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Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

For those who looked past the novelty and hype of The Blair Witch Project and saw only three irritating characters yelling at each other irrationally for 90 minutes, the sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is refreshing — there are five irrational characters, but they only yell at each other for the last half-hour or so. Book of Shadows is self-referentially set in the post-Blair Witch frenzy, as fans of the first movie flock to Burkitsville, Md. to vandalize the town and stalk the woods where it all "happened." One group, on an ill-planned guided "Blair Witch" camping tour, encounters mighty strangeness the same night that another group, not far away, is ritualistically murdered. In a rather dull fashion, they try to piece together what took place. Although the characters — and actors — in this sequel are much more likable than the twitty, grating film crew of the first film, nothing very interesting happens. The big flaw in BW2, as the kids call it, is that its supernatural premise is so ill-defined that anything can happen, and does, but there's no framework of suspense within which it can resonate. The result is a film that the stoned viewer might consider "trippy" — so juice up if you're going to bother with this one. Interestingly, this is the feature debut of excellent documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger (if you haven't seen his Brother's Keeper you're missing one of the best murder mysteries on film), who was no doubt chosen for this project because of his work on the two Paradise Lost films, documenting with great sympathy the trial of three scruffy boys accused of a small-town triple-murder simply because of their appearance. However, instead of imbuing BW2 with a tinge of realism, Berlinger's prior successes only lend the proceedings an air of sadness at a fine talent lost in the woods. Artisan's DVD release features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Serious DVD collectors take note: This disc is being touted as the first combo DVD+CD, with the film on one side and the CD-player friendly soundtrack on the other, so crank up those bitchin' Godhead and Steaknife tunes. The disc is packed with other features, including a commentary by Berlinger, another track with selective commentary by composer Carter Burwell, a live performance by Godhead, DVD-ROM content, and the mildly diverting The Secret of Esrever, which leads the viewer back to scenes in the movie featuring hidden visual trickeries. It's more interesting than the movie. Barely.
—Gregory P. Dorr

(Editor's Note: The Alliance Atlantis DVD of Trainspotting appears to be the first DVD + CD hybrid — while not noted on the packaging, the flip-side of the disc contains nearly an hour of train sounds.)



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