Originally conceived as a psychological thriller and meditation on mass hysteria, Artisan Entertainment re-cut Berlinger's original film, altering the soundtrack as well as making editing changes and adding additional footage. The film was released in theaters in North America on October 27, 2000 to largely negative reviews from critics and audiences; it was, however, a financial success, grossing $47 million worldwide against its $15 million budget.
The film begins with Jeff Patterson, a patient at a mental hospital in Maryland, receiving drugs through a feeding tube. Moments later, he is in a padded room with a straitjacket on, throwing his body against the padded walls.
The film cuts to November 1999, when a group of young tourists—Stephen and his pregnant wife, Tristen, who are researching the Blair Witch for a book they are writing; Erica, a Wiccan; and Kim, a goth psychic—arrive in Burkittsville, Maryland, after seeing The Blair Witch Project. Jeff, who is a local resident, is their tour guide and a paranormal investigator who says his equipment will capture any supernatural events that happen while they visit the Blair Witch site.
They camp for the night in the burned ruins of Rustin Parr's house and Jeff places cameras around to capture evidence of the Blair Witch. Jeff is derailed when the group asks him about an old tree that is located within the ruins, which he claims was never there before. Nobody seems to believe Jeff except for Kim. As the group gets drunk on alcohol and high from smoking marijuana around a campfire, another tour group arrives and claims to have jurisdiction over the ruins. Jeff and his group lie to the other tour group to convince the others that they saw something horrifying at Coffin Rock earlier. Believing the lie, the other group leaves to investigate. Jeff and his group continue to party into the night becoming increasingly more intoxicated. They wake the next morning with no memory of the previous night. Tristen and Stephen's research documents are shredded and strewn about, and Jeff's cameras are destroyed. Tristen and Stephen are distraught as their work has been lost. Kim expresses a psychic senses that Jeff's tapes are still intact. She points to the spot where they are buried, and the tapes are found unharmed in the same spot the Blair Witch Project footage was discovered. Tristen is visibly uncomfortable and then the group notices that she is bleeding and has miscarried. Each member of the group starts to have flashbacks of being interrogated by Sherriff Cravens.
The group goes to the Burkittsville hospital, where Tristen's miscarriage is confirmed. As she is about to be discharged, Tristen sees a pale young girl walking away backward. Jeff takes the group back to his home, an abandoned broom factory against a steep hill in the woods. It has an elaborate security system of surveillance cameras, and a front door alarm of barking dogs. Tristen goes to rest and she expresses that she is having perceptual disturbances, which she believes is related to the Blair Witch. That evening, the group reviews Jeff's tapes and find hours of footage to be missing. They notice that the tree is mysteriously missing from the video footage, and in its place is a young sapling tree. They notice an image that flashes onto the screen, and see that it is a naked woman swinging backward around the tree. Stephen notices that Kim has some kind of irritation on her shoulder, which Kim dismisses as chafing.
Erica goes to the kitchen to check for beer and coffee. She and Stephen then hallucinate that they were making out with each other. As Erica unbuttons Stephen's shirt, she notices strange markings on his body. Erica remarks that she has them too and then viciously scratches Stephen, after which she and Stephen realize that they are hallucinating. Meanwhile, Kim and Jeff have been slowing down the footage. They call up Stephen and Erica to see what they have found in the footage, which reveals that the naked woman is Erica. The group insinuates that Erica knows more and they begin to question her. Erica remembers no such event and runs off to pray, weeping as she does so.
Kim tries to console a hysterical Erica, who reveals the markings on her body and exclaims that it is a sign they have all been marked by the witch to die. Kim borrows Jeff's van to drive into town to pick up coffee and alcohol. While at the store, she is catcalled by local boys and then gets into a heated argument with the convenience store cashier. The van she drives is attacked by locals as Kim leaves, and she crashes the vehicle into a telephone pole after swerving to avoid hitting ghostly children walking along the road. Back at Jeff's, she reaches into her shopping bag and pricks herself on a small, bloody nail file stuck among the bottles of beer she purchased. Kim apologizes to Jeff, who she hallucinates as Rustin Parr in the electric chair.
