Book of Shadows Blair Witch 2

USA 2000

Reviewed by Kim Newman


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

It's a year after the release of The Blair Witch Project, a film consisting of footage shot by three students who were making a documentary about a witch in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. The town is overrun by sensation-seeking tourists. Jeff, a local youth, hosts a Blair Witch-themed tour of the area. His first customers are graduate students Stephen, who is writing a book on the Blair Witch phenomenon, and Tristen, his pregnant girlfriend; Wiccan Erica, who argues that the film maligned her religion and is seeking communion with martyred witch Elly Kedward; and Kim, a goth girl who claims to have psychic powers.

The group venture to the ruined house where the original Blair Witch footage was found and run into a rival tour, whom they misdirect to another witch-related site Coffin Rock. While camping overnight, the group black out for several hours and wake to find Stephen's manuscript in tatters and Jeff's camera equipment smashed. Tristen has a miscarriage. The group retreat to a nearby disused factory to examine the tapes shot during their blackout. Erica disappears and is discovered stabbed to death. The local sheriff calls to tell them the rival group has been found murdered at Coffin Rock. Later, ghost children cause Kim to crash a van.

The tapes apparently reveal that the group, possessed by the spirit of Elly Kedward or her tormentors, destroyed the equipment. Tristen, transformed into the Blair witch, taunts Stephen into killing her. The survivors are taken into custody and the tapes prove them collectively guilty of murdering the rival group and individually of separate killings - Kim of a grocery-store clerk, Jeff of Erica, Stephen of Tristen.


Although no one involved in the making of Book of Shadows is a household name, there's a lot of classy talent behind the follow-up to a film which derived much of its potency from its apparent emergence out of nowhere. Director-writer Joe Berlinger comes from the documentary tradition The Blair Witch Project so cunningly imitated, having won plaudits for Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills. To build on the improvised dialogue, thrown-together artefacts and minimal soundtrack of the first film, the sequel calls in co-writer Dick Beebe (who wrote the remake of House on Haunted Hill), art director Vince Peranio (who does wonders with the witch's new lair, an abandoned broom factory), composer Carter Burwell (a Coen brothers regular) and musician Marilyn Manson (who assembles a selection of goth-rock tracks). The film may not have a blockbuster budget, but it's clearly well-funded in an independent sort of way, with the money saved from hiring an unfamiliar cast used to haul in behind-the-camera expertise.

The Blair Witch Project could only ever have been a one-off, but in the year that's followed its release there's been a flurry of spoofs (The Bogus Witch Project), some disreputable footnotes (The Erotic Witch Project), blatant rip-offs (The St. Francisville Experiment) and the first of what one dreads will be a slew of shaky camcorder killer-in-the-woods quickies (Camp Blood). Artisan, the US distributor who hit big with Blair Witch, and Haxan, the production company, put the sequel project out to tender and went with one of several suggested continuations (the film follows a small group of Blair Witch fans on a tour of sites connected with the original movie). Probably wisely, Berlinger breaks from the faux-documentary framework of the first film; although we see a lot of video footage apparently shot by the characters (or even by the unseen witch), most of the movie sticks to the formal rules of mainstream film-making. Though there are no on-screen monsters, there are some gruesome special effects in flashes or close-ups and the dialogue is solidly competent (lacking the improvisary feel of the original).

There are interesting ideas throughout: by replaying certain characters' actions on videotapes that show radically different versions of incidents we saw earlier (in a conventionally shot sequence Blair Witch fan Kim has an argument with a grocery clerk; a security camera later shows the same scene, although this time she stabs the woman to death), the film unsettles some of the assumptions underlying The Blair Witch Project. After all, if the witch can manipulate video and film footage, then what status can the material that made up the original have? The sloppy but amusing opening of Book of Shadows, with Burkittsville residents who live near the witch's stomping ground jeering at a flood of Blair Witch fans or trying to hawk them souvenirs, already blurs the film's status as a fiction - in the narrative universe of Book of Shadows, is The Blair Witch Project a film by Heather Donahue, one of that movie's characters, or by credited directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez? Tellingly, the local sheriff complains about the unethical use of the word documentary. Given this confusion, even what seems like a plain lapse (the tapes contain footage of the tapes being buried) might be another manifestation of the witch's influence, like the witch marks that sprout like poison ivy on the characters' bodies.

Like Berlinger's Paradise Lost, Book of Shadows is about the search for scapegoats. Each of the characters is set up to take the blame for the murders: Kim, the goth girl, claims that in her home town she is treated like a mad killer because she wears black clothes and make-up; Erica, a real witch, insists on arguing with the media's misrepresentation of her beliefs and shares the pain of Elly Kedward, the witch from the original film, during her protracted execution; Jeff is a released mental patient and net-nerd; and Stephen is consumed by his research on a book entitled Blair Witch: Hysteria or History? As the film comes to a close, after the bodies have inevitably piled up, a news commentator claims "sadly, as so often in this country, violent art has inspired real-life violence". The moment comes too late, after too much ordinary or uninspired business, but again the Blair Witch franchise is asking its audience to think again about its definitions of "violent art" and "real life".


