BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XXVII: Seasons Greetings

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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http://youtotalcult.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Poss-final-blog-photo-dream-framev9.5.jpg Hello to you Sirs and Madams. Should you be regular readers then you are in for a treat. In a rare moment of calculation, I am writing this entry as a direct follow up to my most recent bog about sequels (http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-xxvi-hollyweird-2-electric-boogaloo/).

In fact ,this is the sequel to that very blog if you will. The very observational statement of such connectivity is making me stroke my chin hair smugly in appreciation.

Hollyweird Episode 26 detailed films that I would consider to be underrated sequels. This topic is going now to be continued even though this individual selection only exists as a sequel in the loosest possible sense. In fact if the movie in question had have actually been a huge success then its bold stance on sequels would have eliminated a further five piss- poor rip offs of a classic, as well as a further two atrocious remakes. Indeed the world was nearly spared from a total of seven craptacluar movies in the Halloween via the cruelly neglected Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

 

Halloween III: Season of the Witch may as well be called just ‘Season Of The Witch’. It actually has nothing to do with the previous two Halloween films which were based around the killing sprees of a certain Canadian comic’s namesake, Michael Myers.

Both of the previous, Myers-based Slasher Halloween films had been huge financial successes. However the writer-director of both of these films, John Carpenter, decided that enough was enough. Thus to escape getting roped into a third movie, Carpenter ensured that he killed off the character of Myers in a fire. Instead Carpenter and his Producer/Wife, Debra Hill envisioned a complete ‘u-turn’ for any further films in the Halloween-series.

I don’t know who drew this, but I likes it!

Carpenter and Hill advised Universal Studios that the franchise name could still exist, but that the very title of ‘Halloween’ could be changed to represent an anthology of movies. Each year a new, stand alone horror film could be made using this banner name.

Ideally then the studio would keep their franchise, whilst audiences would get a unique type of terror on annual basis from emerging new film makers.

With the studio in agreement for the plan, both Hill and Carpenter became producers on the third Halloween film. They supported the hiring of old colleague and friend, Tommy Lee Wallace. Wallace was the Production Designer and Editor on Halloween, as well as a collaborator on Carpenter’s other films, Dark Star and The Fog. Thus the lineage of Halloween behind the scenes was set to continue, even if Michael Myers and his Carving Knife were never going to feature in the film.

This is not Tommy Lee Wallace. But he did direct It.
This is not Tommy Lee Wallace. But he did direct It.

By 1982 Universal was now in agreement with the Carpenter’s proposed plan. They agreed to make a film titled ‘Halloween III’ that would exist as a different type of film altogether from the first two films. Well they sure couldn’t have gotten much more different!

Forget the prior use of an escaped lunatic who chases kids. Halloween III: Season of the Witch involves killer robots, Stonehenge, evil curses, an Irish madman and a middle aged protagonist who is arguably more of a scum bag than an actual hero. Allow me to elaborate by breaking down Halloween III’s plot. danger

Season Of The Witch begins with a mysterious stranger being chased by a few more mysterious strangers. (In fact this is all a bit of an oxymoron- all strangers must be somewhat mysterious. Otherwise they would just be ‘known familiars’). At any rate, these strangers are all dressed in business suits. The chased man is clutching a rubber mask tightly as he collapses inside a Gas Station. He keeps repeating ”They’re going to kill us!”. Still that’s yuppies for you- always wanting more. It’s not enough that they hound a man. They want to kill him too.

You’d think they could afford better ingredients

The exhausted stranger is driven to the hospital by a clerk at the gas station. He is soon admitted to the hospital under the care of Dr. Challis. Challis is played by the grizzled character actor, Tom Atkins. Atkins is a man that for 3 decades across multiple films has always seemed a middle aged, angry, a red-blooded meat eater. This is somewhat fitting for a man who has his name is shared by a diet program.

tom a 1

More to the point though, Atkins presence is also a sign that this film will not be dealing with teenage babysitters in peril. Instead Season of the Witch is going to be based around men in suits and middle aged doctors, and presumably even witches at some point. Already this is a different type of horror, possibly even a mystery, compared to the earlier Halloween films.

