Was "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" good, actually?

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was not well-received, and its debutante director, Joe Berlinger, thought it had ended him at the outset of his career. It didn't—the movie turned a handy profit, critics be damned—and now, 23 years later, he's ready to talk about what went wrong.

On Oct. 30, Berlinger will hold court at the Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York, for a group of patrons ready to give the movie a second shot. Like so many of the oddities bursting out of Hollywood's 2000s churn, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 has been reclaimed by the horror community as "actually good" — or at least inspired. Berlinger says he agreed to the screening, in spite of the film's potential for triggering painful memories, because he gets what the pro-Book of Shadows contingent sees in it.

I'm a believer that subtractive remixing (as opposed to the usual "additive" director's cut) is the way to find the best in mangled movies. I have an outstanding sketch of a 100-minute cut of Alien 3, and I think I could even make Exorcist II: The Heretic cool, if not good. Book of Shadows seems an excellent candidate, ruined as it was with dumb, studio-mandated gore. The meta of the rest of it is tastier, now, like a well-aged cheese.

It's possible that Berlinger's subversive Blair Witch 2 would have been one of the more prescient movies of the 2000s, but time and money constraints didn't allow him to make the movie he wanted. Berlinger and co-writer Dick Beebe (1999's House on Haunted Hill) eked out a script in time for the January production deadline and assembled a promising cast, which included a then-unknown Jeffrey Donovan as a nü-metal-styled Blair Witch tour guide, Kim Director as a goth bombshell, and Stephen Barker Turner and Tristine Skyler as two grad students researching mass hysteria. Berlinger remembers the cast being on his wavelength and delivering exactly what he needed to make Book of Shadows' tonal experiment work. He also remembers being completely left alone by studio executives throughout the shoot in Baltimore.