Bare Bones

'Blair Witch' Scared The Pants Off Enough Tourists To Make Another Movie.

THE BLAIR WITCH Project was, by some calculations, the most profitable movie of all time, in that it cost only $30,000 to make, but grossed well over a hundred million. Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows cost exactly 100 times as much money to make, so it must be 100 times as good, right?

Like Blair Witch, the sequel uses unknown actors, purports to be "true," and takes place in Burkittsville, Maryland. Now, there are a lot of great actors who are unknown because they don't have the Hollywood look. The actors in BW2 are, on the other hand, real pretty, so you can be sure that if they're unknown, there's a good reason (i.e. they suck).

But great acting isn't the only thing needed to make a great film. How about a great concept? Whereas Blair Witch was a fake documentary, BW2 is a fake docudrama, which seems a bit redundant. It purports to be a dramatic re-enactment of events that occurred in the wake of the success of the first Blair Witch film.

The story follows a group of tourists as they visit the sites used in The Blair Witch Project movie. The tourists include the academic couple who are always fighting, the local ne'er-do-well (or perhaps he's a local rapscallion; it's not quite clear) who leads the tour, a pretty goth chick who somehow manages to keep her makeup smudge-free even while having lesbian sex and hacking up some helpless campers, and a pretty Wiccan girl whose main purpose in the movie is to spout pro-Wicca soliloquies while getting increasingly naked. She's very good at the latter part of that role.

In fact, though BW2 is loaded with nudity and violence, it could really have used a lot more nudity and violence. Between the naked and bloody scenes the actors mostly sit around and look scared. I think they're worried that the upcoming election could go the wrong way and eliminate the welfare programs they'll be surviving on for the rest of their lives.

As in Blair Witch, the characters in BW2 film themselves constantly, though the movie is not composed of the footage they shoot. Rather, since it's supposed to be a docudrama, the movie is composed of footage of the actors filming each other. That's about as much fun to watch as you'd imagine. Except, of course, when they're filming each other eviscerating corpses or getting naked.

A lot of the film is dedicated to edifying lectures about how good and peaceful and misrepresented Wicca is. Wicca, for those who were hiding under a rock when the Lilith Fair came by, is the ancient European nature religion currently in vogue among feminist hippie chicks, outcast teenagers and ancient Europeans. Frankly, it would be nice to see Wicca (whose practitioners are known to outsiders as "witches") get a fair shake. Generally, witches are portrayed as evil, whereas, in fact, most of the people who are actually evil enough to commit mass murder or run for president are Christians.

However, understanding that the message is only as good as the paper it's printed on, director Joe Berlinger (best known for his work on nothing) has Erica the Wiccan deliver her heartfelt pro-Wicca speeches early in the film, and then has her spend the final 40 minutes running around naked, in order to really bring home the message that witches are not only good people, they can even have nice racks.

Oddly, for a film that veers ever closer to that profitable abyss known as "stupidity," BW2 starts with some clever stuff. The opening sequence is edited together from actual TV reviews of the first Blair Witch movie, and then includes interviews with people from Burkittsville complaining about how the movie ruined their town by bringing in an influx of tourists. All this is in order to set up the fictional story about the tourists who come to town and get more than they bargained for, but the cleverness pretty much ends when the "dramatic" part of the film begins.

Perhaps the overly ironic and those who aren't getting enough internet porn could find some things to like about Blair Witch 2, as it's occasionally bad enough to be funny, and it's reasonably pornographic, in the best possible sense. It also has one of my favorite features of bad movies that have suffered a lot of rewrites: The title has nothing to do with the film. There is nothing even remotely like a "book of shadows" in this movie, but that's probably because the people who produced and titled this film just didn't know what a "book" was.

Anyway, I think the filmmakers took the idea of the first film, making something that seemed incredibly real, and went too far with it, because Blair Witch 2 winds up being a little bit too much like real life, which is to say, it's a tiresome affair, only somewhat livened up by the appearance of the occasional eviscerated corpse or bare buttock.

Blair Witch 2: The Book Of Shadows is playing at Foothills (742-6174), De Anza Drive-In (745-2240), Century Gateway (792-9000), Century Park (620-0750) and Century El Con (202-3343).

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