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‘Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2’ Is Better Than You Remember, Here’s Why

The Blair Witch Project was such a sensation, people are still talking about it over two decades later. The found footage and subsequent advertising campaign made people think that the disappearance of Heather, Mike, and Josh was real. Even after everyone found out that it was all a hoax and just a movie, that didn’t stop the success of this horror classic. So why did everyone forget about the sequel? Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 came out just a year later in 2000, yet no one ever talks about it. But here’s the thing: It’s actually a stellar sequel if you just lower your quality bar a smidge.

The Movie Within a Movie

They’ve all seen the movie.

They couldn’t just go ahead and make another found footage movie. Everyone fell for it the first time, so they won’t fall for it again. Why not subvert all expectations and play into the fact that the original Blair Witch was just a movie? And that’s what it is in Book of Shadows. It starts with a faux documentary sequence explaining that the release of the first movie was so popular that now Burkittsville, Maryland is overrun with rabid fans hell-bent on getting their grubby mitts on anything witch-related. Book of Shadows takes place in a world where The Blair Witch Project exists as a movie, and that’s cool as hell.

Enter Jeff, the quirky and slightly unstable fan that starts a tour of the filming locations for The Blair Witch Project. He’s leading a ragtag group of fans and researchers into the woods so they can sleep right where Heather, Mike, and Josh slept as they made their movie. And that’s where we go from normal to horrifying. They wake up with their campsite destroyed and a nearby group of tourists murdered in witchy ways. And that’s just the beginning.

The Change in the Narrative

Listen, I love found footage movies as much as the next person. It’s fun to feel like you’re immersed in the action. But I’ve never been so motion sick as I was when I saw the first movie in the theater. I zombie-walked out of that theater a sickly shade of green. Book of Shadows solved that problem: Almost no shaky cam here. Instead, it’s just a traditional steady-cam horror movie, which is fine by me.

Yes, That’s the Guy From Burn Notice

Jeff Donovan before Burn Notice.

Just like with the first movie, the filmmakers chose relative unknowns for the cast of Book of Shadows. But unlike the original, this one had a cast member become well-known after the fact. Our unhinged tour guide Jeff is played by Jeffrey Donovan. If you’re wondering what you know him from, he was the star of long-running action show Burn Notice, among other things. While the rest of the cast is pretty great, Jeff steals the show in Book of Shadows. So the sequel gets a +1 over its predecessor in the acting department.

The Ridiculousness of “Widdershins”

Now, I’m not saying this is a perfect movie. It isn’t. But the parts of the movie that are silly land firmly in the “so bad it’s good” category. Much of the dialog feels like an afterthought. For instance, the Wiccan woman, Erica, mentions “widdershins” but never explains what it is. It’s mentioned a few more times in the climax and just seems like gibberish. It turns out that it’s just a Scottish way to say “counter-clockwise” and has some spiritual connotations. But since it’s just thrown out in the script without any care, it makes the dialog feel weird.

Everything You Know is Wrong

Things are starting to devolve for this crew…

Some of the best movies out there give you that feeling toward the end that everything you thought you knew was wrong. Twists are lovely, and it’s always great to learn that what we’ve been seeing and what the characters are going through isn’t quite what we thought. And that’s what Book of Shadows does. Plus, they cleverly add little flashes of images in the background to help you realize not all is as it seems. File this one under “twist endings.”

The Movie Everyone Hated

There’s a reason why everyone forgot about this movie: They hated it. While there are fans out there like me who always loved the sequel, we’re in the minority it seems. Not only does it have a 14% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but even the director hated it. Book of Shadows was meant to be a lot more ambiguous, focusing on the psychological descent of the characters after they spend a night in the woods. That was director Joe Berlinger’s vision of the movie anyway. But when production company Artisan had a look at his cut, they weren’t happy. They wanted it to feel more like a traditional horror movie, so they had him shoot a bunch of new scenes. The director’s original version didn’t have the insane asylum scenes or the footage of the murdered tourists. He wasn’t happy with the final cut, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be.

You can watch Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows right now on Pluto TV free with ads or wherever you like to rent digital movies. Paramount+ also has many horror movies, including Blair Witch 2.