Today I learned that if you try hard enough you can pretty much wipe the evidence of your involvement in the fifth instalment of some cheap erotic horror series from the face of the Earth (or the internet, which is the same thing). Nicole Sassaman, the villain’s sidekick Marta, is now a high-end interior decorator, and I thought she was great in this (review opinion spoiler!) so I looked her up and…nothing. Her IMDB page is right down at the bottom of page 1 of a search, and in the first four pages of looking there’s not a single reference to her acting career. Youtube has pages and pages of interior design tip videos from her, most with less than a thousand views, but there’s not a single compilation video of her movie stuff? Kudos to her for figuring out a way to beat the legions of horror nerds who’ve made “stars” out of actresses far less capable, I guess.
Or maybe it’s a misspelling, and they’re two different women, or something (20 years and a change of hair colour, but they certainly look very much alike). Or I’m a lunatic, she’s absolutely terrible and everyone made a conscious decision to ignore her. Who knows? But let’s talk about an above average episode of the “Witchcraft” series.
In a surprisingly good and coherent opening, three stories collide. First up is a hooker con gone wrong (woman entices man, woman’s boyfriend batters fella over the head, they leave with his money, only this time they kill the guy). Marta and her useless boyfriend go to hide the body, but on the way they run over a hobo! Now that’s a rough night of accidents for any couple. Stopping to check on the hobo is the limo carrying the genuinely decent Reverend Meredith and his assistant; before he dies, the hobo releases some spirit he’s been carrying into the Rev, which causes him to change his personality quite considerably (but not entirely). Then, Marta’s car breaks down in the woods, and they just abandon it (solid plan) and walk to the nearest town. On the way, they meet the obvious lunatic Cain, dancing round a fire in the middle of the woods. He recognises evil and kills the boyfriend, brainwashes Marta and decides now is the time to go collecting souls to free Satan.
David Huffman as Cain is truly amazing, one of the most demented overacting performances you’ll ever see. He looks like a cross between early Michael Bolton and Vigo from “Ghostbusters 2”, and he was too good for this world, as he never bothered acting again. Why improve on perfection, eh, David?
The first act is solid! I was as surprised watching it as you are reading this, I imagine. Perhaps, by part 5, everyone knows only the hardcore fans are sticking around, so they can afford to do something interesting. Of course, we’ve got series “hero” William Spanner to go yet. The last actor decided NASCAR was a better use of his time so quit acting for a while, so in stepped Marklen Kennedy. He’s better known these days as a producer, bringing the world reality TV such as “Gigolos”, but still acts, and he must have improved because he’s terrible in this – although I thought the last bloke was terrible too, and a lot of fans seem to like him. He’s still a lawyer, but doesn’t get involved via a case – his girlfriend Kelli takes him to a dance club, and completely coincidentally Cain glamoured the bar owner to let him put on magic shows there. Cain recongnises that Will has power, but for some unknown chuffing reason Will, the most passive lead character a movie series has ever had, just lets himself get hypnotised by this obviously super-powerful warlock, who then sends him out to collect souls for him.
Here’s where things really slow down. For reasons unknown, Cain sends Marta to check up on Will, and the two of them have sex. I know I don’t watch tons of this sort of movie, but it seems well shot, and it tells a story rather than just shows us naked flesh (although it certainly does a lot of that, too). Will takes a couple of souls for Cain, but they’re both shot in exactly the same way with the same result, so it’s obvious padding, then he has sex with his girlfriend in the show, then has another sex scene with Marta…while Sassaman is extremely attractive and can act, it’s still quite a bit more sex than is strictly necessary to sell the story, while not being enough to attract the softcore fan crowd.
Luckily, they figure out Will is possessed or brainwashed or whatever it is, and Kelli calls her Reverend for help, Reverend Meredith! Okay, I’ll buy it, sort of. He knows all about demonic possession (thanks, I guess, to the spirit hanging out in his body) so calls on his “Channeller” friend Anastasia to supervise all the protection spells and so on. Anastasia is played by Ayesha Hauer, perhaps best known for the men in her life – the daughter of Rutger Hauer and formerly married to Thomas Jane, and is fine if a little filler-y too.
The movie itself looks cheap, shot on some TV cameras, but one must adjust expectations if you’re five movies deep in a franchise like this. There’s a fun moment when a young Greg Grunberg pops up as a bar manager, probably praying for JJ Abrams to take him away from this life of low budget misery, but aside from him, a lot of the acting is weak (only Sassaman and Huffman are worth watching, with an honourable mention to Lenny Rose as the Reverend). The whole thing with the spirit inside the Rev, which ought to have been a major plot thread, is completely undercooked, but…the ending is fun (even if it is incredibly abrupt) and the main bulk of the movie is surprisingly decent. If you’re going to watch an erotic thriller, given how much screen time is going to be taken over with sex scenes, it’s nice if they’re shot well I suppose, so thumbs up on that score.
At this point, I’ve got no idea why the series continues to follow William Spanner around. No-one can be bothered to do anything with him, and a white witch who never uses his powers becomes boring after a while (that point of boring-ness for me? About ten minutes into part 2). Yet, aside from parts 8 and 10, which were apparently not made as “Witchcraft” movies but bought and renamed by the producers, he appears in every damn instalment. Perhaps he gets more interesting later.
Trim 15 minutes or so from this movie (cut the sex scenes way down, and get rid of one of the soul re-possessions) and you’ve got yourself a great little movie. Well, at least an above average one. I think an article about “movie series that had good instalments past part 4” might be fun, if anyone has any favourites, leave them in the comments.
Rating: thumbs up