The three tourists decide to leave the next morning. Tristen has become increasingly more mentally unhinged and delusional about the Blair Witch, and she comments about the strange markings on their bodies. Jeff discovers his van is wrecked, but Kim says she had only dented the fender. Erica mysteriously disappears and they all go to look for her. Kim discovers Erica's clothes, surrounded by a circle of lit candles. They attempt to call Erica's father at his office but are told by his secretary that he has no children. The county sheriff calls to Jeff and asks him to turn on the TV to see the news, and to inform that the other tour group was found disemboweled on Coffin Rock. He demands that Jeff reveals whatever he knows about the crime, but Jeff denies any involvement and hangs up.
Jeff becomes agitated and shouts to the group that nobody can leave because he will not blamed for the murders of the tourists. Who?--editor left this name out decides to call for help, but while looking for a telephone directory discovers dossiers on each of the tourists in Jeff's desk. Tristen (whose mental health is rapidly deteriorating) suddenly claims she can see Erica through a window, naked and swinging around a tree. Stephen runs outside to confront Erica, but the walkway connecting the building to the hill collapses under him when he does so. As he climbs to safety, Stephen sees the same girl Tristen did in the hospital. He calls for Tristen to help him but she walks away without any regard. Tristen becomes even more disorganized with her behavior and expresses a belief that she is going crazy. While Kim asks for a phone book to call a doctor for Tristen, Kim finds a set of surveillance dossiers on the group. Kim accuses Jeff of spying on them but he denies it. As they argue, the sheriff calls again and states he is at Jeff's front door. The security monitor shows the bridge is now intact. Jeff hears the sheriff shouting at the door, goes downstairs, grabs a shotgun from a closet, and opens the door, but the bridge has returned to its damaged state and the sheriff is nowhere to be seen and dogs are barking st the other side. Jeff runs to his closet to get a gun, but the dogs have disappeared when he opens the door again to shoot the dogs. Stephen, Kim, and Tristen arrive as Jeff opens the closet to put the gun away, and all three discover Erica's corpse in the closet.
Tristen, in a hallucinatory state, chants about “reversing the evil”, speaking backwards and remarking about the backwards theme in their hallucinations. This leads Kim to suggest they play Jeff's damaged tapes in reverse. The footage now shows the group descending into a frenzy with Tristen leading the group in satanic worship and a drunken orgy, destruction of Jeff's cameras and Tristen and Stephen's research, followed by a subsequent ritual murder of the other tour group and footage of Tristen hiding the video tapes.
The group begins to confront Tristen and blames her for making them engage in their debauchery. Jeff begins taping Tristen as the group demands that she confess to killing Erica. Tristen initially denies and cries but then seems to turn to an alter ego of the Blair Witch. She sneers at the others chiding them and alternately asking them for help while luring them to the second floor. Stephen accuses Tristen of deliberately killing their baby. Tristen ties a rope around her own neck, threatening to kill herself. Stephen pushes her over the second-floor banister in a moment of rage and causes her to hang herself. As Tristen's body is hanging, the scene is intercut with images of the tourists being murdered
After a jump cut, the audience sees that Jeff, Stephen, and Kim have been arrested. They report to the police that Tristen was possessed and committed the crimes. Each is interrogated separately, with the police showing each person footage of their crimes. Security camera footage shows Kim killing the store cashier by stabbing the store cashier in the neck with the cashier's nail file. Surveillance camera footage shows a naked Jeff arranging Erica's clothes, and putting her dead body in the closet. Jeff's video shows the group interrogating Tristen, accusing her of being a witch, and Stephen pushing her over the banister (but not Tristen putting the rope around her own neck). All three, close to a nervous breakdown, vehemently deny doing any of those things and they insist that the footage is not how the events happened.
Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard appear in archival footage as fictionalised versions of themselves.
After the massive success of The Blair Witch Project, Artisan was eager to produce a sequel while the film's popularity was still at its peak. However, Haxan Films, who created the original film, was not ready to begin work on a follow-up, preferring to wait until the initial buzz had died down. Artisan decided to proceed without them, hiring Joe Berlinger, who had previously (and subsequently) only done true documentaries, to direct. Blair Witch directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez served as executive producers on the film, but later stated that they had little influence on production and were unsatisfied with the finished film.
