Witchcraft (1988)

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A 16 movie series – 16! – and I was annoyed five minutes into the first one. This is not a good sign, but I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment, and I hope to try and be entertaining in my reviews of them. Well, I’ve never managed “entertaining” before, but now would be a good time to start. This series has ISCFC links, with involvement in the early movies from Michael Paul Girard (“Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars”, the repellent “Different Strokes”) and in later ones from David Palmieri (who made what’s still in the running to be the worst movie we’ve ever covered, “Captain Battle: Legacy War”). So join me, dear reader, and let’s see what this extremely prolific series – which I’d never heard of until a few months ago – has to offer.

 

Well, what this particular one has to offer is a rehash of “Rosemary’s Baby”, with no twists and not a lot even the most charitable viewer would call interesting. I’ve made a page full of notes, I’m not sure I’m going to need them, but let’s recap things anyway. Grace (Anat Topol), giving birth, starts seeing visions of medieval days, and a couple being burned at the stake. She’s sort of Eastern European sounding, which is the limit of her character development, and her husband John (Gary Sloan) is some super-rich business type. John suggests recuperating after the birth at his mother’s house (she having no family), and it’s almost embarrassingly obvious that “mother” and “son” are up to no good.

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This was the annoyance I mentioned before. It feels like a premise taken from a 1940s movie, when women in movies were treated more like delicate china dolls and had decisions made for them. By the late 80s, this must have seemed utterly archaic, and given the birth wasn’t particularly traumatic, there’s even less reason. I appreciate why the movie does it, but they couldn’t have thought of a better excuse? There’s a scene later on, where she’s doing the gardening for her mother-in-law, and I thought “hold on, she’s well enough to garden but not to look after her own child in her own home?”

 

Grace, a religious woman, wants her Vicar to come and bless the baby, but as soon as he sets foot in the mother’s house, he starts getting strong hallucinations and breaks out in boils; Grace’s best mate Linda is just sort of there because they didn’t have anything to fill the time; and there’s an impressively stoney-faced butler who’s won over by Grace giving him a flower from the garden. Awwww! So she potters about the house, sees a room with a mirror that gives her visions of those same medieval times as well as one flash-forward, the husband acts weird, the mother-in-law acts weird, and we the audience wait around for something to happen.

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At about the two-thirds mark, the Priest decides to hang himself from the roof of the mother-in-law’s house. At that moment, I would have been out of the door, especially if I had my own mansion to return to. But not this family! It’s too stupid to mock, really, and John eventually burning down his own home (off screen, of course) just so Grace can’t go back to it is sort of an overkill way to deal with the situation.

 

So, of course, John and his mother are actually the witches John and Elizabeth Stocton, burned at the stake in 1687 and looking remarkably well preserved; they want to bring the devil’s baby forth into the world, and it…took them this long to find a woman to bear the child? Who knows? While I’m not sure if the snail’s pace of this movie was a deliberate choice, I understand that those satanic panic movies were slow-burning affairs; but the rather important difference between this and, say, “Rosemary’s Baby” is that movie had acting and direction you might actually be interested in. This just looks like a poor 1980s episode of “The Twilight Zone”, and has about enough plot for one.

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One sign of a stinker is the number of main actors who count it as their only credit. That particular distinction goes to both John and Elizabeth (the excellently named Mary Shelley), as well as Linda the best friend; the Priest has this and one episode of a TV show years later as his only credits; and Grace can count this and the sequel as her only starring roles. This was director Rob Spera’s first movie and he’s gone on to make several equally awful-sounding movies before becoming a jobbing TV director; also a first for writer Jody Savin, whose last project was “CBGB” from 2013 (and who really ought to have written slightly better female characters for this, but whatever).

 

I can’t imagine anyone looking at this and going “what it really needs is 15 sequels”, but that’s what happened. If you’re extraordinarily forgiving towards movies where nothing happens and all the actors are terrible, then this could be for you, but otherwise probably best to stick to letting me suffer and indulging yourself with something else.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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One thought on “Witchcraft (1988)

  1. Pingback: The ISCFC vs. Horror Franchises |

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