Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993)

This is a curious movie. It’s a bit like renting a VHS tape called “Sexy Zombies” and expecting, you know, sexy zombies; instead, you get a totally well made, interesting historical drama. “Witchboard 2” has a ouija board in it, but it’s merely the MacGuffin that gets the plot rolling, a plot about guilt and being prepared to pay a price to follow your dreams.

Well, maybe I’m giving it too much credit, but let’s see. Kevin Tenney is back as writer-director, seven years after part 1 (I can only assume the producers had a spare million dollars lying around and threw darts at a board with all their available franchises pinned on it) and he’s got another interesting story to tell, which is also an early example of the “unquel” – a part 2 (or later) which has no links to the previous instalments in the series.

Paige (Ami “daughter of Micky” Dolenz) has moved to the city to become an artist; she’s welcomed into her new apartment by the extremely sleazy Jonas, and his wife, landlady and super-hippy Elaine (original SNL cast member Laraine Newman). The ouija board just falls out of her closet one day, and she sets it up on her mantel as if it’s a prized possession, and we get a bunch of shots from the board’s POV, a lovely touch.

Elaine also has a much younger brother, Russell, who comes across as a super nice guy, but is very obviously hiding something; she also has an ex-boyfriend, a cop by the name of Mitch, who appears to be half a step from being a rapist (so is then, by movie logic, bound to be a nice guy in the end). This love triangle burbles along for a bit, and Elaine starts using the ouija board, talking to a woman called Susan, who claims to be the previous resident of the apartment and a victim of murder.

There’s nothing terribly surprising on display, as Paige starts getting sucked in by the board’s power, ignoring her job and the men in her life (the job thing feels like a more meaty B-story that was cut significantly in post-production, as it goes absolutely nowhere). It’s a whodunnit punctuated with the ouija-based ghost taking revenge on both its enemies and those of Paige – my favourite kill is definitely the one where Susan possesses a wrecking ball and finishes off one of the characters in spectacular fashion. I don’t quite buy Paige’s transformation into a vamp from a “prude”, but it’s at least an arc of sorts.

Kudos must go to Tenney for his inventive camerawork – one gets the feeling he wasn’t all that interested in the material so decided to try and make it as visually exciting as possible. The kills are more fun, there’s all sorts of impressive non-CGI camera movement and a few great set-pieces – just goes to show what you can do with, relatively speaking, a decent amount of money and a bit of desire.

The reveal is sort of boring, which is a shame; and the acting is sort of bland too – well, either that or way OTT, and the two do not blend well at all. Because the rest of the stuff in the movie was so good, this came as an extra disappointment, but perhaps there are just no new spins on this sort of thing. I do appreciate these movies can both be read as about how difficult it is for women to just do what they want – Elaine supports a husband who clearly despises her and a brother who doesn’t appear to do anything; and Paige must put up with the mostly unwanted attentions of two men when all she wants to do is be left alone to try and become a “real” artist. Perhaps the “men being desperate the women don’t use it on their own” is just a metaphor?

So, not a lot else to say, really. Ouija boards are still stupid and not really a thing, being the same as a game of Monopoly, so a lot of the scares of this are completely lost on me. But…worth a watch, which I didn’t expect to be saying. There’s a 1989 movie called “Witchtrap”, also by Tenney, which was forced to put a disclaimer in its opening credits saying “this is not a sequel to Witchboard” and is apparently has quite a lot of parody in it – I hope to track that down and bring you a review of it soon. Plus, there’s a part 3 to this series, so yay I guess?

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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