Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh (1997)


This will be, mercifully, the last Michael Paul Girard movie we ever have to cover here at the ISCFC. His career consists of one movie I caught at the right time in my life and absolutely loved (“Oversexed Rugsuckers From Mars”) and then a steady stream of garbage which only stopped when he “retired” from the movie business. We’ve covered an astonishing five Girard movies! I’ve never seen a single Ozu, and only three of Tarkovsky’s, yet I’ve seen five of Girard’s.


He’s in the conversation for the title of worst director of all time. Non-coincidentally, another of the directors of the “Witchcraft” series is also up (down?) there, David Palmieri – he directed “Captain Battle” and “Snake Club: Revenge of the Snake Woman” before going on to helm Witchcrafts 14, 15 and 16 (currently in post-production, fingers crossed we can get some review copies when they’re ready for release).


But enough of all that! Now, you might expect a movie in the same series, directed by the same man (Girard also directed part 7, remember, and part 8 was a buy-in with nothing to do with the franchise) to have something to do with its immediate predecessor. You would, of course, be completely wrong. Following tradition, several of the main characters (Keli, and the two cops Lutz and Garner) are played by new people; and – I appreciate how tough this must be to believe – they’ve managed to find even worse actors for all of them. I honestly thought Will was a new actor too, but according to IMDB it’s the same guy; although at least he looks like a warlock and not so much a cheap lawyer these days.  It feels like a significant step downwards, and it’s not like there’s a lot of down to go after the rest of this series.


The plot is…just a bunch of people wandering about for 90 minutes or so, and occasionally having sex. Even though we (and the cops) saw Will die in some weird double-staking incident with the vampire at the end of part 7, he dies somewhere different at the beginning of this one (it may be an art gallery, but the incredible cheapness of it all makes it hard to tell). In an effect that your home movies would be embarrassed about, his ghost gets up, his dead body disappears and Will is reduced to wandering the streets, unable to be seen or heard. Lutz and Garner appear occasionally, Keli appears occasionally, but the main thrust of things is a half-hearted ripoff of “Ghost”. Will, aimlessly following prostitute Sheila (Landon Hall, who was also in Girard’s “Different Strokes”), discovers that she can hear him, and in one of the worst written conversations I can ever remember, they sort of get to know each other. He asks for help getting word of his death to Keli, and she agrees.


There’s a truly despicable pimp involved, too, who seems to be the only person who understands how dumb this entire thing is and overacts wildly, like a drug-addled Christopher Walken impersonator (Julius Antonio, sadly his only credit). Sheila’s apartment is absolutely enormous, which reminds me of “No Retreat, No Surrender 4”, where the prostitute’s apartment was so luxurious it almost felt like an advert for that particular line of work. Anyway, Sheila tries to help, the cops are a bit suspicious, but someone else has already borrowed Will’s body and is hanging out with Keli, pretending (badly) to be the real guy. Oh, when Sheila walks into Will’s building, his ghost is magically left out; and it turns out, in what seems to be a humongous coincidence, that there’s some black magic den downstairs from their apartment. And, in a coincidence so unlikely it makes me angry, the pimp is the Satanist who’s running the little evil den. I mean, come on! Although, when reading his incantations he sounds like a wrestling announcer, which is awesome but not awesome enough to get over that.


They even missed the perfect opportunity to double-down on the “Ghost” comparison at the end – as Will possesses Sheila to get back inside his own apartment, “he” rescues Keli – but the two women don’t have sex. I can’t have been the only person who thought this was going to happen? Actually, this makes me sound like a pervert – I’m sorry, readers, I just guessed with the pedigree of the director and actors, we’d get something like that to use in publicity. Instead, what actually happens is Will gets his (previously dead, now fine) body back, and Sheila just disappears from the movie.


The sole bright spark in this garbage-storm is Landon Hall, who puts some humanity into Sheila. She’s far from great, but she’s also far far better than anyone else. Stephanie Beaton, who’d go on to play Lutz in parts 10 and 11, is awful, looking and dressing more like a stripper than a cop; Mikul Robbins (who’s still working today) as Garner looks like he’d rather be anywhere else; Leah Kourtne Ballantine as Keli is…I’m running out of different ways to say “they suck”. Aside from Hall, they all suck, and on occasion are so abysmal that I feel bad for whoever told them to give acting a try. The cops all look like strippograms, as their outfits are cheap-looking, the wrong shape and look like they were bought from a fancy dress shop and not actual props.


The twists, such as they are, are so far out of left field that they provide no interest, and the abiding memory of the movie is boredom. The sex scenes are awful, there’s a lot of walking down dirty alleyways, a lot of talking, but precious little movie. The music, also provided by Girard, is miserable and sounds like rejected “demo” songs for cheap keyboards. This might just be the worst one yet, because it’s not funny-bad, it’s just…nothing. But we’re through the Girard years now, and I hope part 10 is a new fresh beginning for the franchise. Of course it won’t be!


Rating: thumbs down


One thought on “Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh (1997)

  1. Pingback: The ISCFC vs. Horror Franchises |

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