The newly admitted patient is found to be called Harry Gambridge. Gambridge is soon visited by another mysterious man in a suit. This new stranger though is a tad more efficient than the previously discussed strangers in suits. The visitor in the hospital does not just casually chase Gambridge. Instead he kills him. The killer then heads off to his car and sets himself alight. Since the killer takes the time to kill himself in his car, I can only imagine even in the 1980’s smoking was not allowed in hospitals.

Suffice to say Dr Challis is not too happy about this. As an alpha male, nobody gets murdered on his watch unless he is responsible! Naturally then, Challis decides to forget all about his other patients and join Gambridge’s daughter, Ellie, into investigating this entire scenario. Hey if Quincy MD and Diagnosis Murder’s mark Sloan can disappear to solve crimes, then why shouldn’t Atkins. Besides which he clearly fancies the young Ellie. So that’s all OK then.

Just a father and daughter hwalking along. Nothing to see here… Oh god, no! They’re lovers!

There only clue that the pair have is the rubber mask that Harry was clutching as he collapsed inside the gas station. It is a novelty Halloween mask made by The Silver Shamrock Company, so the duo begin their investigation by heading towards the Silver Shamrock Factory.

Mo, Larry and Curley had seen better days.
Mo, Larry and Curley had seen better days.

 

This factory is located in a small town just outside of California. Actually, the factory pretty much is the town. When Ellie and Dr Challis check into a hotel by the plant, they are informed by the owner that this entire town works at the factory. It is a town of Irish descent and they owe all of the prosperity to local Irish business man, Conal Cochran. Although since the town’s entire ‘prosperity’ seems to amount to a factory and a motel, they should perhaps just buy Conal a Guinness and call it even.

I’d buy that for a dollar
OCP Stocks? I’d buy that for a dollar!

Nonetheless, Ellie and Challis stay at the motel after discovering that Harry had also previously stayed there. Being a reckless Doctor and a young girl, they get a single room and soon sleep with one another. After all, Atkins is pure man, baby.

There are some more hotel guests alongside the Doc and Ellie. They are a toy store owner, and a family of three. These additional characters pretty much exist solely to die quite nastily. This is a horror film after all.

Easily the most stand-out of these deaths is that of fellow Motel patron/cannon fodder, Marge Guttman. Guttman is in her room playing with one of the Silver Shamrock tags that are normally attached to the rubber masks. She makes the mistake of trying to open this tag when suddenly her whole face gets lasered clean off!

This is proof that even horror sequels can be educational. Should one ever see one of those grey-discs attached to clothes in a shop, do not try to remove it yourself. It may not have dye in it. It may have a lethal booby trap.

Back into the main protagonists of the film, Ellie and Dr Challis mange to get onto a factory tour of the Silver Shamrock plant. Ellie ends up kidnapped by more of the yuppies, and in attempting a rescue Dr Challis discovers that these business men are actually just robots. I do not type that as a similie for the modern workplace, I mean they really are robots. Made of wires and metal and terrible haircuts.

Fun fact: 'Robot' comes from the Czech word for 'Slave'
Fun fact: ‘Robot’ comes from the Czech word for ‘Slave’

 

Soon enough, Challis and Ellie end up the captives of the Conal Cochran aka the OCP guy from the Robocop series. Conal turns out to be descended from Druids who wish for the commercialised, modern Hallowe’en to return to its original form of Samhaim. This original form will involve sacrificing children’s souls to keep the world in more in line with the ancient powers that be. Although it is equally feesable that that a lifetime of working in a toy factory has just left Conal hating kids.

Conal plans to revive the ancient power of Samhaim via a stolen boulder from Stone Henge (really) which he has incorporated pieces of into alongside computer chips (really). These mystically-endowed computer chips are then hidden within the tags on the Halloween masks (really) and will be powered by evil Celtic magic (really). These masks hidden powers will then be triggered by a secret code embedded via a Television advertisement (really). Consequently, any child wearing a Silver Shamrock mask at midnight who sees the said advert will turn into a pile of bugs and snakes (really).

