Witchcraft 14: Angel of Death (2016)

Long-time readers may remember my increasing exasperation at the “Witchcraft” series, which started off bad and got much worse over the course of 13 miserable instalments. It incorporated one movie bought and renamed with nothing to do with the other 12 (part 8), two directed by one of our more hated figures, Michael Paul Girard (parts 7 and 9, confusingly), one set in the UK (part 10), and barely raised itself above the level of a Cinemax-style softcore porno at its very best.

Part 13 came along in 2008, and I thought we were free! Maybe everyone had been collectively hit by common sense, and they’d all agreed that any more Witchcraft movies were sort of a bad idea. But a man by the name of David Sterling (who also produced parts 11 and 12, but not 13) realised there was a little more blood to squeeze out of this particular stone, and here we are.

Sterling has an interesting side business, and one which, were I a wealthy man, I’d have probably indulged in at one point. If you have an idea and at least $10,000, he will make you a movie – he’ll sort out a cast and crew, turn your idea into a script, find locations, all that good stuff. Heck, if anyone wants to give me $10,000, I’ll do it right now! But as well as turning your half-assed idea into a reality, he also does it for himself, and thus we come to Witchcraft. Sterling produced parts 14, 15 and 16 back to back, which is a guaranteed sign of quality, and as soon as my broke self can rustle up the money I’ll be treating you to reviews of the rest of the “trilogy”.

I’m something of a continuity nerd, and “Witchcraft” actually made half an effort to wrap up all the loose ends generated over the last 20+ years by the end of part 13, which makes it almost unique among horror franchises. Will, I think, fully embraced his dark side and became the Son of Satan, Lutz and Garner – or one of them, I’m struggling to remember – died, and all was finished. Then, for absolutely no reason whatsoever other than “dumbass websites like the ISCFC will review it”, the name was resurrected, again (there’s also a six year gap between parts 12 and 13) and all that work was completely undone. Yes, I know that expecting a micro-budget piece of garbage soft-porn horror movie to give a damn about its own history is a fool’s errand, but they’d already made the effort before!

There’s an alarm bell before we even get going, too, and that’s the name of the director that Mr Sterling has chosen to helm these three no-doubt classics. David Palmieri has directed two of the all-time least favourite movies we’ve ever reviewed – “Captain Battle: Legacy War” and “Disaster Wars: Earthquake vs Tsunami” – and I even suggested that if any serial killers or pyromaniacs read the ISCFC, they might want to pay Mr Palmieri a visit; this might be the least murderous-rage-inducing of his movies to date, which is about the strongest compliment I can pay the man.

Lutz and Garner are both alive, and still cops, although the only office looks like a small section of someone’s basement with very fake walls and no decoration whatsoever. They’re both moderately capable actors with a nice bit of banter, too, but I need to start at the beginning, and that is with a delightful young lady by the name of Rose.

Well, it’s not Rose, but a doughy and unimpressive couple, who we see in a hotel room about to have sex. They’d very clearly not met before that scene, but they’re supposed to feel a burning desire for each other – doughy guy is Rose’s ex-boyfriend, who she was apparently still in love with, and doughy gal hates Rose so much she sends her an email telling her to leave her alone, that his hands will be all over her tonight, etc. Rose gets angry and kills the gal with her mind, then kills the guy later as he’s stumbling through the streets, wishing death on his crazy ex.

The evil in this movie comes from…a yoga coven. Sure, why not? Silver Lake Yoga is a real place, and if anyone other than me gave a damn about this movie I imagine they’d have been upset about having their storefront used without any sort of permission. It’s run by Samuel, who gives it his all but plays his part as if he’s the camp best friend from a sitcom and not a direct conduit to some demon who enjoys having sex with women a lot. He also has the world’s cheapest prop knife, which isn’t really important but is so bad it made even a jaded bad movie fan such as I laugh.

I’m 800 words in and I’ve barely scratched the surface of this cinematic gem. This is going to be a long one, and I’m only writing it confident in the knowledge that none of you will ever watch it. So, Rose’s mother. She’s also a witch and knows what Rose can do (which, bear in mind, is kill people who piss her off) but chooses to laugh it off until the bodies really start piling up – then she gets kidnapped so who cares about her. But Rose, who’s genuinely troubled by her ability to kill people with her mind, gets involved with the coven, thinking they’re a nice group of white-magic witches, and…I need to go deeper! There’s so much craziness in this movie! Samuel and his assistant Sharon – who is a model in real life, but appears for no reason to be trying to look as teenage-boy-ish as possible here, discuss at the beginning how the coven is for white magic. There’s a scene near the end where Rose appears blameless. But there are several other scenes where major characters witness her doing evil stuff! Did they film two versions of the plot and just run out of time and slapped whatever they had together? Or is David Palmieri a talentless hack? whycan’titbeboth.gif

Onto my favourite character in the movie, the magnificent Tara, played by alt-fetish model Zamra Dollskin. I’m not even sure if she’s acting or not, but she plays the part perfectly, like she’s a friendly but slightly naive cheerleader trapped in the body of a….well, an alt-fetish model. Her energy and enthusiasm for every scene she’s in is a wonder to behold, and I’m genuinely delighted she appears to be in all three of the new ones. Two enthusiastic thumbs up for Ms Dollskin, who gets involved after ending up in LA being chased by witch-hunters (a sub-plot which goes absolutely nowhere) and decides to hide out at Rose’s house – you know, the house the police are watching and where Rose’s mother was kidnapped from. Safety!

