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March 4, 2014

Movie Review: Witchboard (1986)

Oh, wow, does this movie take me back. I was 17 when this sucker came out. My moth-eaten memory says that I loved it and while most of the movie is like, so totally dated, the 44 year old me still enjoyed it.

Written and directed by Kevin Tenney (who brought us the epic awesomsauce that is Night of the Demons), Witchboard begins with a group of friends having a party. Brandon brings up the topic of Ouija boards. He’s a complete snobbish douche about them (it’s pronounced ‘wee-JAH’) but manages to convince Linda, party hostess and ex-girlfriend, to give it a go with him. He just happens to have his personal board right now. How convenient.

After contacting a familiar spirit, a young boy named David, Linda’s current love, Jim, starts talking smack about the bullshit of it all. Apparently ghosts don’t like you dissin’ them so David takes off but not before ruining the tires on Brandon’s car. Brandon and Jim get into it because their dicks are obviously too massive to contain and the party’s over.

Then all the weird shit starts to happen. Linda, being a complete twat, decides to use the Ouija board on her own. Who she thinks is David is actually a different spirit. It's not a demon, thankfully, but it is a complete asshole. It manipulates Linda into using the board more and more until she becomes obsessed. And that’s when the "progressive entrapment" becomes a real issue, the time when the spirit can possess a human.

"You seriously don't want to be possessed. It's totally bogus."

What she and Jim think are the side effects of pregnancy is actually the influence of the bad spirit: she starts acting funny, throws up a lot, cusses like a drunken sailor, knows how to turn off the water to the sink so she can unhook the pipe to the trap so she can look for her lost ring but apparently doesn’t know you can remove the whole trap as well instead of rooting around in it with your toothbrush. You know, odd and unlike her.

Not only that but folks start dying left and right and Jim is being set up to look like the killer. Even though he and Brandon hate each other, they’ve got to work together before it’s too late and Linda becomes the meat suit for some dickfer who just can’t go into the light. Where the hell is Carol Ann when you need her?

For a film that’s over 25 years old (holy piss!) it holds up incredibly well. Yes, much of the clothing, music, and styles of the time made me laugh. The library research scene, complete with microfiche machine, and the phone booth WITH a book of Yellow Pages, had me weep for the generations who will never get to experience such inspired technology. But the story is interesting. And while the trope of spirits run amok or possessing innocent dumbasses can feel tired now, I didn’t get that from Witchboard. It never felt overdone or trite. And, I’m not proud to admit this, but I fell for every jump scare they threw in there. Every. Damn. One.

And then I wet myself.

The acting, on the other hand, was not spectacular. Jim’s character is supposed to be emotionless but he comes off like Keanu Reeves in many of his roles - very wooden and unsympathetic. He even Han Solo’s Linda when she says she loves him. Brandon was played by Stephen Nichols, veteran actor of several soap operas. It did seem like he was acting on a soap, trying to make Brandon a larger than life character but he just appeared kinda silly.

And let’s not forget Tawny Kitaen. Oh dear gods I don’t care how many projects she’s been in. She can’t act her way out of an oversized sweater. With all the flowy gowns and outfits she wore I kept expecting David Coverdale to come out of the woodwork and start singing Whitesnake songs so she could writhe around. But she does get naked for a shower scene soyeah. (I'm not posting a picture of a naked Tawny Kitaen, dudes. Jerk off to that shit on your own time.)

Overall an enjoyable film, like totally.

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