THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT 2 was sorta doomed from the outset, wasn’t it? It was the sequel to a film that had been a touchstone for indie horror and had lit up pop culture.
It rekindled a dormant sub-sub genre and had birthed a thousand imitators and parodies.
The trouble with success is that it puts a big, fat target on your back and people are more than happy to take aim at it.
I give credit to director Joe Berlinger for knowing that he couldn’t re-capture that initial lightning so that he needed to do something different to try to spark the imaginations.
It was a risky move but it makes sense in hindsight.
Almost too much sense.
The trouble is that for all the haters the film had, there were a lot of people that loved that first film and when they were offered a sequel, the fans were expecting a continuation of the first film or something akin to it.
That’s not really what they got.
For those that have not seen the second BLAIR WITCH film, it’s a traditionally told narrative about a man giving tours of the woods and area from the cult hit. In this film it’s posited that yeah, the first one was a movie, but that weird stuff DOES happen out there and that maybe, just maybe there’s something strange in those woods. The film is about the obsessive fandom from the first film and the way that reality isn’t necessarily the last word on what’s real.
It’s a decent movie with a fascinating idea that was kneecapped by a studio that wanted more of the same, and if they couldn’t get it, wanted to infer it was more of the same.
While the film we got heavily hinted at the supernatural it wasn’t meant to be overt. It was meant to ask whether or not media obsession and collective madness can make us do things we may not otherwise do, act in ways we otherwise not act, and might infect our ability to reason.
For all its flaws, the film has a lot to say about media consumption and infection.
The film was a little ahead of its time, to be honest.
It’s a shame that the studio forced them to add an introduction that added needless violence and sex to a film that didn’t really need it.
BLAIR WITCH 2 is a little like HALLOWEEN 3 in that they tried to play with expectations and give us something new related to the original and, unfortunately, folks just wanted more of the same.
And I admit, I ADORE the first and love that style, but there’s a lot of ways to tell a similar story that don’t rely on aping the first movie.
It’s doubly a shame that they made a fascinating pick at director, as Berlinger was known more as a documentarian behind, with a partner, the PARADISE LOST films. Bringing that eye to the film was a really neat choice and gave some weight to the idea behind it and its execution. The film is peppered with all of this captured footage that shows the characters doing things they don’t believe they did, and showing things they don’t think happened. Ideally we were meant to question this, and whether this group hysteria was real or crafted by the witch.
The funniest thing in ALL of this was that the third film gave people what they wanted, another POV found footage film about the witch in the woods and many hated it.
So you gave them what they wanted and they were not happy and you subverted their expectations and they were not happy.
Is this about inferior product or unmeetable expectations?
To be sure, the second and third BW films have their issues, but they are not bad films. The second is hurt more by the studio making him re-cut the film to meet their expectations than anything else and the third is scary but doesn’t move the story forward, it just tells another scary story in that world.
I tell you what though, the second film, especially when paired with the two docs they made to go with it (this was one of the cleverest things they did, along with their website, the fake docs about the mystery, its legacy, and then the story behind the second BW film) is an absolutely fascinating movie that just doesn’t quite get it right. Sure, it’s not perfect but I offer that there’s more good than bad there and that if Berlinger could have just released ‘his’ movie that it’d have had a lot more of an impact and would have more fans than it has now.
As it is, it’s a fascinating addition to that series and while it’s the least of them, it’s also the one with the most to say, even today.
3.5 out of 5