The majority of the film was shot in the spring of 2000 on location outside of Baltimore, Maryland. The exposition scenes featuring the characters camping were shot in Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, and the stone ruins of the Rustin Parr house were constructed out of styrofoam. The scene featuring Tristen in the hospital was shot at an abandoned sanitarium in Baltimore. Jeff's loft house in the film is actually the Clipper Mill, located on the edge of Baltimore.
The hospital footage featuring Jeff was shot mere weeks before the film's release at the request of Artisan Entertainment, and was shot on location at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Randall's Island in New York City. Additionally, the graphic footage of the main characters murdering the foreign tourists was shot last minute in director Joe Berlinger's backyard.
Stylistically, Book of Shadows was the direct opposite of its predecessor: though the film occasionally utilizes the point of view camcorder/pseudo-documentary format used in the first movie, Book of Shadows more closely resembles the glossy, big-budget special effects-laden horror films that Blair Witch was a counter to. Berlinger has stated that he originally made the film with more of an ambiguous tone that focused on the characters' psychological unraveling after their night spent in the Black Hills, but Artisan recut the film and re-shot certain scenes to add more "traditional" horror movie elements, thus creating what they saw as a more "commercial" film. Namely, the footage of the main characters murdering the foreign tourists was shot weeks prior to the film's release date, and was incorporated in the film to add more visual violence. The original cut of the film also featured Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" during the opening credits, but was replaced by the studio with "Disposable Teens" by Marilyn Manson. Berlinger repeatedly expresses his dislike of the studio's changes throughout the film's DVD commentary.
Though Book of Shadows' marketing campaign made no attempt to present the film as a "true story", a promotional "dossier" for the film, compiled by D.A. Stern, was released, including fabricated police reports and interviews surrounding the events in the film as if they were fact (a similar "dossier", also by Stern, was released as a companion piece to the first film). Additionally, similar to the first movie, each of the main characters retain the first names of their respective actors, though their surnames are changed slightly.
On June 9, 2000, the film's teaser trailer was released on Access Hollywood. The trailer shows the actual "Book of Shadows" (the one was never appeared in the film). The book was found by a half-naked woman, Erica Geerson (portrayed by Erica Leerhsen) in the woods of Black Hills, before she was attacked by an unknown man.
Book of Shadows was released throughout the world in 2000–2002. In the United States, it debuted at number 2 with $13,000,000. After eight weeks, it finished with $26,421,314. Overall, internationally the film made $47,737,094.
Critical reaction to Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 upon release was overall negative. As of January 2015, it holds a 13% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 105 reviews. Metacritic reported, based on 34 reviews, an average rating of 15 out of 100, indicating "overwhelming dislike". Additionally, Book of Shadows was nominated for five Razzie Awards, including "Worst Picture" (which the original 1999 film was nominated for), and won for "Worst Remake or Sequel".
Roger Ebert, who gave the first film four stars (out of four), gave Book of Shadows two stars, calling it "a muddled, sometimes-atmospheric effort that could have come from many filmmakers" and "not a very lucid piece of filmmaking". Shawn Levy of The Oregonian gave a mildly positive review, saying: "There are moments of pleasure, humor, and [...] terror to be had here." Luke Y. Thompson of the Dallas Observer said the film "deserves points for creativity" but is "not entirely successful".
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, calling it "a flat heebie jeebies thriller". Chris Kaltenbach of The Baltimore Sun said: "Gets credit for avoiding the easy path. Too bad the path it chooses doesn't lead us anywhere we want to be taken." Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News commented that "the characters are boring, the violence generic, the suspense nonexistent". Wesley Morris of The San Francisco Examiner called the film "throwaway megaplex fodder". David Edelstein of Slate summed up his thoughts with, "Lordy, what a stinker."
Berge Garabedian of JoBlo.com gave the film a positive review, calling it a "decent psychological mystery filled with paranoia and delusions, which messes with your head and demands that you keep thinking about it, even after you've left the theatre." Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews also praised the film, writing: "It's a surprisingly intelligent and welcome addition to a genre that's usually a dumping ground for low budget efforts." Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter also gave the film a positive review, stating: "It's better made than the original, and its writing contains a subtlety and wit the original film lacked." Anwar Brett of the BBC rated the film three out of four stars, calling it "a chilling, highly effective journey made with intelligence and a handful of effective, goose-bump-inducing moments."
