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Dork 'Shadows'

There's nothing to fear, but fear of a bad sequel, in 'Blair Witch 2'

By Richard von Busack

THERE IS NO ACTUAL "BOOK OF SHADOWS" in Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, unless you describe a mess of garbled videotapes as "a book of shadows." Shaped as a quick, profiteering scam off The Blair Witch Project, the new episode parodies the media-mania that's made life annoying for the citizens of Burkittsville, Maryland. Adding insult to injury, the filmmakers deride the townsfolk as inbreeding cases. A few scenes take place in a convenience store where various yokels congregate--one, a crazy woman with a shopping cart full of Underwood's deviled ham. Get thee behind me, satanically inspired lunch meats!

We begin on a "Blair Witch Hunt" tour, led by Jeff (Jeffrey Donovan) a Burkittsville teen with a history of some unspecified mental illness. He has four customers for his maiden tour: a bland academic couple Tristen (Tristen Skyler) and Stephen (Stephen Turner); Erica (Erica Leerhsen), a Wiccan who looks like Tori Amos, and Kim (Kim Director), a strapping Goth girl. The party of five camps out at the ruins of the house where seven children were killed 60 years previously. The campers set up a ring of video and digital cameras to record the events of the evening. After a night of whooping it up with whiskey and beer, they awake filthy, hungover and with no memories of an attack on their camp which destroyed all the photographic equipment. Tristen spontaneously miscarries and has to be taken back to recuperate in Jeff's home in an abandoned factory. There, the four other campers spend a long, sleepless stretch analyzing their lost video tapes, found buried in the mud, to try to piece together the events of the missing five hours

Blair Witch 2 tries to tell its story without extensive CGI, and the story has the possibility of a chill in it. Yet Blair Witch 2 never has a mood, thanks to actors who can't rise above the meager outlines they're given. Erica has a Wiccan motto, "Fear is a forerunner of failure," and Blair Witch 2 bears that motto out. We can see the fear of trying to make this film as serious, as gritty and gloomy as the first, in case it might be laughed at. Thus, this failure: just another tale of impious, beer-drinking kids punished by evisceration.

It criticizes the first Blair Witch for not having sex in it, and then, naturally, doesn't give us any, either. Unless, you count the sex appeal of a witch's Sabbath, an underwear dance around a campfire, a scene about as eldritch as the teddy bear's picnic.

Director Joe Berlinger is a noted documentary maker (My Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost); and he surprises by not giving a lick of documentary feel to the movie, which is fully posed, professionally photographed and orchestrated with a Carter Burwell score, including a series of rock acts. By the time we hear the line, "There must be some reasonable explanation for this," not even the Blair Witch herself could hex this film back to life.

Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows (R) directed by Joe Berlinger, written by Joe Berlinger and Dick Beebe, photographed by Nancy Schreiber and starring Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skyler and Stephen Barker Turner, opens Friday at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the October 26-November 1, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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