To be fair to mad old Conal, it’s certainly a more original plan than Michael Myers repeated stabbing of teens. Although it’s a pretty out there plan when he could have just poisoned some candy and given it out.

Naturally Dr Challis, being the pure Alpha Male that Tom Atkins embues, manages kill Cochran and destroy the factory and rescue Ellie. Not bad for a middle aged Doc who originally sneaked off for some rumpy pumpy from a young girl in mourning.

As they drive away into the sunset, Challis is suddenly attacked by Ellie. She is not Ellie at all, but is another android!

Not the best time to lose one’s head

Atkins overcomes her, possibly by ripping her circuits out with his bare teeth. Or possibly by driving the car into a ditch. Believe whichever scenario you prefer. Challis manages to stumble to a reach a payphone to warn the Television Station not to air the Silver Shamrock commercial. Unfortunately he does not reach every station in time though. The signal is sent. The film ends as we hear Challis scream as his very own children begin to devolve….

Although to be honest the children should never have been up in time for a midnight commercial anyway. Also there are several time zone issues with this concept. Still, logic loops are almost always forgiveable if they lead to an enjoyably dark ending for a horror film, and they don’t come much darker than mass enficide.

 

“I had sex with a young girl! Wooooo!”

Now given the off-hand manner in which I have recounted Halloween III: Season of the Witch it may seem as though the film is dumb-trash. This is actually not the case. My recounting of the plot is more down to how absurd and varied it is. The way the film unfolds is actually pretty strong.

The film drips bleakness from the start. There is a sense of nihilism right away, something often necessary but overlooked necessary for creepy films. The beginning of the movie has its lead- a Doctor- unable to save his patient from being murdered under his very own nose. This very same Doctor then abandons his position of care- and even his family- to try and hook up with a young lady who has just had her father murdered…. And this lead character is the ‘hero’ of Season of the Witch!

Atkins aint no saint

By the end of the film, dot only does Dr Challis fail to save America’s children, but he also fails to save his own family. This being the very same family he abandoned on a sexual whim. Put simply, Challis fails and the world pays the price.

Meanwhile as viewers, the audience is exposed to killer robots, face-melting lazers, a Celtic Pagan- psychopath and magic that kills children. These threats seem to randomly crop up from the very start of the film onwards, often with no prior-hint or warning. The net result is to create a world where death lurks around every corner regardless of how fanciful it may be.

Between unexpected scientific and supernatural murders, as well as a protagonist that is not a clean cut good person, Season Of The Witch is the equivalent of a Fox news report. It informs the viewer that they are doomed.

fox

Part of this gloom in the film no doubt comes down to the choice of screen writer, Nigel Kneale. Kneale was a Science Fiction writer of quite some pedigree, having gained acclaim for his work on creating the Quartermass Experiment series.

Kneale wrote the original screenplay for Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Although the final form was so altered that Kneale asked for his name to be removed from the credits. Yet despite many changes it would seem that Kneale’s use of Science Fiction and Fantasy to highlight the hopelessness of man still hangs over the final film.

Given the present tropes of a horror films- reduced lighting, nasty special effects and haunting music- the total film becomes a sheer attack of nihilism on the senses. In this regard Halloween III is certainly a triumph as both a horror movie and as a part of the Halloween series. Much as with Michael Myers, terror is presented here as always worryingly present and unstoppably fantastical.

cream

Interestingly Season Of The Witch did actually turn a profit almost immediately. Made for approximately $2.5 Million, the film made over $14 Million just at the U.S. Box Office. The film was certainly no failure. Still, this positive return was just no match for the cash that Myers appearances had brought in. So out went the Anthology concept and back once again came Michael Myers, via the subtly named Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers in 1984.