Joe Berlinger
Bill Carraro
Dick Beebe
Joe Berlinger
Director of Photography
Nancy Schreiber
Sarah Flack
Production Designer
Vince Peranio
Music/Muic Recordist
Carter Burwell
©Artisan Film Investors Trust
Production Companies
Artisan Entertainment presents a Joe Berlinger film
Haxan Films
Executive Producers
Daniel Myrick
Eduardo Sanchez
Associate Producer
Kevin Foxe
Production Co-ordinators
Alison Sherman
New York Crew:
Ellen Gannon
Unit Production Manager
Bill Carraro
Location Manager
Kathleen Ash
JoAnn M. Laub
Shawn Nuzzo
Jacquey Rosati
2nd Unit Director
Bill Carraro
Assistant Directors
H.H. Cooper
Dale Pierce Nielsen
Joe Incaprera
2nd Unit:
Robert Rooy
New York Crew:
Glen Trotiner
Dean Garvin
Script Supervisors
Lisa Katcher
New York Crew:
Linda Hafiel
Bernard Telsey
Will Cantler
David Vaccari
Pat Moran
Baltimore Associate:
Jonah Wortman
New York Associates:
Helen Marshall
Lori Saposnick
Los Angeles:
Joe Adams
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Craig Haagensen
Director of Photography
New York Crew:
Robert Bukowski
Camera Operators/
P. Scott Sakamoto
Ross Judd
New York Crew:
Bruce McCallum
Technocrane Operator
Stuart Allen
Visual Effects
Balsmeyer & Everett, Inc
Special Effects
Steve Kirshoff
Will Caban
Jake McKinnon
Mark Tavares
James Hirahara
Scott Patton
Additional Editors
Janice Hampton
Alan Oxman
Art Director
Rob Simons
Set Decorator
Susan Kessel
Storyboard Artist
Helen Williams Ward
Costume Designer
Melissa Toth
Costume Supervisor
Catherine Fletcher Incaprera
Key Artist:
Gina W. Bateman
Cheryl 'Pickles' Kinion
Joseph A. Campayno
Special Make-up Effects
John Caglione Jr
Animatronic Owl
KNB EFX Group Inc
Key Stylist:
Janice Kinigopoulos
Additional Stylist:
Charmaine Henninger
Main Title
Balsmeyer & Everett, Inc
Opticals/End Credits
Title House Digital
Optical Co-ordinator
Jose Avitia
Music Performed by
Carter Burwell
Music Supervisor
Ed Gerrard
Music Editor
Todd Kasow
Music Scoring Mixer
Michael Farrow
Music Consultant
Deirdre O'Hara
"Disposable Teens" - Marilyn Manson; "Streamlined" - Sunshine; "All or Nothing" - Julie Reeves; "Feel Alive" - U.P.O.; "Mind" - System of a Down; "Goodbye Lament" - Tony Iommi featuring Dave Grohl; "Human" - Elastica; "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" - Queens of the Stone Age; "Old Enough" - Nickleback; "I'm a Doggy" - Marvin Pontiac; "Lie Down" - P.O.D.; "Dragula" - Rob Zombie; "The Reckoning" - godhead; "Ps" - Project 86; "Soul Auctioneer", "Dirge" - Death in Vegas; "The Lord Is My Sheperd" - Diamanda Galas; "Forest Ranger" - Plexi; "Haunted" - Poe; "arcarsenal" - At The Drive-In
Sound Mixer
Jay Meagher
Re-recording Mixers
Tom Fleischman
Peter Waggoner
Christian Castellano
Audio Post Co-ordinator
Malaika Langa
Supervising Sound Editors
Paul P. Soucek
Warren Shaw
Dialogue Editors
Dan Korintus
Jack Rubenstein
Marc Laub
Sound Effects Editors
Tony Martinez
Branka Mrkic
Jeffrey Stern
Loop Group
Sondra James
Danielle Acarino
Samantha Bloomfield
Andrea Bowen
Cameron Bowen
Grahm Bowen
Jessica Bowen
Stephanie Byer
Richard Feiner
Nick Giangiulio
Jessica Kavanagh
Karen Tse Lee
Madeline Lee
Pamela Lewis
Alissa Magrill
Spike McClure
Sean Oliver
Jennifer Perito
Peter Pamela Rose
Craig Sechler
Zak Todd
Paul Zydel
David Boulton
Bobby Johanson
Kenton Jakub
Lisa Levine
William Sweeney
Brian Vancho
Ryan Collison
Joe Doner
Steven Visscher
John Werner
Stunt Co-ordinators
George Aguilar
New York Crew:
Peter Buccossi
2nd Unit Helicopter Pilot
Al Cerullo
Kim Director
Jeffrey Donovan
Erica Leerhsen
Tristen Skyler
Stephen Barker Turner
Kurt Loder
Kurt Loder, MTV newscaster
Chuck Scarborough
Chuck Scarborough, newscaster
Bruce Reed
Bruce, Burkittsville resident 1
Joe Berlinger
Joe, Burkittsville
tourist 1
Sara Phillips
Lauren, Burkittsville tourist 2
Lynda Millard
Lynda, Burkittsville resident 2
Deb Burgoyne
Deb, Burkittsville resident 3
Andrea Cox
Andrea, Burkittsville resident 4
Lanny Flaherty
Ronald Cravens, Burkittsville sheriff
Pete Burris
MBI man 1
Briton Green
Erik Jensen
Peggy K. Chang
Tony Tsang
Anja Baron
Kevin Murray
Keira Naughton
Lauren Hulsey
Eileen Treacle
Ed Sala
MBI man 2
Tyler Zeisloft
Richard Kirkwood
Justin Fair
Raynor Scheine
Rustin Parr
Brilane Bowman
ham lady
Kennen Sisco
Robert M. Kelly
MBI man 3
Dina Napoli
WBAL reporter
Landra Booker
Fox 45 reporter
Jacqui Allen
Sloane Brown
WJZ 13 reporter
Momentum Pictures
8,123 feet
90 minutes 16 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
Colour by
End credits' title
Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011