Let’s talk franchises. Even if we count originals and remakes, “Witchcraft” is amazingly still the longest. “Friday 13th” has ten originals, a crossover and a remake; “Puppet Master” has ten originals and a crossover; and even “Night Of The Living Dead” only makes it to twelve (I think), if you generously count all the sequels, remakes and sequels to remakes. Yet Will Spanner and friends are still going strong at 13, with three more on the way this year and, if low-budget producer extraordinaire David Sterling has anything to say about it, I’m sure we’ll see more after that.
I probably ought to go through this series and check the hyperbole I’ve previously used, but it would genuinely be difficult to be worse than part 10, one of the most wretched movies we’ve ever reviewed here. Luckily, Sterling didn’t try, and instead relocated the series back to the USA with the same regular cast we’ve come to know and “love”. Mikul Robbins returns from part 9 as Detective Garner, and at three movies, Stephanie Beaton as Detective Lutz is in a tie for the series’ longest running actor. Someone decided that a sensible outfit for a cop would be a suit jacket with no bra, the tiniest mini-skirt ever and high heels, and she rocks that look throughout. I imagine she was counting the days til she could quit working for these sleazy assholes and direct her own movies.
This, and I can’t believe I remember enough about this franchise to notice things like this, is something of a ret-con, a soft reboot for the series, call It what you will. Will and Keli, on their way to meet Keli’s sister Colleen, happen to run into Lutz and Garner, and Will introduces Keli to them both. Er, didn’t they save her life at the end of part 9? And I’m pretty sure they met her in parts 6 and 7 too (but mercifully those details have been purged from my mind). Also, Keli appears to have forgotten that she knows all about Will being a powerful warlock – best guess, the scriptwriter was given a list of characters but hadn’t seen any of the other Witchcrafts.
Colleen is part of a theatre group at her Christian college, along with Maria and Keri. They’re doing Macbeth, and the obviously-a-villain theatre director Arthur Ramsden is solely interested in the three witches and their famous scene. By the end, you’ll be wondering “is this even a real performance of Macbeth? Could they not have shown a few of the other actors at least once?” but that’s by the by. So, Arthur is a Satanist, and Maria is in his thrall; they, for the pathetically weak reason of “getting closer to the characters”, organise a trip for the three girls to the nearest cemetery, to do an apparently real incantation over the graves of the three witch sisters who were buried there 300 years ago. While they’re doing the chant, topless (because of course), they’re interrupted by three horny drunk college guys (who all look at least 30 years old), there’s a struggle, one of the guys is killed – which brings in Lutz and Garner – and one of the girls is possessed by one of the sisters.
So far, so good. The plan to resurrect Abaddon the demon and open the gate to hell continues apace, with the other two girls eventually getting possessed too (and the teacher, although all four of them act like they’re sort of half-possessed, behaving like normal 2000-era college girls quite a bit too). Keli is all bummed out that her sister doesn’t want anything to do with her all of a sudden, and Will, now with witch powers he’s never had before, can see the witches’ true faces and tries to stop the ceremony – without telling Lutz and Garner, for some reason.
I’ll be the first to admit the very low expectations I’ve developed over the course of writing for the ISCFC has led me to like some films that the average moviegoer would dismiss as trash; and this is probably no different. Part 10 was so thoroughly bad in every way that literally anything would have seemed good in comparison, but this was quite refreshing as it showed competence in all aspects of the production – David Sterling may not spend a ton of money, but he’s no fool and can put something together that looks and feels like a movie, not a particularly bad bit of amateur camcorder footage. The sets are cheap, but some of the gore effects are decent, even if Satan looks a bit like a mangled stuffed toy.
It’s the acting where this might even be said to shine (compared to other Witchcraft movies). First up is Lauren Ian Richards, as Maria, one of the witches. It’s her one and only movie role, and while I don’t want to go too far over the top, she’s really quite good. Plays pre- and post-possession convincingly, looks great and seems confident on screen. I hope the reason she never acted again was a good one, because it’s a shame to see horror movies use rotten actors time after time while potentially decent ones in the same price bracket are ignored. Even Mikul Robbins (Garner) has improved, going from comically awful to an okay “dumb cop” stereotype; and Stephanie Beaton (Lutz) has come on in leaps and bounds since her first appearance in part 9. James Servais and Wendy Blair (Will and Keli), while behaving nothing like either character has done in the series thus far, are fine too.
There’s an interesting post-script to the acting talk, and that’s the extremely elderly nun who helps out Will. She’s Anita Page, and her career started way back in the mid 1920s – she was second billed in the first “talkie” to win the best picture Oscar, “The Broadway Melody” (1929). She received hundreds of fan letters from Benito Mussolini, apparently (!) but by 1936, the weirdly fickle Hollywood machine had had enough of her (at the ripe old age of 26). Apart from one appearance in 1961, she remained retired from the business for 60 years (!!) only to pop back up in a few movies like this late into her life, as she discovered she still enjoyed acting and telling stories about the old days. Although I was worried about her in this movie, as she had tons of bare candles in her room, which must be a severe fire risk for an extremely elderly nun.
I mean, it’s not a classic. Some of Will’s dialogue is a bit wooden – check out his delivery of “I don’t fear you. Go away” as if he’s talking about a fly and not a powerful demon possessing a warlock. The sex is joyless and poorly shot, including a threesome which made me vaguely embarrassed for all participants – it would be nice if one of the directors used the scenes to advance the story, but it’s all the same, all the time, at great length, and couldn’t be more boring. But, keep the remote by your side and fast-forward when the cheesy music starts, and it’ll be much easier to get through. And, on the positive side, the series of movies called “Witchcraft” has finally figured out it’d be a good idea to have some magic in it!
Please don’t watch this series, readers; but if you feel compelled to watch any of them, you could do much worse than part 11.
Rating: thumbs in the middle