Hello again, Blair Witch fans! If you’ve read my review of the endearingly-inept Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, you know I’m a big fan of the bizarre and basically unrelated middle child in the Blair Witch series. I’m such a fan of this movie that I’ve watched it backward, start-to-finish, more than once!
Now, no one would do that for no good reason, so let me introduce you to the Secret of Esrever. This was an Easter Egg on the VHS and DVD releases of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 that involves rewinding the movie to hunt for secret messages. Since this adventure begins at the end of the movie, reader beware: SPOILERS BE HERE.
esreveR | Reverse
A pivotal plot point in Blair Witch 2 revolves around the characters watching their tapes backward and discovering secrets. This leads us to the Secret of Esrever (which is “reverse” spelled backward), a bonus feature that appears immediately after the credits on the VHS version. I can’t comment on the DVD version of this film because the VHS was cheaper when I was in the market.
A short introduction to the Secret of Esrever sets the stage by saying that some deleted scenes from Blair Witch 2featured “ghost images” that the directors didn’t see until they were in the edit room. Now that’s not true…probably…but it introduces the idea of subliminal messages existing in the film. The whole time this is being explained, a graphic in the bottom right corner of the screen is flashing letters, occasionally pausing on one. At the narrator’s direction, the viewer plays the featurette backward to decode the flashing letters puzzle, then (using clues from the flashing letters) watches the entire movie backward to spot hidden changes, and decode another puzzle.
When played in reverse, the flashing letters graphic spells out things to watch for in the feature, such as “door” and “grave.” Once you’ve made a note of all five clues, the fun begins! When you see the things mentioned by the flashing letters, pay close attention to them. I’ll be using the “grave” clue as my example, because I think the whole scene is hilariously on the nose. This comes from early in the movie, when the goth girl is just hanging out in the cemetery smoking clove cigarettes because of course she is. If it’s the late 90’s and you need to introduce a goth character to the audience, and you’re not allowed to film inside the mall, then you should have them smoking clove cigarettes on a grave. That’s called “visual storytelling”.
Anyway, in this example, the headstone that all the characters are standing behind reads “TREACLE” in most shots, but in one it reads “FURTHER.” So, the clue for that scene is FURTHER because that’s what changed. All the clues follow this pattern of being different in one shot, but back to normal afterward.
“If you played the movie backward, found the list of words […] you were rewarded with an extra scene and bragging rights.”
If you found all of the clues based on the flashing light graphics from the featurette, you’d have the words SEEK ME NO FURTHER. Here’s the thing, though: the words were out of order, and the narrator never says “hey man, you have to unscramble these words when you’re done,” so you just kind of have to figure that out on your own. Now, let’s say it’s like August of 2002 and you’re doing the Secret of Esrever challenge, and you come up with SEEK ME NO FURTHER. You can put that message into a box and you’ll be rewarded with an extra scene from the movie! That’s a pretty good freebie though, if your early-2000s internet experience was anything like mine then you’d probably have to let the clip load for like a week before it would play.
Now if you were psychic, like Kim in Blair Witch 2, you might have read the producer’s mind and known that you could find an extra clue, with no roadmap to get you there, that says OR. Nobody said anything about an extra clue, but if you found it, threw it in the jumbled message just at the end because why not, and put *that* message in the secret box, you could add your name to a list of people who had unlocked the Secret of Esrever.
So that’s the Secret. If you played the movie backward, found the list of words, met the producers more than halfway with your puzzle-decoding skills, and waited for someone to get off the phone so you could load up the webpage, you were rewarded with an extra scene and bragging rights. Pretty rad! Unfortunately, this feature from the website is lost to the sands of time. If you’re disappointed because you made it this far into the article and are now realizing you can’t add your name to the list, imagine my disappointment when I made it to the end of the puzzle and found out the same thing.
HUGE shoutout to my friends Abigail, Sam, and Morgan for watching Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 in its entirety, backward, twice. We didn’t catch all the secrets the first time through, and they were ready to give up, but I kept screaming like a madman that we had to unlock the Secret of Esrever and they realized this fight wasn’t worth winning. You guys are champions. I’m sorry I shouted at you and bit you when you tried to take the remote away. I think we can all look back now and say, “Mac was right all along.”
“There is no movie I’ve watched backward more than Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”
What did you think of Secret of Esrever? Isn’t it so strange? I love that the studio put this much effort into an Easter Egg hunt. I can’t say that it’s a more effective gimmick than the original’s “this is all totally real and these kids are dead now,” but I can say it did its job. There is no movie I’ve watched backwards more than Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.
Do any of your favorite movies have bizarro secret features and hidden messages? If so, PLEASE let us know on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook! And as always, you can find creepy content by hitting the reverse button on your browser! Back page button, I guess, reverse button’s not really a name for that. You could also land on our homepage by clicking this link!