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THE BLAIR WITCH FILES

New young adult series mirrors mediocrity of movie.

By Dan Cziraky     September 01, 2000

With less than two months left to hype the release of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Artisan Entertainment has joined forces with publishing giant Random House to launch The Blair Witch Files, a series of Goosebumps-styled novels centering around the ficticious computer files of seventeen-year-old Cade Merrill. Supposedly the cousin of Heather Donahue (the character, not the actual actress), Merrill has been accumulating information on the legends and 'true-life' events surrounding the Blair Witch since his cousin's disappearance while shooting a documentary in the Black Hills Forest in October 1994. Now, Merrill is publishing selected case files in the hopes 'that these books may reach that one person who holds the missing piecethe key that will unlock the mystery of the Blair Witch.'

Packaged by Parachute Press, the company that launched R.L. Stine's Goosebumps and Fear Street series into kiddie-lit blockbusters (and Guinness Book of World Records fame as the most suucessful children's author in history), The Blair Witch Files starts with the absurd notion that a seventeen-year-old boy is talented and focused enough to write one book, let alone an entire series. Wow, who's his agent? Then again, after reading the first two entries in the series (The Witch's Daughter and The Dark Room) it isn't such a crazy premise after all.

The Witch's Daughter tells the story of Justin Petit, a Washington, D.C., high school senior whose grandfather is convinced a young girl from his past is going to kill him, as she's already killed six other people. Grandpa now believes that pretty, young candy striper and nursing home volunteer Leslie Wolf is the same girl he knew over fifty years ago! As Justin researches his grandfather's story, he learns terrible secrets that just might endanger his own life as well. A bigger bunch of tedious nonsense and hormone-driven hooey (Justin is constantly reminding us how pretty and blonde Leslie is) you're not likely to find, unless you read the second entry, The Dark Room.

This time, Cade Merrill himself is drawn into the action as fellow teen Laura Morely's obsession with The Blair Witch Project and the legends of Burkittsville draws her to the town and a visit to Merrill (who is supposed to live there). Laura and Cade explore the Black Hills Forest, and her camera captures ghostly images of a young Rustin Parr and his family at the ruins of Parr's charred farmhouse. Cade sees the images Laura prints out, but they fade before she can get them into the chemical bath that will fix the images on the photo paper. Against his advice, Laura sneaks out of Cade's house (his parents are conveniently out of town) and hikes alone into the forest. There, she is swept up into the very heart of the Blair Witch legend and Rustin Parr's acts of savagery from 1940.

Running the gamut from laughably ill-conceived to cringingly dull, The Blair Witch Files is a series that only the most die hard BWP fans could possibly enjoy. Of course, there's a web site supporting this series, www.blairwitchfiles.com. Merrill's pleas for anyone with info on the Blair Witch are kind of amusing, in a this-is-better-than-watching-pus-drain fashion. For adult addicts of this film, there's D.A. Stern's The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier, The Blair Witch Project: The Secret Confessions of Rustin Parr (which tied into the recent Showtime mockumentary, The Burkittsville 7), and the upcoming, October release of Stern's Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.

The Blair Witch Files #1: The Witch's Daughter, by Cade Merrill. Bantam Books, August 2000, 181 pages, $4.99.

The Blair Witch Files #2: The Dark Room, by Cade Merrill. Bantam Books, August 2000, 176 pages, $4.99.

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