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Witchouse 2: Blood Coven   B-

Full Moon Pictures / Tempe Entertainment

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Director: J.R. Bookwalter
Writer: Douglas Snauffer
Cast: Ariauna Albright, Elizabeth Hobgood, Nicholas Lanier, Kaycee Shank, Alexandru Dragoi, Adriana Butoi, Andrew Prine.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Witchouse 2: Blood Coven is the sequel to the completely forgettable Witchouse, which played like 1987's Night of the Demons, but not quite as much fun or nearly as vicious. I'm happy to say that Witchouse 2 kicks it predecessor's ass. It has more style, some very cool Blair Witch-inspired sequences (one of which is pretty scary), and B-movie veteran Andrew Prine in a wonderful supporting role. Sure, Witchouse 2 has its flaws, but it's all in good fun.

A crew preparing to plow over a supposedly haunted house stumbles upon four unmarked graves, halting construction of a new mall until the corpses are identified. A university professor (Ariauna Albright) and a few students are sent to investigate, staying at the old house until their work is done. Also recently unearthed was a videotape of a girl and her boyfriend being butchered by an unseen assailant in the woods near the house. The video is shown in the bravura Blair Witch-style opening sequence. Those bodies have not yet turned up.

After a less-than-friendly greeting by the Covington County sheriff, Professor Sparrow and her students stake out at the creepy house. The professor's star pupils Norman (Nicholas Lanier) and Stephanie (Elizabeth Hobgood) go into town and talk to the townsfolk, including the town historian (Andrew Prine). They dig up some dirt on a witch named Lilith, who was burned at the stake centuries ago and is rumored to haunt the old house and the woods around it. You can bet that the nasty-fanged Lilith and her coven of glowing red-eyed minions will soon be resurrected, ready to kick things in high gear.

This may be a silly B-horror movie, and a somewhat uneven one at that, but it's pretty fun if you leave all your expectations at the door. How can you not like a movie where characters spout off lines like "This place gives me the chills," and leave their rooms in the middle of the night to investigate strange noises in a dark house?

Under hands less skilled than those of director/editor J.R. Bookwalter, Witchouse 2: Blood Coven might have been just another cheesy direct-to-video horror movie destined to be overlooked on video store shelves. Well, it is a bit cheesy, but with J.R. Bookwalter at the helm, it's more stylish and entertaining than you'd expect. Bookwalter is the man behind some of the best shot-on-video genre movies of the past decade, my personal fave being the sci-fi actioner Polymorph. This is Bookwalter's first 35mm film, and his technical virtuosity is on full display here.

In the latter half of Witchouse 2 -- once Lilith and her demonic minions start to wreak havoc -- Bookwalter's talent really starts to shine. Working with director of photography Gabriel Kosuth, Bookwalter gives the film a slick and beautifully atmospheric look. The night scenes in the old house are awash in blue light, a very nice touch. It's a great-looking film, even if it has too many camcorder-shot interview segments.

The acting is a bit hokey at times, but the leads fare pretty well. Nicholas Lanier and Elizabeth Hobgood make a plucky and likable duo, and though we never feel any real emotional connection to them, they're easy to root for. Ariauna Albright (Bloodletting) tackles her role with demented glee, as she goes from a homely college professor to the fang-spouting seductress Lilith. But it's Andrew Prine (Grizzly, Amityville 2) who steals the show here. The man kicks ass, I tell you.

Although there's much to like about Witchouse 2, it's not all that scary. Like the zombies of Full Moon's The Dead Hate the Living, Lilith and her minions are more cartoonish than threatening. But there's a camcorder-shot sequence near the end -- with three characters exploring a darkened house -- that was so suspenseful and creepy that I experienced Blair Witch deja vu all over again. There's even a brutal little twist at the end of Witchouse 2 that packs a mean punch.

The Witchouse 2: Blood Coven DVD (the first of Full Moon's Lunar Edition line) contains the director's cut of the film in widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and has tons of extras: commentary by J.R. Bookwalter, Ariauna Albright, and Andrew Prine; a half-hour "making of" documentary; bloopers and outtakes; two music videos; at least 12 trailers for Tempe Entertainment and Full Moon releases; a home video tour of Romania shot by Bookwalter; DVD-ROM screenplay; and the very cool featurette "15 Years in 15 Minutes," which chronicles the beginnings of Tempe with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews on the set of The Dead Next Door. What didn't they put on the disc?

Review published 09.15.2000.

Read our Interview with J.R. Bookwalter.

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