Witchcraft VIII: Salem’s Ghost (1996)

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When people who’ve voluntarily sat through the first 7 Witchcraft movies say “this is a bad one”, then you know you’re in for a tough time. The thing is, I don’t want to overload with the angry bad movie hyperbole, because that might give you the impression that it’s in any way worth watching or spending your time on – what I want is to send writer/director Joseph John Barmettler’s details to any serial killers currently operating in the Los Angeles area, because then at least something positive might come from this thoroughly wretched experience.

 

Two things happen in the first twenty minutes that left me sad, because it was manifestly clear that no-one involved in this at any level gave the tiniest bit of a damn about it. Firstly, and I’ll accept this might bother me more than it would bother this movie’s average viewer, new professor Sonny Dunaway is telling his class at Salem College about the history of witchcraft, only it’s one of those history lessons designed for us rather than the people in that room, because you’d hope they’d already know. Anyway, this isn’t the thing that annoyed me! To him, places like Salem happened just because, and had nothing to do with viciously puritanical men wanting to keep women in their place (okay, not the only reason, but certainly a critical one).

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But most important comes when we find out that the house Sonny and his wife Mary Ann move into was built over the top of a crypt designed to magically trap the super-powerful warlock Simon Renfro for all eternity. Leaving aside that the enormous mansion would be a bit out of the price range of a teacher (and the one next door, owned by a plumber), you’d think that if you were an expert on the history of the area, you’d have investigated the house you were buying before buying it – or at the very least would have looked round, including the gigantic basement. Well, that’s what people in real life would do, and this is a Witchcraft movie. Sorry.

 

These are far from the only examples of whatever the level below “will this do?” is, but I’d best at least mention the plot. Couple moves to Salem so the husband can teach at the local college; they accidentally release The Warlock, and a guy from the “Protestant Church Of England” comes to help them put him back. Wow, that was a bit quicker a recap than even I expected. There’s an utterly irrelevant subplot about Sonny having cheated with one of his students before, and all the women in this class being gorgeous models who inexplicably are hot for this unattractive, boring-looking guy, but that can safely be ignored. Compared to part 7, there’s barely any sex in it too, although all three of the main women are, of course, required to disrobe at least once.

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The real reason the Warlock is released is down to Sonny’s neighbour, Mitch. He and his wife Gayle just walk into Sonny’s house without being asked or invited and make themselves at home, which is one of my least favourite bad movie tropes; but they double down by having Mitch, later, break into the house while Sonny is (for some reason) having a lecture in his lounge, go down to the basement, tear a massive hole in the wall, discover the sealed up crypt, break into that as well, and steal the magic cross which has kept The Warlock trapped for the last three hundred years. This eventually turns Mitch mad and he’s carted off by the police before the end – this movie is so miserable I was hoping the police would knock on my door and treat me the same way so I’d be spared any more of it.

 

My notes are full of angry lines in all caps. One, “SELL IT YOU IDIOT”, relates to when the Church guy McArthur turns up (by the way, an actual C of E person would never describe the faith as “the Protestant Church of England”, but he does several times). He says the sale of the house was a mistake and offers to buy it back – and even though several horrible things have already happened, Sonny angrily turns him down. What? So McArthur just hangs around helping them protect the house, trap the Warlock there and ultimately defeat him (check out the completely non-Christian things they do, for fun). They figure out that the neighbour probably has the cross, but don’t bother doing anything as sensible as knocking on his door and asking for it back. Why would they? HAHAHAHAHA

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Sonny is claustrophobic, referenced several times throughout the movie, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that at some point he’s getting trapped in a coffin. What happens isn’t so much that he bravely gets over his fear, but just ignores it – he’s locked in the coffin and barely panics, shouting advice to his wife and looking for a weapon in there.

 

Damn, is this film bad. It rips off better films for no reason – from the fridge sex scene in “9 ½ Weeks” to iconic images from “The Exorcist”, “Poltergeist” and “The Omen”, and all that brings to mind is “I wish I was watching one of those movies”. It has a miserable collection of “actors”, most of whom have this as their only credit, doughy ugly guys with ridiculously hot wives, and a lingering feeling of sadness that all the people involved with this thought this was as good as they could do.

 

A brief mention of continuity, because I know that’s what you all come here for. “Witchcraft 7” ended with the death of Will Spanner – whether it was intended to be the end of the series is unknown, or I can’t be bothered to find out, either way. This movie, despite sharing a producer, wasn’t intended to be part of the rich, wonderful “Witchcraft” universe, being named “Satan’s Ghost”, but plans to make this a spin-off series were shelved and it was renamed before release, so now 20 years later I’m wasting two hours of my life and however long it took you to read this of yours. As we’re expecting parts 14, 15 and 16 of this franchise later this year, the “series ending” didn’t exactly take. Will Spanner is back from the dead in part 9, so…I was about to say “we have that to look forward to” but I’m definitely not looking forward to it.

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There is one redeeming feature. And you don’t need to even watch the movie to enjoy it. Should you ever find a VHS tape of this for £0.01, grab it, pop it in and fast-forward to the end credits. A fellow called Steve Jacobson wrote a song based on the action in the movie (I do love movie songs which describe the plot), and it’s…well, amazing, and were it on Youtube I’d be sharing it with you.

 

As we hit the halfway mark of this series, I’m…glad there’s only 8 left. And as 14, 15 and 16 may never see an official release, that means there’s only 5 more! 5 is easy to handle, right?

 

Rating: thumbs down

PS – one last thing, the end of the end credits reveal how little these scumbags cared.

End Credits

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One thought on “Witchcraft VIII: Salem’s Ghost (1996)

  1. Pingback: The ISCFC vs. Horror Franchises |

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