As the reviews of the 2000 sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 rolled in, director Joe Berlinger, days before his 40th birthday, curled up in a ball in his bed, wondering if his career was over.
“Everything — and I mean everything — that made The Blair Witch Project a little indie masterpiece has been falsified and trashed in this spectacularly bad sequel,” Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian. “For all its clever notions, Book of Shadows often seems more like a montage of pasted-together images than a coherent horror story,” Steven Holden said in The New York Times, while offering faint praise of the movie’s moderate scariness. Jonathan Rosenbaum noted in The Chicago Reader that “reality, characters, and fear are all well beyond the capacities of this feature.” And Roger Ebert, who lauded Berlinger’s work on films like Brother’s Keeper and Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, took a shot at the filmmaker’s very being: “He is one of the best documentarians around. But now that I’ve seen Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, I’m disturbed.”
The reviled horror sequel did not end Berlinger’s career. In fact, the director cites its colossal failure as the reason he tracked down Lars Ulrich, pitched him a film on Metallica, and made one of the all-time great music documentaries, Some Kind of Monster. To climb out of a pit of depression, he chased a dream project. But to this day, the mere mention of Blair Witch 2 stings Berlinger. He’s rarely discussed Book of Shadows over the years, and on a recent call with Polygon, said he couldn’t remember the last time he actually watched the movie.
And yet. On Oct. 30, Berlinger will hold court at the Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, for a group ofRead more on polygon.com