Witchboard (1986)

I know you all know this. But, there’s the offchance that someone reading this might have some peculiar ideas that never got corrected, or might genuinely believe it, and for that I must say my piece. The Ouija board is a game owned by Hasbro, the same company that owns Transformers and My Little Pony; the version seen in every modern movie and TV show about the “phenomenon”, is a completely modern invention (there’s an old Victorian spiritualist parlour trick of “talking boards”, but, you know, I really hope you don’t believe there was any truth to anything they did). If you want anyone to blame for its continuing cultural relevance in 2017, then I guess the Christian groups who accused it of being a symbol of witchcraft are a good place to start.

So, we’re clear, it’s a load of rubbish. So this movie, which treats it as 100% real, has an extra barrier to clear to get anyone to care about it, and…well, obviously it doesn’t, otherwise I’d have found something a bit nicer to start the review off with. But let’s get on with it!

I wondered if it was funded by some fundamentalist Christian group, after the opening scene involved a fairly in-depth discussion about the existence of God. Two men, smartly dressed Brandon, and schlubby Jim, are arguing, and Jim’s girlfriend Linda (Tawny “If The 80s Were A Person” Kitaen) is really being way too friendly with her boyfriend’s enemy…but anyway. Brandon decides to get his ouija board out and contact his old friend, David, the spirit of a ten-year-old kid.

Right here is a moment which might have been played for laughs, but given the time, I’m just not sure. Everyone treats communing with a spirit as if it’s nothing, the sort of thing that everyone does at every party, all the time – like oujia is, in fact, a normal board game like Monopoly. That the director is Kevin Tenney, who also gave us the classic “Night Of The Demons”, might lend credence to that theory, but I’m more of the opinion he was a young director who leapt at the chance to direct *anything* and some producer decided ouija was the flavour of the month.

Unsurprisingly, things don’t go too well. Jim mocks the spirit, who decides the best response to that would be to systematically destroy his girlfriend’s life. When she decides to use the ouija on her own (a definite no-no in charlatan circles, apparently) she finds her life taken over more and more by a spirit who seems a lot more evil than your average 10-year-old. Heck, even Brandon and Jim have to team up, and Brandon goes as far as bringing in a spiritualist, Zarabeth (a hilarious turn from great “That Gal” actress Katherine Wilhoite), to exorcise the apartment. By the way, “I exorcise this apartment” is a hilarious line, I think. Mansion, yes. Home, yes. Church, definitely. But I don’t think the word apartment really fits the supernatural realm. Like “condo”.

There are some quite peculiar touches to “Witchboard”. Clearly, the writer had just seen “The Empire Strikes Back”, and does the “I love you” – “I know” exchange twice, despite, well, when it happens the second time it’s legitimately the stupidest possible thing the guy could have said. Oh, and “spaz” gets used as an insult, but that’s more a product of the time than anything else. These are the result of thought, but not all thought is good.

Perhaps my main issue with “Witchboard” is it’s a lot more of a drama than it is a horror / thriller movie. The pace is sort of leisurely, and the central conflict doesn’t come from the spirit, but from the way the three central characters interact. It’s not bad, particularly, just not terribly interesting to this B-movie enthusiast. When you have a central villain who remains entirely off-screen / invisible / unnamed, it’s kind of a diffcult sell. Also, there’s not a lot visually interesting in watching the “flechette” spell something out on a ouija board, and there’s rather a lot of that.

Kitaen, who I’d sort of dismissed as a joke before this, is totally fine in her role. She does a full-frontal nude scene, too, which gave the DVD distributor something to sell it with but is a reminder of a time which is less…enlightened? A weird word to use in our current climate of sexual abuse, but hopefully you see what I mean.

Add on an ending which is in the bottom 1% all time of movie endings, and you’ve got…well, I don’t know what you’ve got. Then the credits reveal a very strange fact – soundtrack largely provided by Greek avant-garde music legend Iannis Xenakis, which works really well but is so far out of left field I’m surprised it made it to the finished product.

Of course, there’s three of these, and now I’ve started I’d better not stop. There’s also a “Witchtrap” from 1989, but the box states “this isn’t a sequel to Witchboard” (was it that popular?) even though it has the same writer/director. He also did the sequel, but part 3, in “weird ISCFC coincidence” news, was directed by the guy who directed our previous review, “Sci-Fighters”.

I guess don’t bother, unless…nah, no qualifiers. It’s too slow and nothing really happens.

Rating: thumbs down

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One thought on “Witchboard (1986)

  1. Pingback: Night Of The Demons (1988) |

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