Last night, I put on “Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows” for the first time since its release because I know several horror fans who genuinely like the movie and feel like it was misunderstood or overlooked when it came out. While I'm not sure I liked it any more this time than I did when it first opened, one of the things I think is very smart about the film is the way it plays with the confusion about what's real and what's not that was absolutely in the air when the first film was released.
At this point, it's hard to imagine a world where people are actually confused about a found-footage/mockumentary film, but in 1999, thanks in large part to the Wild West feel of the early Internet, people really weren't sure what “The Blair Witch Project” was, and that became a huge playful part of the sales pitch. in the sequel, it's clear that the small town of Birkitsville is less than thrilled about the confusion and the sudden influx of tourists, and while it might seem hard to believe someone would be upset about anything that would drive business to their town, it can be maddening when you have to keep explaining what is or isn't true to people.
Now the owners of the house that inspired the film “The Conjuring” are suing Warner Bros. precisely because they can't take it anymore. They have people on their property constantly now, which would make me insane, especially if I was raising a family. The Sutcliff family bought the house in 1987 and has never had any trouble until the film came out. Now they are “haunted,” but by people who want to see a haunted house, not by anything supernatural.
It sounds like the studio hasn't seen the lawsuit yet, which makes the family look like they're hoping to play this out in the press, and I'm of mixed mind here. Yeah, the loss of privacy would drive me crazy, but the story happened. It's not like Warner Bros. just randomly picked a house and made a movie about it. While they may be upset because the film was a success, when people did the legwork afterwards, they managed to find the house. It's not like there's a map to it in the film. In fact, I'm pretty sure they don't give the address in the movie, and they didn't shoot at the real house, so I'm not sure how it's Warner's fault that people got interested and decided to track the real location down. This family bought an infamous house, and now they're upset because that infamy flared up again after many years of being far more muted.
Whatever happens, it'll be interesting, especially because Hollywood loves that phrase: Based on a true story. It gives them a lot of latitude, but if anyone ever wins a lawsuit like this, I think it'll change the way people approach telling these stories. You'll see a lot more things like “Law & Order,” using the truth as a mere springboard, and they'll stop even loosely acknowledging or even paying the people whose stories they're telling.
Have you ever felt the urge to go seek out a location after you saw a film? A trip to New Zealand to see Middle-Earth? A trip to the Empire State Building because of “Sleepless In Seattle”? A quick jaunt to Haddonfield just to see the Myers house?