The DVD of Book of Shadows was released on March 13, 2001 on the DVD+CD format. The DVD side included a few special features, including the "Secret of Esrever" featurette, audio commentaries by Joe Berlinger and Carter Burwell, production notes and a live video of the band Godhead.
The CD side featured three tracks from the official soundtrack (Godhead's "The Reckoning", Tony Iommi/Dave Grohl's "Goodbye Lament" and Steaknife's "Tommy (Don't Die)"), Carter Burwell's entire instrumental score and a live recording of Godhead's "The Reckoning".
A Blu-ray version of the film has yet to be released.
Much like the first Blair Witch, Book of Shadows also featured a marketing gimmick, although this one centered on the film's video release, fully exploiting video technology. The DVD and VHS releases came with a featurette detailing "The Secret of Esrever" ("Esrever" is the word reverse spelled backwards), a number of near-subliminal messages in the form of hidden words and images that were placed throughout the film. The featurette encouraged viewers to watch certain scenes in reverse and/or frame-by-frame in order to decode the "secret", and, through scrambled letters flashed throughout the program, offered five clues to where they could be found: "door", "water", "mirror", "rug" and "grave".
An example of these messages can be seen in a scene early in the film where the main characters are in a graveyard, standing behind a tombstone inscribed with the word "Treacle". The shot briefly cuts away and then cuts back, though the same tombstone now reads "Further". This is seen for approximately one second until it cuts away again, and the tombstone once again reads "Treacle" for the remainder of the scene.
When all of the clues were identified, the hidden words, when put in the correct order, spelled out "seek me no further", plus an extra hidden word, "or". Viewers could then go to the official Blair Witch website and type the words into a special search box: typing "seek me no further" would play an extra scene from the movie, and typing "seek me no further or" would enable them to add their name to a list of people who had also decoded the message. As of 2008, this function is no longer available.
Two soundtracks for Book of Shadows were released: the first was released through Posthuman Records on October 17, 2000. The second, released through Milan Records on October 24, 2000, consisted of Carter Burwell's instrumental score. The soundtrack was re-released in 2001 and bundled with the DVD+CD.
- "The Reckoning" – Godhead
- "Lie Down" – P.O.D.
- "Goodbye Lament" – Tony Iommi/Dave Grohl
- "Dragula" – Rob Zombie
- "Mind" – System of a Down
- "Stick It Up" – Slaves on Dope
- "Suicide Is Painless" – Marilyn Manson
- "Soul Auctioneer" – Death in Vegas
- "PS" – Project 86
- "Old Enough" – Nickelback
- "Feel Alive" – U.P.O.
- "Tommy (Don't Die)" – Steaknife
- "Arcarsenal" – At the Drive-In
- "Human" – Elastica
- "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" – Queens of the Stone Age
- "Streamlined" – Sunshine
Shadow of the Blair Witch was a mockumentary created for the DVD's special features. It premiered on the Sci Fi Channel on October 22, 2000, five days before the film was released in theaters. The mockumentary follows the story of Jeff Patterson, a character in the movie but in the mockumentary, he is portrayed as if he was real. The mockumentary follows the murders that he committed which were in the movie. Shadow of the Blair Witch takes an objective look at the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Running 45 minutes, it examines the troubled life of "the real Jeff Patterson" and his obsession with The Blair Witch Project. Within the documentary, the events of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are presented as a film adaptation based on the "Black Hills murders" that took place shortly after the events of The Blair Witch Project. This documentary presents Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 as a film within a film.
Shadow of the Blair Witch follows "the real James Patterson"’s defense team as the case prepares for trial and as the public reacts to plans to fictionalize the case’s events for the big screen. Protests of the film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 are discussed coming from both the families of those involved with the case and from the Wiccan community as a whole.
On September 2, 2009, Ed Sánchez and Daniel Myrick announced their intent to produce Blair Witch 3. The film would be a direct sequel to the first film, would potentially contain the actors from the first film in some context, and would not reference any of the events from Book of Shadows, given the film's status as a film within a film. In 2011, Sánchez remarked that further development on a sequel depended on getting Lionsgate to approve the idea and for his and Myrick's schedule to match up. The film went into development hell.
In July 2016, it was revealed at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con that a film The Woods turned out to be the sequel to The Blair Witch Project, entitled Blair Witch.