging idea, a horror sequel that forces us to question the reality of our own perceptions. Maybe if I went back and watched it with this in mind it might be a little more interesting. I might start thinking HOLY SHIT HOW DO I EVEN KNOW I’M SITTING IN THIS THEATER? OH MY GOD IT’S BLOWING MY MIND.

The trouble is there are too many phoney hollywood touches to really take it serious on this level when it comes to the video footage. Unless you believe that it is only their pot and alcohol and mental hospital and traumatically fueled delusions that cause them to think they can “redigitize the footage” and blow it up to reveal the face of the naked lady that appears ghostlike spinning backwards in the footage.

* * *

There is some clever nod type stuff in here. I guess horror now is about clever nods so that’s what you get. There are jokes about the popularity of the first movie. And the end credits roll over a spinning helicopter shot so if you thought handheld cameras made you dizzy enough to puke, you will be running for the exits. There are also references to Paradise Lost, the documentary Joe Berlinger made about three kids convicted of child murders mainly because they listened to heavy metal, wore black and one was interested in Wicca. Blair Witch Forever has the opening helicopter shots of the woods with heavy metal music like the opening credits of Paradise Lost. And they have a character that represents that Wicca actually isn’t evil and they even got a part where a goth gal says, “Where I come from they think wearing black makes you some kind of sick killer.”

Which reminds me there is one major thing going for this movie though that I think will cause it to in a small way live on in the pop culture unconsciousness or whatever. And that is, all men love a cute goth chick. I think you know what I’m talking about, if not a goth chick is one of those chicks that wears all black and has pale skin and dark hair and acts all spooky.

Okay so maybe not all men, and maybe not most men my age even. But if you watched a certain amount of Vampira when you were growing up then you know what I’m talking about. Hubba hubba, right? For some reason, we are suckers.

I mean the girl in this movie, she’s not traditionally hot and I’m not sure I’d even want to hang around with her. I mean god only knows what kind of horrible music she might listen to. But you see her laying there on a coffin smoking a cigarette and, what can you do man. You’re helpless.

Admit it you assholes it’s true.

Anyway, point is, the merciless critical attack on this picture is not really fair. But I’m not really gonna recommend the movie. How does it stack up against other part 2s? It is not as good as Halloween 2, Hellraiser 2, Texas Chainsaw 2. It is not as ill-advised as Psycho 2 but is ultimately less effective. It’s better than The Birds 2. It is arguably not as good as Freddy 2 or Jason 2. It is probably better than Chucky 2 although again, one could squabble. I’ll bet it’s a hell of alot better than Wishmaster 2 judging from Wishmaster 1 anyway. It’s not as good as From Dusk Till Dawn 2. It’s probably better than Lust For a Vampire although part 1 and part 3 of that series are lightyears ahead. It’s definitely no Bride of Frankenstein.

Come to think of it there are alot of pretty good part 2s. So let me just compare it to part 3s, to be nice. It’s better than Hellraiser 3, Chucky 3, Dusk Till Dawn 3, Scream 3. It’s as good as or better than Chainsaw 3 and Halloween 3. Maybe they should’ve just called it Blair Witch 3 and people would be nicer.

Anyway friends have a good halloween and take it from me if some fuckers start smashing your pumpkins don’t exacty your revenge it’s not worth it

–Vern

celebrating one full year without getting arrested

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, October 23rd, 2000 at 3:01 pm and is filed under Horror, Mystery, Reviews, Thriller, Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Burn the Witch (Blair Witch Part II)”

  1. Well, I have to give the spambots credit for bringing attention to this review! I somehow never read this one before, and I’m glad you (sorta) liked it – I unapologetically love Blair Witch II. It’s entertaining and quick and I did like that they had the balls to jettison the found footage format of the first one and make it more of a Vanilla Sky/Sucker Punch-esque homage to the type of imagery that would be ingrained/burned into the characters/viewer’s subconscious (in this case, imagery from horror movies – ie the recreated shot of the naked dancing woman from Evil Dead 2 et al)

    And yes, the Goth Girl (and the naked girl) were very appealing. The Goth Girl later showed up as one of the bank robbers in Inside Man; the naked girl showed up in the Texas Chainsaw remake and other horror movies; and of course the main guy later became the guy from Burn Notice. I’m glad that they ended up having fruitful careers (more fruitful than 2 of the 3 original Blair Witchers at least), because they’re all pretty good.

  2. I have a dirty little secret, I have a strange affinity for movies like this, Scary Movie, Road Trip, Teaching Ms Tingle, American Pie and just about any late 90’s/early 2000’s movie regardless of whether they’re bad or not, especially if they’re aimed at a teen audience (Scary Movie in particular is like pure, concentrated, distilled year 2000)

    what can I say? it makes me nostalgic for that era and I think the reason why I have such a strong nostalgia for that era is because it’s the furthest back in time that I can remember clear as day, anything prior to 1999 I can remember pretty well, but it’s vague and sadly getting vaguer as time goes on, plus those were the last few years of my childhood, by 2002 I was officially a teenager

    another thing that’s interesting is when you go back and watch movies from that era you realize just how much things have changed, you might not realize it, but it’s true, pre 9/11 America was a very different place

