Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie Appraisal: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

So, I just finished watching Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. I had originally planned on reviewing a psychological horror film called Jacob's Ladder today, but I was doing some homework and decided to watch a movie in the background.

Now, I love The Blair Witch Project despite only watching it once probably over ten years ago. You can check out my review on that movie if you want my full impressions of it. So, I figured a sequel to a movie I really liked and found genuinely scary couldn't be all that bad.

Then I heard the reviews of it... and they bashed it to death. I mean, I remember hearing a ton of things about it being the worst sequel ever kind of thing, and I'm going to say some stuff about that without too much delay.

Hearing how bad this movie was supposed to be and kind of expecting something decently scary gave me a bit of a disconnect with this movie. I really wasn't sure what I was going to expect. Well, whatever I expected I certainly didn't expect what the movie was.

Okay, first off, my first impressions are fairly positive. The film seemed to be plotted out and interesting despite the TERRIBLE introductory credit sequence which made me wince in pain because of some of the acting. And let me tell you right now, the acting is terrible. All of the actors, or nearly all, are terrible and should never act again. Jeffrey Donovan playing Jeff, the leader of a tour group and an overall unsavory character, seems to be the only recognizable actor here... well, at least to me. He also is far and away the best actor along with Stephen Barker Turner who played Stephen. The actresses of this film were... bad to say the least. I can see why none of them have been incredibly successful in the acting industry. Going back to where I was going with Jeffrey Donovan though. I watch Burn Notice on television sometimes. (It's a series akin to an spy-action-thriller kind of thing. Really good and worth the watch.) Anyway, Jeffrey Donovan is the lead on that show, so it's a little strange to see him playing a very different kind of character even though he plays that character quite well... or plays him well within the bounds of this movie.

Now, the movie isn't terrible. It's not the worst sequel to another movie I've ever seen. That still goes to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Why in the Hell would I ever, EVER want to see Shia LeBeouf swinging around with CGI monkeys? Sorry, but that's something that will haunt me the rest of my days. At least this movie hasn't done terrible things to my childhood or offended me greatly. That makes it a much better movie in my opinion with or without freaking CGI. Oh, man... I'm not going to get into my opinions of CGI in movies right now, but I think you can all tell the gist of what I think...

Anyway, the movie starts out with a TERRIBLE opening credit sequence that made me want to throw things at my television, but then it starts out... and I find myself actually not wanting to throw things anymore. Besides the terrible acting most of the scenes are fairly believable in the early parts of the film. The camera work is actually quite good and the whole idea of Jeff leading a group of four other people into the Blair Witch woods after the first movie popularized it was a damn good idea and I give the filmmakers credit for that.

They eventually see a tree that had never been there and this starts off the mind-screw part of the story. I'm actually really starting to like it. If the acting were genuinely good I could see this being a very effective movie. I'm not even kidding around about that. Anyway, the mind-screw parts of the story are where the movie shines. It messes with the characters' heads until neither they nor the audience knows exactly what has been going on. It makes the movie interesting and open-ended. Eventually I started wondering if the freaking Blair Witch was screwing with stuff or if it were these kids who kept showing up and screwing with the characters... or if some kind of possession took place... or maybe the Wiccan witch had something to do with all of it... or maybe their disturbance of the foundation of the old house... I couldn't figure out exactly who the villain was, but that made it interesting. I liked having few answers and even though I'm sure the characters within the movie would have liked answers, they would have appreciated the artistry of having no answers in this film.

The deaths in this film are... all right. I don't know. Nobody ever really looked dead to me. They all looked like they had some make-up on and were trying not to move. But that's just my opinion. It took me out of the film a bit, but that's all right. I'm not being apologetic about it. They should have done more with the freaking make-up... but it wasn't unforgivable, just bad. Actually one death in particular, the last seen in the film, is particularly jarring to watch... especially once the "filmed" version is seen. I was a bit uncomfortable watching that... so, I call it effective.

Now, this movie wasn't scary in the slightest. Then again not much scares me. I also watched it during the day which might have a been a bit of my problem. I doubt it, but it could have been. See, so calling this a horror movie seems a little odd to me. It feels kind of like a horror movie, but like a new-agey slasher kind of film that has some psychological elements. The "slasher" parts of the film is ineffective, but I did like the psychological elements even when they weren't pulled off well. (I like psychological horror. It's hard for me to dislike it.)

So, that's about all there is to say about that movie. I didn't hate it. It wasn't a great film, but it also wasn't terrible. I could call it mediocre and be completely correct... so that's what I'll do. Watch it if you have absolutely nothing better to do and you want to watch something new, otherwise you should probably stay away from this movie.

Also, "Book of Shadows"? Where is this "Book of Shadows"? Was there a "Book of Shadows" that I missed while I wasn't looking? I didn't see any book relevant to the plot... except Stephen's book that gets torn apart fifteen minutes or so into the film. I doubt that was the "Book of Shadows". Otherwise there are no other books that I saw. Most of the film had to do with Jeff and his cameras, not with anything else. So, why name a movie Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 when there isn't a freaking book of shadows anywhere to be found?

Oh, and one more thing that my rant of a last paragraph reminded me of. I really liked the scene with the protagonists waking up in the ruins of the house amidst Stephen's wrecked papers flying all around. That was my favorite shot of the entire film and made me very happy.

Well, that's about it. Seriously though, if anybody can tell me what this "Book of Shadows" thing means I'd be thrilled to know it since I don't right now.

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