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selected from Shivers #94

In this issue: eight pages of reviews, including:

DVD Reviews •
Three pages including Wishmaster 3, Blair Witch 2 and Valentine. Capsule reviews of the Buffy and X-Files Box Sets, the League of Gentlemen's second series, Stephen King's Silver Bullet and the Hitchcock Collection

Book Reviews • Including:
Stephen King and Peter Straub present their literary collaboration Black House, there's a look at James Herbert's Once… and Ten Years of Terror from the FAB Press

TV Reviews •
The opening salvos from Angel Season Three and Buffy Season Six, reviewed by David Darlington and Keith Topping

Film Reviews •
Alec Worley reviews Alejandro Amenabar's poetic ghost story The Others starring Nicole Kidman

DVD Review
Book of Shadows - Blair Witch 2

Director: Joe Berlinger
Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen

Order Blair Witch 2 from Blackstar today!
Region 2 (PAL) Retail DVD • Ratio: 1.78:1 (Anamorphic)
• Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps)

Blair Witch Project 2 on DVD

Review by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #94

The Blair Witch Project polarized reaction between those who thought it was one of the most chilling movies ever made, and those who thought it was simply execrable. It was, quite simply, one of those films that you either got, or didn't. The film's brilliant marketing campaign included documentaries and Internet sites that blurred reality with fiction. That process is continued in the brain-bending sequel, which begins with the premise that a group of fans of the Blair Witch movie are making a pilgrimage to Burkittsville, the location of the film and/or the original murders. Directed by noted documentary maker Berlinger, the sequel both complements and contradicts the 1999 film.

Momentum have presented the film in a two-disc set, but this is slightly misleading (presumably in an attempt to hoodwink potential customers) since they're both DVD-5 discs, more or less the equivalent of a single dual-layer disc. The film itself was shot on a variety of formats, making independent evaluation difficult, but the DVD transfer seems free of newly introduced digital artefacts. The audio mix is expansive, and should give most home theatre set-ups a good workout.

The UK DVD version differs significantly from the US release, which was an odd hybrid of DVD on one side, and the soundtrack CD on the other. This disc also featured a selection of scenes with commentary by composer Carter Burwell, which don't appear on the Region 2 disc. The UK version contains two documentaries that more than compensate, adding even more layers to the myth and mystery: the Sci-Fi Channel's Shadow of the Blair Witch (45m) and The Burkittsville 7 (40m). The UK disc also contains sit-down interviews with cast and crewmembers (16m) and a couple of theatrical trailers. Both versions include an excellent commentary track by Berlinger (who explains in depth how production company Artisan significantly tampered with his film, attempting to jazz it up with additional footage), a music track by the band Godhead (4m) and a couple of gimmicky Easter egg features.

The merits of Book of Shadows as a feature film are debatable but fans of the original Blair Witch movie are extremely well-served by the sequel, by Momentum's disc, and, most specifically, by its bonus materials, which significantly enhance the experience of the feature. Potential viewers who have been dissuaded from seeing the film by the lacerating reviews should make up their own minds.

Movie: 3 / 5
Extras: 4 / 5

Book Review
Black House

By Stephen King & Peter Straub
Published by Harper Collins
September 2001, 624pp hardback
Order it from Amazon UK

King & Straub's Black House
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #94

Eagerly awaited by genre readers for some time, this is the sequel to Stephen King and Peter Straub's 1984 masterpiece The Talisman. But the wait has been in vain, as this is a somewhat disappointing book.

Given the length of time since The Talisman came out, I was hoping for something which stood on its own two feet without the need to know the content of the earlier book in detail. I haven't read The Talisman since it first came out, and as far as I know it has not been reissued to tie in with this new title. Also, Black House does not reference the earlier book at all, save a mention on the back jacket flap that it was by the same authors. I don't know why this is.

What I do know, is that Black House is slow and plodding, developing a plot which is clichéd and old, and the Fantasy elements which provide the link to the earlier book are so obscure that in places, if you didn't know what was happening, you wouldn't know what was happening.

The plot concerns the disappearance of several children in the town of French Landing. They have been snatched, mutilated and killed by someone calling himself `the Fisherman' and everyone is afraid of who the next victim might be. Enter Jack Sawyer (the boy-hero from the first book). He is called in by the Chief of police to help catch the Fisherman, and Jack soon realises that the killer is using the Territories (a sort of parallel universe which is unexplained here) to keep the kids before or while he kills them. Behind all the mayhem is a creature from the Territories which is trying to locate children with a certain power. Those unsuitable it uses in a giant machine although quite what all this has to do with anything is somewhat confused.

Jack travels to the Territories with some colleagues through the Black House – a kind of dimensional portal on Earth – easily defeats the creature (and the scenes here which should be climactic are rendered impotent by use of a badly-timed switch to a distant third person narrative), frees the children, and goes home again. It all comes to an abrupt end after pages of discussion and character building and, frankly, irrelevance.

Maybe I was expecting too much, but Black House didn't work for me. It's a mildly diverting detective story with one great character (a blind radio DJ) along the way. It's not the roller-coaster novel of epic plotting, characterization and enjoyment which it was not unreasonable to expect.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction
Images © Harper Collins books, Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment