Book of Shadows director Joe Berlinger explains why the sequel never stood a chance at the box office or with fans.
Nowadays, in the era when found-footage horror movies have become passe. It is easy to forget just how groundbreaking The Blair Witch Project was when it arrived in theaters back in 1999. It’s follow up movie in 2000, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Directed and co-written by Joe Berlinger, was greenlit in hopes of establishing a dominant new horror franchise. But the sequel did not live up to expectations either critically or commercially. In a new interview with ComicBook.com. Berlinger explained that his intention with Blair Witch 2 was to critique the first movie instead of celebrating it.
“As a purveyor of reality, as a documentarian, it concerned me that Artisan [studio] tricked people into seeing [The Blair Witch Project] and no one in the media thought that was a bad thing, that everyone celebrated the marketing hoax that propelled this movie into the stratosphere in terms of box office gross, and nobody sat back and said, “Faking people out and making them think it’s real when it’s not could have dangerous consequences. That’s why I did the movie the way I did it, because I wanted to make a commentary on that. Instead of doing a sequel to the actual movie. I wanted to do a sequel to that phenomenon of the success of the movie and people refusing to believe it wasn’t true. Despite tangible proof in front of their eyes.”
And so Joe Berlinger waded into Blair Witch 2 not to do one more found-footage horror movie. But rather to show the audience how dishonest it is to market a film that is clearly fictional as something that actually happened. The filmmaker soon discovered that the general sentiment was already against his new movie succeeding based on the unorthodox road to success that The Blair Witch Project had taken.
“What I underestimated, back at the time, was anything called “Blair Witch 2” was going to be ripped to shreds because there was just such antipathy towards anything. This little $30,000 Sundance movie that people laughed when Artisan paid a million dollars for it, their competitors, all the other studios were giggling. Then this thing did $140 million or something like that. The idea that it would then be turned into a franchise, people were really resentful of that idea. And I figured, “Okay, I’m going to do something different and cool that has some meaning to it. And riff on the whole idea of making a sequel, and make fun of the idea of making a sequel. Hopefully people will respect that.”
While a certain section of the audience was against the idea of one more found-footage Blair Witch movie. There was another section of the audience that enthusiastically welcomed another installment in the nascent franchise that would deliver some delicious found-footage horror in the vein of the original The Blair Witch Project. Unfortunately, Berlinger had not intended his movie to cater to that section of fans either.
I underestimated how much venom there would be towards anything called “Blair Witch 2”. I also underestimated just how much the fans of that movie really just wanted the found-footage technique continued. And they really just wanted the folklore and the characters. They just wanted that to continue. My mistake, and this is not a disrespect to the fans of Blair Witch 1. My mistake was trying to … I’m a documentarian of intellectual documentaries. What were people expecting? My mistake was to inject into a horror franchise some intelligence and social commentary.
This news originated at ComicBook.com.