Friday, October 15, 2010

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

(2000) ***

Someone's going to have to explain to me why this movie is being used as an example of a four-star on the Horrorthon Rating Scale. We meant the original Blair Witch Project right? The one that everybody from Roger Ebert to Kurt Loder says is like the best movie since the movie they made about sliced bread? The standard bearer for found footage films? Because right now it looks like we're putting this movie on the level of Evil Dead II -- either Johnny Sweatpants, who put this list together, is on crack (not out of the realm of possibility -- he also thinks lemons and limes taste the same), or I missed something huge and awesome about this movie.


The original Blair Witch movie is the first really high profile found footage movie. It hit a level of notoriety that'd be next to impossible to duplicate, so the filmmakers made the reasonable decision to take the franchise in a different direction. The sequel is a conventional dramatic horror movie, making only sparse use of footage-vision and always viewed after the fact by the characters. This is, oddly, where the film is at its best. In fact most of the key twists in the film involve discoveries made watching footage after the fact.

There are a few satisfying moments of spookiness. The presence in the woods isn't just hostile, it's hypnotic. It can come in the form of visions, or slightly more involved alter-realities -- all of this is effectively made and helps capture the atmosphere of fright particular to forests.


I enjoyed these things only in spite of the characters, though. The movie follows five people on a Blair Woods walking tour, "The Blair Witch Hunt." There's the leader, who has chin pubes and used to be in an asylum. There's a husband and wife researching a book they're co-writing on the Blair Witch craze -- which makes them, not conspiracy theorists but rather people who are interested enough in conspiracy theorists to write a book about them, which is almost as strange. There's the goth girl who maybe has ESP. Then there's a real live Wiccan.

This is totally the team I would assemble if I were entering a big D&D tournament, but I was bored of the conversation before the 10 minute mark. It's nothing wrong with the writing, or even really the acting -- I just tired of the characters and the conversation. Early on in the movie they encounter "the Blair Witch Walk," another tour group -- two Japanese tourists and a German one and two Americans with cameras. I thought, "I wish I were with those dudes instead." That'd have been a much shorter movie, it turns out.

Roger Ebert shows up on some archive footage in the first minute of Blair Witch 2, lauding the original film with praise, which is funny because his review of this one was essentially, "meh."

16 comments:

Catfreeek said...

I totally agree with your 3 star rating and that Johnny Sweatpants may or may not be on crack.

Whirlygirl said...

The lemon and lime thing doesn't surprise me.

DCD said...

It's all the crack that leads to the lemon/lime delusion.

AC said...

i don't think those old star guidelines are meant to be taken as gospel; if they are, maybe they should be updated?

AC said...

(but no matter what ratings system we use, "live freaky die freaky" will always be an example of zero gretchies)

JPX said...

50P, the ratings list has been a bone of contention among us for years and from time to time I go in there and re-evaluate ratings and even delete some films. I haven't done this in a while. The problem is that it's been years since that list was first created and many better films have come out. Blair Witch 2 came out at a time when there were very few good horror films being created. The Ring would come out 2 years later and it changed everything; it seemed to inspire a a horror rebirth of great stuff. When Blair Witch 2 came out almost 11 years ago I liked it at the time. JSP is camping right now but I think he would whole-heartedly agree with a lower rating. I'm going to bump it down to three stars.

JSP has argued for years to do away with that list of films altogether since this stuff is so subjective.

I know I'm in the extreme minority here but I actually didn't like the original Blair Witch Project at all. Perhaps it was the months of hype leading up to it the inflated my expectations but when the end credits rolled I remember thinking, "That's it?" I've never seen it again and at this point all I recall is that annoying girl in the ugly-ass hat screaming with snot in her nose.

Landshark said...

I definitely think the description of the star system should stay, as it's helpful for us all to calibrate our ratings.

I don't see any harm in having a subjective list of sample movies at each rating, either. I think we all understand that we wouldn't agree with each one. It's not particularly necessary, I suppose, but it's not causing any problems.

Catfreeek said...

Leave it as is, the controversy is funny.

DCD said...

I had to go on a 15 minute search through the blog to find that list when I started this year! I agree that updates can be done, but please don't get rid of it, it's very useful.

Octopunk said...

Perhaps we should post all the versions of the list and have a big fight about it. Talking about updating the list and not getting around to it is a Horrorthon sub-tradition.

I'm with JPX on the first Blair Witch flick. I don't know if I was a victim of hype or not; I just really didn't like it. I mulled it over a lot afterwards but the experience of watching it was just plain tedious. It was basically another predicament movie, and being lost in those drab woods carried all the "horror" of being stuck in the airport.

AC said...

i agree with landshark; the descriptors in the lists are most helpful.

i found blair witch scary, when i saw it in the theater; mr. ac was "meh" (but had to do the laundry for a month, because i was too scared to go into the creepy, blair-witch-evoking basement of our then-apartment). granted, that was back in the day before i was regularly watching horror; maybe i should re-watch it at some point to see if it can still give me the creeps.

Catfreeek said...

I thought Blair Witch was scary and still get the creeps from the final scene. However, the build up to that final scene is nearly unwatchable a second time. Once you know the outcome the lost in the woods part is just long and tedious.

I find it funny though that JPX didn't find in favor of Blair Witch but did in Paranormal Activity and I totally thought the opposite. Just goes to show you how different we all are.

Whirlygirl said...

I didn't care for Blair witch either. The hype definitely had an impact. I was expecting fireworks and got fizzelworks. I enjoyed paranormal activity.

Landshark said...

K and I both found Blair Witch very scary, and then we went fucking camping that night.

AC said...

landshark wins.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I say goddamn I have a lot of reviews to catch up on. I agree with lowering BW2 to *** but I still enjoyed it.

And there is no difference between a lime and a lemon aside from the color. (Your brain makes you think that they taste different but it's a trick. The problem with my lemon lime test was that the lime was dry while the lemon was juicy and limes tend to dry up quicker. Hence the (10) people I gave the blind test to guessed correctly. I'd like to try again.