Sadly Myers return led to bigger box office returns than the braver Season Of The Witch. Consequently more slasher Halloween films were made leading to Myers seeming-immortality having to be addressed. Frankly, this was a terrible idea.

In the continuation of the original series, ( Halloween: H2O, aside) Myers was revealed to be a part of a global conspiracy. He was born into a secret cult that stole his soul. Now he must butcher his whole family to save the world from supernatural destruction! Yep. That all really happened in the series between parts 4-7. Sigh.

Even old Donnie P couldn’t escape the paycheque of… The Cult of Thorn!

Meanwhile in the second series of Myers films that were ‘re-imagined’ by Rob Zombie, a decision was made to avoid the Cult Of Thorn altogether. Unfortunately these remakes did something just as dumb; Zombie used this opportunity to completely negate the terror of Myers. No longer was he a mysterious, silent killer that could represent the ‘boogeyman’ of anywhere. Instead he became a 7 foot giant with a Jerry-Springer type of background that explained all his behaviour away. Oh and he had a psychic connection to Laurie that involved a big white horse.

c/o meandyouandablognamedboo.blogspot.com

Both routes of the Myers-fasciantion killed off any mystique or terror surrounding the actual character himself. Whether it was a cult that makes his soul-less form invincible or a completely explained back story of a White Trash nutter, Myers was no longer scary. Meanwhile Season Of The Witch may be pretty strange and fanciful, but it does exist as a rare and bold attempt to keep a franchise going whilst having zero to do with the previous films.

Season Of The Witch could have also potentially led to any number of interesting scary stories not beholden to any previous entries. Potentially these ad-hoc Halloween films could have constantly be helmed by fresh film makers, giving the entire series an eclectic and energetic feel.

Admitadlly, depending on your love for the Myers character and your association with him as the Halloween franchise,then perhaps a non-Myers film sounds like a terrible idea for the series. But honestly, could it have been any worse than what ultimately happened to pale face two times over!??

 

Next time will be a look at a man with a voice soaked in bourbon and nicotine- and no, it’s not Joe Pasquale in a Noir movie.

Thanks for reading.

-MJ

 

 

BLOG YTC_:Hollyweird: Episode XXVI: Hollyweird 2, Electric Boogaloo

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Poss final blog photo dream framev9.5There is an old saying that bad things come in 3’s. Well this logic seems perfectly applicable in cinematic terms. In fact, ‘3’ may even be too generous. Bad films often come in pairs too. The more any successful film is continued through sequels (or the dreaded word… ‘franchised’) then the more likely it is for the follow ups to turn out poorly.

Most sequels are indeed a big number 2.
Most sequels are indeed a big number 2.

This is simply the law of diminishing returns; what was once fresh and fun becomes stale and predictable. Sequels of any number (or even that dreaded term again… ‘franchises’) are by their nature a paradoxical nightmare. The idea is to have all the familiar elements whilst also innovating in some way. So you have to try and do something the same yet also different- and all without screwing up in any major way involving the usual pitfalls of the casting, writing, direction or catering. (I may be guessing that last one).

Of course good sequels can certainly be made. Ignoring a series of films that were always intended to be a part of trilogies, you can still get cinematic gems from entirely unplanned extensions. These unexpected follow ups can, on occasion, seem to be universally praised.

(Psst…. Don’t spread it around but yes, I do have a heart. I love this series.)

Follow ups such as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Before Sunset, Evil Dead II, Clerks II or

Follow ups such as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Before Sunset, Evil Dead II, The Godfather Part II, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior are generally considered either as good as their first films or possibly even better than the originals.

There are even more successful sequels of course, but frankly there are so many considerably bad sequels to films than good sequels. In fact I am not even going to put forth any names of bad sequels. You can all think of some yourselves. That is how easy it is. It will take you seconds and make you curse the wasted hours of your life wasted on them all.

