From the Archives: Recap – The Blair Witch Project & Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows

From the Archives: Recap – The Blair Witch Project & Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, one of the biggest bombs to drop was the announcement that the latest Adam Wingard / Simon Barrett collaboration, which had been marketed under the title The Woods, was actually a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. When I heard this news I pretty much flipped out. As a huge fan of the original film, and a huger fan of Wingard/Barrett’s previous work (You’re NextThe Guest), my fanboy mode kicked into high gear and I took it upon myself to revisit the first two films in the Blair Witch saga so you don’t have to. Even though you should. Well, maybe just the first one. The second one is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life and is easily one of the worst movies ever to exist in the history of time ever forever.

Into the woods we go, we go!

The Blair Witch Project (1999 – dir. Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez)

This movie begins with a black title card indicating that what we are about to see is footage which was found in the woods under mysterious circumstances, and that it allegedly documents the events leading up to the 1994 disappearance of three young documentary filmmakers. At the time of its release so many people thought this was a real documentary, because people are really stupid when they want to be. I mean, come on. If three real people actually disappeared and left behind spooky footage of their demise, the ethical gymnastics which would need to occur in order to sell tickets at a multiplex is mind boggling. Still, people bought it and in a way I envy their naivety.

It’s kind of like this one time when a former acquaintance asked me if I thought Paranormal Activity 4 was real. Sure, yes, it’s real … and legitimate footage of 4 separate demon attacks is a silly fun time at the movies and NOT world-shattering headline news. Or remember when The Discovery Channel did a whole “documentary” on mermaids and people bought it?!? Crazy.

So no. The Blair Witch Project is not even a little bit real. Nonetheless, it’s very very very good.

Sooooo Heather, Mike, and Josh are three aspiring documentarians/Toad the Wet Sprocket enthusiasts who are going on a trip into the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland to visit the home of the Blair Witch, a staple of local folklore. After interviewing some locals about the myth, they park their car and walk into the woods. Heather really wants to go all Herzog but mostly just wants to scream, Mike really wants to brood and smoke, and Josh spends most of his time being reasonable. The three poke around some of the notable sites related to the legend and then they set up camp. There are a few piles of stones and Josh kicks one over and they fix it and even though it seems like nothing, we all totally know that it’s something. At night they hear sticks breaking but tell themselves that it’s probably just cows or kittens or something.

The next day they poke around a bit more and then they hear more sticks breaking at night but they don’t really worry about it even though we, the audiences, know that it’s probably Blair Witches. Morning comes and our trio of Mallrats soundtrack cassette owners get lost heading back to the car. So now they’re all upset because they have work the next day (probably at the Blockbuster) and they’re going to have to camp out. Once again they hear sticks breaking, only this time they start to suspect that it’s probably Blair Witches and not cows or kittens.

The next day the power-grunge trio wakes to find that piles of rocks have been built around their camp and and Heather screams about it and Josh is pretty lax and Mike broods. They come to the conclusion that they’re lost, and Mike admits that he threw the map into the river because it’s useless. Because he’s useless. Heather screams about it and Josh is upset but still behaves reasonably. They eventually stumble across a bunch of stick figures hanging from trees, because Blair Witches are into crafts. This makes everyone a little bit unsettled and causes Heather to scream.

They remain lost for the rest of the day and are forced to scream a bit and then make camp, even though they all have work the next day at a Spencer’s Gifts or something. During the night they hear sticks breaking AND children laughing and when their tent begins to shake it becomes insanely clear that this is most definitely not the work of cows or kittens, but more likely that of Blair Witches. EVERYBODY screams. The three of them go running into the woods and when they return to camp in the morning, they find that all of their stuff has been destroyed, and Josh’s stuff is covered in Blair Witch slime, which is apparently a thing.

Josh pretty much stops being cool and berates Heather who screams while Mike broods. The next day, Josh disappears. At night, they can hear Josh screaming off in the distance, which is such a Heather thing to do. So what does Heather do? She screams!

In the morning, Heather and Mike find a bloody package made of Josh’s shirt and filled with Josh’s hair, teeth, and flesh. It’s pretty gross, but Heather doesn’t tell Mike about it because that would end up being a whole thing, and they’ve got enough to deal with right now what with the Blair Witch and the fact that they’re both probably going to be fired from their jobs at Borders.

The final night rolls around and the duo hears Josh screaming AGAIN. They follow his screams to a house and after running around in the house and screaming, they are both presumably killed.


Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000 – dir. Joe Berlinger)

This movie is terrible and you shouldn’t watch it. In fact, I offer a challenge: If you do decide to watch it (you shouldn’t) and you can explain to me what the heck the titular ‘Book of Shadows’ is, I’ll give you 100% of my income forever.

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