“Why are you applying rational thought to mythology?”
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is basically The Ring meets Close-Up. I’m not joking.
Joe Berlinger’s sequel acknowledges the unnecessary nature of its existence from the outset, and instead of doing another found-footage story of a witch in the woods, it becomes a meta-textual study of fandom, simulation, and what it means to find identity in art.
Book of Shadows begins with a group of caricatures going on a trip into the Blair Witch woods for various reasons. Each of these people represents a (surprisingly mean) aspect of the Blair Witch fandom – the academics, the goth, the offended Wiccan, and the consumerist merchandiser. They camp out at some ruins, then get fucked up on drugs, waking up to their camp destroyed and the expectant mother of the group having had a miscarriage. They re-group at their guide’s industrial home and start going through the tapes to try to understand what happened. As thus mystery unfolds, bodies start to pile up, and these characters begin to wonder if their obsession has driven them crazy, or a real malevolent force has possessed them.
So this is all about getting too invested into art, this hysteria that comes over these people as they get caught up in finding themselves in someone else’s work. Fiction and reality blur (the movie even opens with a statement saying – and I paraphrase – ‘this is a recreation of true events that happened after the release of the original movie’, which immediately brings up concepts of simulation and the nature of truth) and, eventually the movie becomes about itself. It’s a really interesting concept handled intelligently.
Now, having said all of that, this doesn’t really work well in the moment. It’s pretty goofy, features terrible performances, and is mostly devoid of tension. It also constantly mocks fans of the original, so I can understand how alienating it must have been when it came out.
But as an exploration of art and audience, Book of Shadows is an ambitious, weird little bastard, and I respect the hell out of Berlinger for trying to stuff all that into a cheapo horror sequel.