Is this the worst sequel ever?? Well no I have actually seen something worse...
Is this the worst sequel ever?? Well no I have actually seen something worse…

Of course any list of sequels under either category is completely subjective. Purely in terms of my thinking, films listed as ‘bad’ sequels are films that I, critics and frineds alike all generally agree to be painful attempts to capture lightening in a bottle twice.

Meanwhile ‘good’ sequels are ones that I have personally enjoyed and that have generally entered the popular consensus as worthy follow ups.

In both instances rummaging around www.imdb.com or www.rottentomatoes.com, whilst hardly being factual proof, at least generally backs up what seems to count as the best known ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sequels.

 

Too true
Too true

Ignoring both the plethora of bad sequels and those rarer, but famous good sequels, what is left to be discussed are the underrated sequels.

‘Underrated’ sequels are films that I personally believe deserve a lot more credit than they seem to get. Once again this absent credit is solely based on many online opinions and throughout everyday discussions from years of being a film geek. But if this is the world that we live in then these are the opinions that count.

To my mind, underrated sequels are films that seem to have poorer reputations than is fair. So I am now going to name a few of these films and attempt to explain just why these flicks need to be given more credibility. There is no order to these selections but they all need a voice in their corner, dammit!

Anyhoo, all justification aside this is very much a case of “Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the blog”.

 

Ghostbusters 2

ghostb

When will we get a good Ghostbusters sequel?” ask so many people online that the news of Ghostbusters 3 never ends. In fact the answer is that we already have one.

Ghostbusters 2 is not as good as the first film. No way. But you know what? Neither are 99% of any movies. Ghostbusters is absolutely amazingly well crafted to be fun for all ages. It features cool ghosts, slightly scary baddies and constant quips. Well oddly enough, so does the sequel.

Ghostbusters 2 features a Spectral Nanny played by the lil’ fella’ from Ally McBeal and a painting that literally follows your gaze around a room. I’d say these just about compete with the Ghost Librarian and Gozer’s acrobatic flips from the first film for a sense of scares and eeriness.

Eve in Portrait form, Murray is the class clown

Bill Murray is still on hand to dish out the put down, as are the people of New York City. The line delivered by a Harbor (sic) Master at The Titanic’s arrival in Ghostbusters 2 easily matches any lines from the first film. Even the fun action of the Ballrooms scene in the first film is mirrored in Ghostbusters 2 by an equally captivating courtroom scene.

Whilst it is true that the unforgettable sight of the Stay Puft Mashmallow Man from the first movie cannot be beaten, a funk-based, bopping Statue of Liberty powered by the songs of Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher & Higher’ sure deserves some praise in my world for coming as close as possible to upstaging ol’ Puff Daddy.

As a sequel, Ghostbusters 2 just plain deserves a little more respect. It may not be a stone cold classic but it’s fun. It does a really strong job of following up soehting that just was never going to be bettered. Frankly I wish more sequels were as good follow ups as this flick is. Heck, in Ghostbusters 2 bustin’ still makes me feel good.

 

SCREAM 2

Well for a movie that has its very own characters discuss how there are possibly no good sequels, I think Scream 2 does one hell of a job of putting that very notion to bed.

What made the original Scream so good? Primarily it was the original idea of mixing how jaded horror-film watching teens would react to being stalked by a real killer. But the aesthetics of the film were why it succeeded. The novel plot was combined with fun dialogue, and a fresh cast. Furthermore it was directed very tightly by horror legend, Wes Craven. Craven rings the tension when he needs to without the movie over staying its overly-precocious welcome.

Scream 2 does the same thing, but on an even bigger scale. You know, like good sequels often should do.

This is for leaving Sliders
This is for leaving Sliders

All of the original cast return in ways that make sense. The lead, Sydney, has moved onto College life. She has been traumatized by the original killings but is pushing on with her life. Once a copycat killer appears at the College, Sydney begins to lean on the other survivors of the first film for support- but not without judging them suspiciously too. Meanwhile new characters are brought in and handled just right- from Sydney’s new boyfriend to a pushy small time journalist to a creepy professor to a ex-con with a chip on his shoulder.

