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As hard as it may be to find a modern moviegoer who remembers The Blair Witch Project, it's near impossible to find anyone that's seen its ill-fated follow-up, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. This isn't that surprising, as the first sequel in the Blair Witch saga was perceived to have flopped so hard, it pretty much killed any chances of a sequel for at least 16 years. Something that still haunts and traumatizes Book of Shadows' director, Joe Berlinger, to this very day.
With a less than stellar $9.5 million opening greeting Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's crack at the Blair Witch legend, Berlinger took the opportunity to call out the fact that he took a pretty hard drubbing when Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 opened on October 27th, 2000. The critical, and audience, reaction to his film has traumatized him away from even seeing this weekend's entry in the series. Though, as he told Deadline earlier today, his attitude is not only due to how his film was received, but also how his film was treated by the studio. Joe Berlinger explained this complicated history, with the following anecdote:
The studio recut the film and inserted scenes of gore against my will and I didn't have the courage back then to just remove my name from the film. And then to be eviscerated by critics on a cut of the film that I did not sanction was doubly painful. That's not to say that my director's cut would have garnered a better reaction from critics per se, [but] at least I could have stood by the film for representing my vision and if people hated that version, it would have been less painful because it's what I would have wanted to be seen.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 took the meta-sequel route, as it focused on a group of young people who saw The Blair Witch Project, only to be inspired to travel to Burkittsville, Maryland themselves. Of course, things don't turn out all that peachy for our film fans, as they eventually find themselves in a situation so twisted, it leads to a hell of a finale. Sadly, the more cerebral and meta nature of Joe Berlinger's original vision has been widely documented, as well as it being overridden by the powers that were at Artisan Entertainment. Keep that in mind as you watch the trailer for the finished product, included below.
All of this talk about success and failure dances around the fact that both Joe Berlinger's Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and Adam Wingard / Simon Barrett's Blair Witch are being unfairly judged. The two films are being compared to Eduardo Sanchez's The Blair Witch Project, and its micro-budget / mega grossing success. While neither film scaled the heights of the adventure that inspired them, they're not outright failures, they're merely failures by comparison. The financial trajectory of Blair Witch has the film on its way to being profitable, and Book of Shadows made some decent money over its theatrical and home video releases. If only someone had thought to make this argument back in 2000, Berlinger might not have felt so offended.
The next couple of weeks will be the true test of whether the Blair Witch legacy will continue, or if it'll slink back into the dark forest from whence it came. You can enjoy the madness that is Blair Witch in theaters now, and in our honest opinion, you totally should.