Five young people obsessed for various reasons with last year's low-budget blockbuster "The Blair Witch Project" venture into the same spooky Maryland woods where the film was shot. Hey it was only a movie right? It's not like there's any truth to all that complicated mythology on the Web site! The misguided youngsters barely have time to set up their video equipment however before enough weird things start happening to make them wish they'd been fans of "Scream" instead.
In a movie this messed up it's hard to tell if any of the five unknowns in the lead roles can act or not. Jeffrey Donovan is offbeatly intense as the group's mentally disturbed guide - or is he just confused by the script? Tristen Skyler and Stephen Barker Turner playing a couple writing a book about the "Blair Witch" phenomenon pull off a few of the film's more convincing moments. Kim Director and Erica Leerhsen are generally harder to buy as a Goth fashion victim and a practicing Wiccan/witch's rights activist respectively.
Making an unpromising debut as a feature director acclaimed documentarian Joe Berlinger ("Brother's Keeper") delivers a dragging unengaging dud likely to pop up on many "worst of 2000" lists. Gone is the home-video realism and refreshingly simple storytelling that made the first "Blair Witch" such an authentically scary experience. Berlinger takes the series back to the slick look and feel of standard Hollywood fare packing "Book of Shadows" with laughable melodrama and unbelievable plot twists that are only frightening if you happen to own stock in Artisan Entertainment. The surprise revelations in the last act are so incomprehensible that when Donovan's character screams "This makes no sense!" it's enough to bring the house down.