  3. Leave it up to a 2017 double-feature of Blair With 2 and Blair Witch (3) to make me finally understand those who prefer The Prequels to The Force Awakens. Like those oft-maligned prequels, BW2 swings for the fences – it’s ambitious and challenging; it touches on heavy themes like commercialism, fandom, prejudice, and mass hysteria with a light touch; it’s entertainingly meta somehow without resorting to smug Scream-style name-dropping. It honestly feels ahead of its time, like a proto-Black Mirror episode, (or more accurately what would happen if a bunch of friends got together on the weekend to make their own Black Mirror episode.) There’s a shaggy, unprofessional quality to the shots, the editing, and the acting that may understandably turn off some, but it has a WTF am I watching? charm of its own. Watching this film makes you feel like you time-travelled to 2025 to watch Syfy’s “Blair Witch Part VIII”, not an actual theatrical release that came out one year after the original. Even the very premise of “a bunch of kids go into the Blair Witch Woods, have sex, do drugs, and die”, sounds like both a complete misunderstanding of the original and the plot synopsis of the hypothetical DTV nadir of the series, and kudos to the filmmakers and the studio for getting us right to that point with a wink, instead of just sending another group of kids out into the woods with another camcorder.

    I never thought I’d be saying this, but weirdly the thing BW2 reminded me of the most was Brian De Palma (with the execution of Tommy Wiseau, unfortunately) – there’s a fascination with media and voyeurism (complete with Blow-Out style piecing together old videos for clues), there’s over-the-top sleaze complete with gratuitous gore and nudity, there’s weird, showy setpieces that stick out like a sore thumb, there’s “heightened” acting that’s possibly bad but also not meant to be realistic, and of course, there’s a personal, confrontational vibe, lashing out at both fans and critics. This movie actually one-ups Body Double’s infamous closing credits (over blood-soaked boobs) by having the credits passive-aggressively roll over….footage from a person half-heartedly shaking a camera in someone’s backyard. It’s the movie’s final fuck-you, like “hey, this is what you wanted, right? Don’t say our movie didn’t deliver, ok?” I loved it.

    Funnily enough, Blair Witch 2016 (or basically, “Platinum Dunes’ The Blair Witch Project”) somehow made even less than Blair Witch 2, even BEFORE counting inflation. People really hate this movie, though to be honest it’s no better or worse than the 10,000 found footage horror movies that have come out since Blair Witch 1. It’s faster-paced, it’s too slick-looking, it’s populated with a pretty, multicultural cast, and it’s everything you’d expect a 2016 remake of Blair Witch Project to be. There’s really nothing much to say about it except you gets what you expects, and it certainly doesn’t even try to add anything new or introduce likable characters or emotionally involving storylines like The Force Awakens (or other successful rebootquels like Creed or Fury Road). It kinda sums up today’s state of film in a nutshell and makes me long for the days of ’99-’00 when films like Blair Witch 2 would still come out to theaters to get shat on.

  4. Nice appraisal, neal2zod. I didn’t get that much from this one, but I do admire its audacity at trying something different.

  5. I’m still surprised at how much I hypocritically enjoyed BLAIR WITCH 2016. In fact I had the opposite reaction to neal, it made me much more understanding and sympathetic to all the normal people who really loved JURASSIC WORLD and THE FORCE AWAKENS: sometimes just enjoying a movie is enough (take the stick out one’s ass).

    Like Zeke, I really enjoyed your appraisal and agree with it. The only thing I disagree with you on, is that I argue BLAIR WIATCH 2016 is much better than 99% of found footage movies that have come out since the original BLAIR WITCH.

    That said, even though I enjoyed the new one more, I still have much more respect for the crazy meta failure that is BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2.

  6. Zeke – Thanks, I do have to admit that being a little drunk and stoned (much like the characters) probably increased my enjoyment of BW2 and probably helped me appreciate its unique vibe. Oh, you’ve got a cool website too, by the way.

    geoffreyjar – Yeah I don’t know why I wrote that Blair Witch is “no better or worse” than the other 10,000 found footage movies out there. You’re absolutely right – it’s clearly better than 95-ish% of found footage dreck(most of which are on Netflix and seem to have been made for $200). I guess I was just disappointed as it played everything extremely safe and by the numbers, albeit in a competent way, and right then I needed more than a slick remake. Which is weird since as you bring up, many millions of others (including myself) were somehow ok with The Force Awakens being a slick remake. I guess I just feel if you’re going to carry on the legacy of the big Grandaddy of the found footage genre, you should be better than the knockoffs like Willow Creek (which I think is still the reigning king of found footage to me). But you’re right, there’s much, MUCH worse out there.

  7. This October I ran the Blair Witch series. I had only seen the first movie before, and I thought it still mostly held up. It’s impressive what they manage to accomplish with so little. (Although I’m still not sure about the whether the laws of physics supports the ability of someone to kick a map into a stream).

    I also kind of agree that I enjoyed Blair Witch 2, with all its faults, over the third film. Blair Witch 2 tries something new and something potentially interesting even if the execution isn’t there. The overacting destroys any suspense or scares, but it also makes the film a lot of fun. So I wouldn’t say it’s a good movie, but it’s an enjoyable movie. Blair Witch 3 is kind of a bore for most of its running time. It’s basically a remake and it doesn’t have any of the fun meta stuff of the first two films. I do think that the film starts to click when they arrive at the house, but by that time, the movie is nearly over. I’m surprised they didn’t greenlight a Blair Witch sequel when those Paranormal Activity movies were popular. They kind of missed the boat on the found footage revival.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>