In October 1997, two filmmakers — Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick — armed with a 16mm camera, a couple of Camcorders and a makeshift crew and cast, went to the outskirts of Maryland to make a faux-documentary-style flick called “The Blair Witch Project.” And the rest is the stuff of modern film history.
Three years after the original “Blair Witch” was made and a year after it shook the industry from ground up at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999, the film’s much awaited sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” is finally coming out in theaters this Friday.
Despite the lineage, it would serve fans of the original film well to not expect a lot of “Blair Witch” trademarked stuff — say, shaky camera and a low-production look and feel — to get a lot of play in the sequel.
What’s more, the sequel has even got a different guy at the helm, albeit a very reputable one. Sanchez and Myrick would only do a “Blair Witch” prequel (but they’re executive producers in this one), so Artisan, the studio behind the franchise, brought in Joe Berlinger.
An indie veteran himself, Berlinger is part of the documentary team responsible for acclaimed works such as “Brother’s Keeper” (1992) and “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (1996).
“I thought that the best way to deal with a movie that came from nowhere and exploded to the scene in a very unique way, the way to honor that movie and respect it is to not even try to compete with it, not to be that movie,” Berlinger told Hollywood.com during the sequel’s press junket.
And that’s precisely the point — for the two films to be different, that is.
If “The Blair Witch Project,” in toying with reality, had created a phenomenon, then what “Blair Witch 2” set out to do is to explore that very phenomenon — hey, we’re only paraphrasing what Berlinger said he wanted to do.
“… It’s what I called an anti-sequel. Why is it an anti-sequel? Well, none of the actors from the first movie appear in the second. The story isn’t continued, but rather, it’s commented upon. And at the end of the movie, I question the very validity of the mythology of the Blair Witch. I thought it is a smarter way to do the sequel.”
So there you have it.
Still, the differences between the two flicks are not just conceptual. That said, we hereby present to you a chart comparing the original “The Blair Witch Project” and “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” on the eve of the sequel’s release. Check it out for yourself what’s similar and what’s not between the two films.
“The Blair Witch Project” — Reports range from $30,000 to $70,000. The film went on to gross more than $140 million in the United States. “Blair Witch 2” — $10 million. A spokesman from Artisan, the studio behind the sequel (and the franchise), told Entertainment Weekly that they expect a $30 million opening weekend.
“The Blair Witch Project” — There was Heather the filmmaker, Josh the cinematographer and Mikey the soundman, all unknown actors in reality. And all use their real first names for their parts. “Blair Witch 2” — There is Kim the Goth, Jeffrey the Blair Witch tour guide, Erica the witch, Stephen the book writer and Tristine the girlfriend of Jeffrey, unknowns picked from the New York and L.A. open calls that yielded more than 5,000 video and 3,000 in-person hopefuls. And oh, like the original “Blair Witch,” these actors also retain their original first names for their roles.
“The Blair Witch Project” — It’s about three kids making a documentary about the Blair Witch who disappeared in the woods. “Blair Witch 2” — It’s about five kids who dig “The Blair Witch Project” movie so much that they decide to go visit the location where the film took place, but to detrimental results.
“The Blair Witch Project” — Uses black and white 16mm and digital video footage; the story is somewhat linear. “Blair Witch 2” — Uses 35mm color film and digital video (color and b/w) footage; story nonlinear.
Shaky Camera Factor
Internet Marketing Factor
“The Blair Witch Project” — The biggest and most successful one in recent memory. A “Blair Witch” Web site launched by the films’ creators was essential in selling the idea that the film is real to the public. “Blair Witch 2” — Yes, in the form of a three-day, ’round-the-clock live Webcast on the film’s official Web site. It’s got everything sci-fi and horror fans want: chats, live musical performances, film clips and footage.