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i went to blair witch project 2 : book of shadows with the highest of hopes .
the original film , released last summer , was genuinely scary and terrifying ; i hoped that this movie would live up to its predecessor .
unfortunately , my hopes were soon dashed .
as the movie opens , the audience is shown pseudo-documentary clips of burkittsville , maryland residents being interviewed about the sudden tourist influx to their town as a result of the original blair witch project movie .
it's a mostly humorous , self-aware poke at the media hype and hysteria surrounding the first film .
during this segment , we are introduced to the protagonist , a young man who sells blair witch-related memorabilia from his website .
the movie then cuts to a title that informs us that what we are about to see occurred one year previously .
we see the same young man that was selling blair witch paraphernalia , but now he is confined in a mental institution the sort of which one only finds in bad horror movies .
we see him having some sort of disgusting white goo unconvincingly forced down his nose while a cigarette-smoking doctor luridly leers above him .
we see him throwing himself wildly around a padded room ; we see him cowering naked in a shower stall as a fire hose is turned on him .
no explanation is provided for why he is in the mental institution ; in fact , these scenes are barely referred to again .
i had a sinking feeling during these opening scenes ; generally , a hospital scene that is set with poor lighting , filthy interiors , and evil doctors is a sure sign that you are in the throes of a truly horrible movie .
the movie cuts again , this time to the present .
the young man , whose name is jeffrey ( played by jeffrey donovan -- as in the first movie , the character names are identical to the actors' names , although this movie admits up front that it is fictional , so there's no reason for the practice this time around ) , is rounding up a group of people that he will be leading into the woods that weekend for the " blair witch hunt , " which is a promotional gimmick he came up with and sells on his website .
we meet tristen and steven , a young couple who are writing a book about the blair witch experience .
steven is a skeptic , believing the whole thing to be the result of mass hysteria .
tristen , on the other hand , believes that there may be some truth to the rumors of supernatural occurrence .
she is wan and soft-spoken ; she complains that the radio is playing too loudly .
( she also complains that she feels nauseated ; i knew immediately that the character was pregnant , and my intuition was confirmed a few scenes later when kim psychomagically susses it out .
how did i know ?
because in bad movies , nauseated women are always pregnant . )
the fourth member of their party is erica , a wiccan with flowing hair and wide eyes who wants to prove that the blair witch was a good witch , not evil .
they pick up the fifth and final team member in a cemetery .
kim is dressed completely in black , has extreme goth-style makeup on , and occasionally displays seemingly psychic abilities , but otherwise seems to be the most intelligent and reasonable person out of the entire bunch .
presumably she wanted to be picked up in the cemetery just for dramatic effect ; it's never explained .
the party of five heads off into the woods as promised .
they reach the crumbling ruins of the foundation of rustin parr's house and set up camp , complete with extensive video equipment with which to record the night's events .
there is a brief encounter with a rival blair witch tour group who had planned to camp at that site as well , but after a few words are exchanged , the rival group huffs off and makes camp elsewhere .
the movie veers off at this point to spend many long , long minutes showing the drinking party that ensues after the sun goes down .
sexual innuendoes are tossed around , much hard liquor , beer , and pot is consumed , and nothing much else happens .
this would be a great point to get up and go to the bathroom if necessary .
the next day , the team wakes up and discovers that their camera equipment has been completely trashed , and that steven and tristen's manuscript paper is fluttering down from the sky in shreds , like snow .
the videotapes are missing , but thanks to a psychic intuition from kim , they discover the videotapes buried underneath the foundation of the house , " right where the original blair witch tapes were found ! "
ooh .
spooky .
the team goes back to jeffrey's house -- a creepy old civil war-era warehouse in the heart of the woods -- to regroup and review the tapes .
they soon discover that the tapes mysteriously skip five hours of the night .
wacky hijinks ensue .
tristen starts having weird dreams in which she is the blair witch , everybody starts finding these weird rune-like burn marks on their bodies , steven and erica have some highly disturbing mutual hallucinations , and everything pretty much goes to hell in a handbasket .
throughout the entire ordeal , jeffrey and the others continue to scrutinize the videotapes , which seem to have some kind of weird images on them at about the point that the time jumps ; eventually tristen wanders in , mutters something about " reverse , " and from this they somehow realize that they have to play the tapes backwards .
when they do this , they discover what really happened during the five lost hours .
( one of the things they see on the videotape is footage of themselves burying the videotapes .
okay , if the videotapes were being buried , then how were they recording themselves . . . oh ,
nevermind . )
this movie was awful .
simply awful .
the characters are broadly-drawn caricatures that are never allowed any depth or development .
erica is the nature-loving wiccan .
tristen is the weak and sympathetic woman .
steven is the overbearing asshole .
kim is the antisocial goth girl .
old , tired cliches were used to illustrate these caricatures .
how do we know tristen is weak and sympathetic ?
because she's pregnant !
how do we know kim is an antisocial goth girl ?
because she wears a lot of eye makeup !
how do we know the local sheriff is a bad guy ?
because he has jagged teeth and talks like he's straight out of " deliverance " !
this is weak storytelling at its worst .
rather than taking the time to flesh out the characters and make them truly sympathetic , the writer chose to give each one a few stereotypical characteristics , in an attempt to use some cinematic shorthand and thereby skip straight to the action .
it didn't work .
on top of being poorly developed , most of the characters were either seriously unlikable or patently stupid .
( " honey , you just had a miscarriage out in the woods and got medical attention at a hospital that looks like it belongs in a bad slasher movie .
let's get on a plane home . "
" no .
i am having these bizarre nightmares and seeing strange visions and i want to find out what's going on . "
" ok . " )
frankly , by the end of the movie , i was rooting for the witch .
i also felt that there was simply too much blood 'n' gore in this film .
the first movie worked by never showing us the horror .
the witch was a palpable presence in that movie , but we never saw it ; we never saw anything , in fact .
the horror was all off-screen , and thus our imaginations worked overtime to envision what it might possibly be .
this is the hallmark of a truly creepy and disturbing horror movie .
blair witch 2 dispensed with such niceties and went straight for the gross-out .
this was evident from the opening scenes of the mad doctors forcing white goo down jeffrey's throat , and continued throughout the film as the audience is treated to occasional confusing and disorienting footage of what appears to be a ritual massacre of some sort .
knives plunge into flesh , bloody fingers trail off into the darkness , and none of it is explained until the very end , when it was too late for me to care .
this movie didn't stop with showing us the gore , either ; it went for broke and showed us everything .
by the end of the movie , there are no questions remaining about the missing five hours .
it is all explained ; in fact , it is all shown on-screen in loving detail .
i confess to being someone who prefers horror movies in which you never see the monster , or see only brief glimpses , mere suggestions of what the monster is ; it is not because i find the monster so terrifying , but because i find the absence of the monster to be infinitely more terrifying .
i have seen interviews with the director in which he suggested that there is no " monster , " that all of the evil was perpetrated only by the human mind .
i found this to be a miserably poor explanation ; if it was in fact the director's intent , then he needs to have some words with the writer , because it was not made clear at all .
( i know a lot of people who like to go to parties and get drunk and stoned out of their minds ; none of them has ever gone on a murderous rampage and then experienced mass hallucinations with a group of other people for the next week or so .
and if there was no witch , then what about the vanishing tree ?
the snowfall of manuscript paper ?
hm ? )
blair witch 2 : book of shadows was a horrible movie .
from the poorly-written characters to the implausible story to the plot inconsistencies to the gross-out shots , it was a bad effort through and through .
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