The casting in all of the roles is excellent, which is no surprise as even these smaller roles are played by Jerry O’Connell, David Warner, Laurie Metcalfe, Tim Ophyliant, and Liev Shrieber. All the performances verge on melodrama just as they should do. By doing this the actors enable Scream 2 to be both silly and straight at the same time.

Sorry Dave- but you know you're creepy.
Sorry Dave- but you know you’re creepy.

Meanwhile Craven nails the tension aplomb. Two scenes really stand out that horror fans often seem to unfortunately forget about. The first involves Sydney being stuck in a Police Crusier with the killer, Ghostface. Sydney has managed to crash the car to stop herself being butchered, but thanks to the locked doors she has only one way out- she has to crawl over a possibly unconscious Ghostface. Craven knows when to cut and where to keep audiences guessing whether Ghostface is really passed out or just waiting to strike.

A second, excellent moment is when a fellow survivor, Gale is being pursued by Ghostface through the Media Department on campus. She is with an ex-lover, and fellow survivor from Scream, Dewey. As the two become separated Gale ends up locked outside of a soundproof booth. There she gets to watch as Dewey is being stalked by Ghostface but because of the thick glass she cannot warn him. As Dewey becomes another of Ghostfaces victims, Gale can do nothing but watch. Her screams are silent as his blood flows…

“I know you stole a French fry”

There are other memorable moments too. The beginning is set in a cinema and sets the tone for the entire movie, whilst a Greek Theatre production stands out for its representation of everything getting amped up to verge on the theatrical.

The original Scream is absolutely inventive and enjoyable. It features a unique villain and brutal murders. Yet the only truly tense moment is the opening scene with the surprise killing of Drew Barrymore. The other moments of the original film are all still a bit of fun, but they lack the palpable tension of the scenes in Scream 2.

Once more the good casting and fun dialogue give a zap of energy to this sequel, whilst the tense direction of creepy set pieces keeps the film on edge. All of this whilst the narrative is woven into the original films back story, yet is also moved forward by returning characters. Essentially then, this is a great sequel as it delivers more of the same without seeming a retread.

This is 'the end', beautiful friend
This is ‘the end’, beautiful friend

In fact the only reason Scream 2 really falls short of the original is due to its ending. The revelation of the killers is lame, and set up the rest of the series to get weaker and weaker. (In fact, compared to the next two films in the series, Scream 2 is practically The Empire Strikes Back). This weak ending does kill Scream 2 a little since it ends a fun trip on a dull note. But to focus purely on a poor last 5 minutes is to miss a great 115 minutes beforehand.

The Critical Consensus of Scream 2 seems to be that it is certainly good, but that it is nowhere near as good as the original Scream. I disagree. I think the script is as good as the original right up until the last few moments, but in fact the whole sequel actually has better directed set pieces that work on a much larger and scarier level.

 

BATMAN RETURNS

A purr-fectly good Sequel (Sorry!)

Considered far too dark and sexual at the time of the films release, Batman Returns remains one of the Caped Crusaders best appearances. This is when Tim Burton apparently had a pair of testicles and wanted to be a pusher of Hollywood boundaries, as opposed to the ‘emo lite’ he has now peddled for over a decade.

Michelle Pfiffer seems to have walked off of an S&M film being shot in a studio next door, whilst Danny DeVito’s Penguin is genuinely freaky, having wandered in from some form of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari remake. Both actors really nail their roles in ways suitable for this world of Burton’s. They would never work in Schumacher’s camp films nor Nolan’s gritty films, but in this version of Gotham both villains are pitch perfect. They intrigue and scare like black devils against a snowy backdrop.

Good clean fun for the whole family!
Good clean fun for the whole family!

