Abbot Genser
EW Staff
November 14, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

Current Status
In Season
90 minutes
Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner
Joe Berlinger
Artisan Entertainment
Dick Beebe, Joe Berlinger
Mystery and Thriller, Horror

We gave it a C-

The witch is back. After the horror flick that launched a thousand shaky cam imitators grossed $140.5 million, Artisan — which picked the film up at Sundance for a mere $1 million — quickly threw a sequel into production, tapping acclaimed documentarian Berlinger (”Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills”) to direct. This time around, the group of unknowns (and they are newcomers — Leerhsen fesses up that she ”didn’t even know what a grip was” before the shoot) take a ”Blair Witch” reality tour that’s prompted by their viewing the first movie. Understandably, they meet with a bit of trouble. ”We go into the woods, party, wake up in the morning and our campsite is shredded,” says Donovan, who plays the entrepreneur leading the tour. ”Five hours of our lives are unaccounted for, and we go in search of those five hours.”

With Artisan planning to open the movie on 3,000 screens in six countries simultaneously, the pressure is mounting to deliver something spine tingling. ”I think the expectation is for an inferior sequel, a knockoff of the first film,” sighs Berlinger, mired deep in postproduction. ”So I’ve chosen to do everything against expectation, including making this film look as beautiful as possible.” Something he had to do without filming any of his $15 million sequel — which ditches the original’s mock doc gimmick — in the now infamous burg of Burkittsville, Md. ”They’re SO mad about the first one,” says Leerhsen, who studied tapes of satanic rituals to prepare for her role as a Wiccan who faces down evil while trying to clear the witch’s name. ”But we did shoot in woods [near Burkittsville]…. All five of us play people who get obsessed with pop culture. There’s a certain creepiness about them, you know?” Oh, we know. GOOD SIGN Berlinger’s credits, which also include ”Brother’s Keeper,” are impressive. THEN AGAIN He’s never directed a fiction feature before.

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