2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 23: Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows (2000)

23. PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY: In Psychotronic Challenge, the land haunts YOU! Hopefully that joke, ahem, landed okay. Folk it.

You know, I hate the first Blair Witch Project movie so I was assured that I’d despise this, a movie that utterly bombed at the box office and seemed to make no one happy. But you know, it totally worked. Sequels are hard to make. Joe Berlinger and Dick Beebe wanted to make this as a psychological thriller and meditation on mass hysteria — it’s also about how one town can become a place that it only was on film — and create a movie that was the direct opposite of the first film.

Book of Shadows is closer to the Hollywood movies that the original went so hard away from. Berlinger originally made the film with an ambiguous tone that didn’t give away exactly what happened when the characters stayed overnight in the Black Hills. Artisan wanted a more commerical film, so they had him recut and reshoot this to make it more commercial. That footage was shot weeks from the release in a time when movies had to have prints made, not like how they could just upload the movie to theaters.

The interrogation that is spread throughout the movie was originally an eight-minute end of the story, but the studio also asked them to be spliced through the story. The filmmakers wanted a story that went from a lighthearted romp to suddenly getting violent and dark. They also added in Marilyn Manson’s “Disposable Teens,” which replaced Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft.”

Actually, I said this was a bomb earlier and it made $47 million on a $15 million budget. For any other movie, that’d be a success. But it didn’t equal what the first movie did. Honestly, that was impossible.

Tourists are filling up the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland, hoping to be part of the same occult scares that they saw in The Blair Witch Project. Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan) is obsessed with the movie and takes a group on a tour. They include Stephen (Stephen Barker Turner) and his pregnant girlfriend Tristen (Tristine Skyler), Wiccan Erica (Erica Leerhsen) and goth Kim (Kim Director). They camp in a cabin in the woods and hope to see something. Jeff already notices a tree in the middle of the house that was never there in his memory.

After doing drugs, everyone wakes up to Tristen losing her baby. It gets worse — they’ve all been marked for death, their research destroyed and the world itself turning on them. When they play the. tapes they find under the house backward, they see themselves taking part in a demonic ritual orgy and murdering other tourists. The video footage the police show them is even more damning, putting the statement that Jeff makes earlier, “Film lies but video always tells the truth” to the worst test.

Berlinger has mostly made true crime movies in his career, like the Paradise Lost Trilogy, in which he told the story of others who had been blamed for their occult murders, the West Memphis Three. He tried to make a horror movie while also creating a film that took audiences to task for believing everything shot on video to be true. People just wanted more of the same.

I know it’s pretty on the nose, but I love that this ended with Poe’s “Haunted.”

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