Rounding out this is Michael Keaton, to me possibly still the definitive Caped Crusader. His Batman is silent and deadly, but you know- not a fart. He doesn’t grimace or talk like Clint Eastwood having gut ache. Keaton plays Batman as a driven Psychotic, doing the bare minimum to protect the good and punish the bad. I actually think that Christian Bale is an ideal Bruce Wayne. Bale makes the character seem humane, scarred and a believable buffoon in public. Oddly I think Keaton over eggs all of these traits as Bruce Wayne. Combine Bale’s Bruce with Keaton’s Batman and you’d have quite the Batman.

If this doesn't make you smile then you have no soul
If this doesn’t make you smile then you have no soul

Also, at the end of the day the film involves penguins with missile launchers strapped to their backs, an insane Christopher Walken and it is possibly the bleakest Christmas Blockbuster of all time. Tell me theses reasons alone are not worth the world giving some more love to Batman Returns.

 

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2

Book_of_shadows_blair_witch_two_posterOK, this is actually only here for a very slight reason. The film- as a whole- is very poor. Yet the central conceit, which is established in just the first few minutes of Book Of Shadows, is actually surprisingly solid.

If we step back in time a little, the original film of The Blair Witch Project was the first major Found Footage horror film. Other films had used similar concepts, but The Blair Witch Project was a huge phenomenon. It remains the highest grossing Independent film of all time, making approximately $250 Million just at the Box Office, and in turn ousting Easy Rider to the top spot. For anyone involved around at the time, The Blair Witch Project really was inescapable. It was spoofed or referenced on almost any Television show of the time and became almost a shorthand in itself to feature someone crying through a confession on camera.

Part of the reason for this massive success of the first Blair Witch was that it was one of the first horror films to blur the line between reality and fiction via the Internet. Fake web pages helped sell the film as being based on real events. No obvious proof was on hand that this was a fictional film being presented to the world via the fledgling ‘viral advertising’. Now of course this would be much harder as the world has become far more internet savvy. But these were simpler times kiddies and the ruse worked wonders.

Ironically all of these actors careers have disappeared
Ironically all of these actors careers have disappeared

So once the original Blair Witch has come out, blown the world away and become a pop cultural phenomenon, just how does a studio go about following it up with a sequel?

If they attempted to keep palming off the original film as ‘real’ after revealing it to be a hoax then they would seem like idiots who were insulting their audience. In contrast though, if the film makers simply present the sequel as a standard ‘supernatural slasher’ type movie then they risk alienating the same audience.

Instead I would argue that they actually made a good move. instead Lionsgate took possibly the best route they could via acknowledging the whole concept of the first film as a hoax but then pushed on with the ‘real world’ affects of such a hit film in the sequel.

And so began two decades of cheap, crappy imitators. Sigh.
And so began two decades of cheap, crappy imitators. Sigh.

 

The sequel opens with a montage of real news reports about the success of the first film. The rest of the sequel is then based around characters who go on a ‘Blair Witch’ based tour. They go because they ‘saw’ the original film and want to see the related locations. Naturally they film much of their trip, which allows for the use of more camcorder footage mixed in with the normal camerawork. Inevitably of course then it turns out the Witch is real and the film quickly becomes a poor, generic horror film of the time complete with a nu-metal soundtrack and quick-cutting scenes.

 

This is what the Blair Witch looks like if you're actually curious
This is what the Blair Witch looks like if you’re actually curious

Book Of Shadows is not actually worth defending as a whole movie. But the clever way of incorporating the first, found footage type movie whilst simultaneously moving into a more traditional type of follow up does deserve a bit of praise. Book Of Shadows is clearly not a good film. But it is an underrated sequel that is often unfairly outright derided. At least it tried to be clever in recognition of the first film, which is something that many sequels do not even attempt.

There are of course many more sequels that need some more love. But I think this is enough for now to have hopefully given some praise to the many deserving. Besides, if I ever run out of ideas for this blog I can look at a few more underrated movie sequels in order to make a sequel to this very blog. I just hope that if that happens I can learn from the above examples to stay true to this original whilst moving on in bold new ways.

...?
…?

Next time I’m looking at a very specific sequel that could have meant a world with less M & M’s in it. Seriously.

Thanks for reading,