I guess we ought to talk about Will, who’s been repeatedly mentioned as the most powerful witch on earth in the previous 13 movies. Here, for some reason, I guess, he looks like the oldest member of an early 00s emo band who still rocks the deep v-necks and mascara but has a sensible middle-aged sort of haircut; also, his powers are weak as hell and he needs Rose’s help to get out of the final battle. It’s safe to say Ryan Cleary (Will) isn’t much of an actor, but he tries and he’s so curious that I kinda grew to like him.

There’s an evil plan about summoning a demon or whatever, but the movie ignores it almost completely so I will too. From what I read, none of this (including that the lead character murders a bunch of people and doesn’t seem all that sorry about it) carries on to the 15th or 16th instalments, which have different scriptwriters as well. Let’s hope they’re as beyond-bargain-basement cheap as this one, too!

I feel bad for the women persuaded to disrobe for payment in what I presume is hundreds, as opposed to thousands, of dollars. I feel like that aspect of “Witchcraft”, the soft-porn for people who wanted to pretend they were watching a real movie, is a relic of the Blockbuster era and really really doesn’t need to still be going on in 2016. Although, some of the earlier entries, such as part 7, had truly ludicrous amounts of sex and nudity in them, so at least they’ve toned it down a little since then? I don’t know, the sleaze is so mild here, if I watched it for purposes of titilation I’d be demanding my money back. As opposed to demanding my money back because it sucked massive amounts of ass.

So. It’s not the worst of the lot (that prize must go to part 10, which is barely better than an average home movie). Heck, I’m not even sure it’s in the bottom half in terms of quality. I enjoyed it in places!

Rating: thumbs in the middle

PS. The great website Phelous has reviewed the new movies, and I discovered when watching their review that we’d made a few of the same observations. I like to think it’s because we’re both smart, or it’s sort of obvious, but all the nonsense I spout is from my own brain (feel free to watch their videos, though, because they’re excellent).

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Disaster Wars: Earthquake vs. Tsunami (2013)

aka “Stormageddon” (which will get us loads of hits, because it’s also apparently a character from Doctor Who).

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When we reviewed “Captain Battle: Legacy War”, I dismissed the filmmakers as having contempt for their audience, and that they should be banned from ever getting anywhere near a set ever again. But, keep swimming in the fetid pool of low-budget cinema, and you encounter the same names, so that’s how I found myself watching yet another David Palmieri masterpiece, whose day job is grip / gaffer for “CSI” and occasional big-budget Hollywood films.

This one put me on the back foot, though. The first person we see is ISCFC Hall of Famer Reggie Bannister (the “Phantasm” series, “Bloody Bloody Bible Camp”), in charge of some mini-submarine which is doing something science-y. Luckily, the film quickly establishes its garbage bona fides by throwing in a guy on the surface who’s in charge of the winch cable. Pick the weirdest thing about him? It’s a tie between his complete indifference to the presumably incredibly expensive submarine he’s the lifeline for, and the fact that the boat that’s supposed to be their lifeline is tiny, has one guy on it and the winch is the same one that your average fisherman would use. Oh, and it’s supposed to be sat above some deep trench, when it’s obviously about 20 feet off the shore.

Sadness reigned when Reggie and his crew died, seconds after setting off a pulse – part of the experiment. This triggers an underwater earthquake which triggers a huge tsunami, and it’s heading right for the west coast of the USA. Turns out it was done deliberately, so a billionaire with a bunch of satellites could sell the solution (firing lasers into the ocean) to the US government and make a ton of money. Yes, really. While you’re guessing if his plan works out for him or not, I’ll move on.

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I try to give the super-low-budget films an easier ride when it comes to technical shortcomings, maybe a little with narrative shortcomings, but with some films literally all they are is a catalogue of mistakes, stupidity and laziness, and I would be remiss in my duty as a reviewer if I didn’t gleefully mock them all.

The tsunami wipes out Hawaii first, after they’re given about 30 seconds warning. This is the first of many, many timeline problems with the film, where short conversations will start in bright daylight and end in darkness; where the bad guy’s ship is apparently an hour or so tsunami-speed away from the coast of California, but a film crew can get to and from him with no problem almost instantaneously; and so on. I would find myself going “well, that wouldn’t work because…” and then stopping several times, because it’s just a futile exercise. I even started wondering if this was an elaborate joke at our expense.

No-one’s in a hurry. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, the biggest tsunami in the history of the world is due to hit California in 4 hours (at the beginning of the movie), and everyone just seems happy to have leisurely conversations, to stroll not run anywhere, and generally not to worry. This, admittedly, isn’t helped by the editing, where absolute nothing scenes are stretched to unbearable length – the crazy scientist with the plan that just might work is shown for what seems like an eternity, drinking a cup of coffee. My notes have “SPEED UP PLEASE” underlined and circled several times.

Last in this cavalcade of incompetence is under the heading “locations and general technical”. The military go to pick up a scientist to help them combat the tsunami, but he’s got no idea why, despite remembering later on. If you were a government specialist, wouldn’t someone mention this to you? Like, to give you clearance or something? The secret underground military base they take the scientist to is…I really can’t believe this isn’t a joke…on a normal city street, with a single wrought-iron fence guarded by a local police officer. The nerve centre of the base is a table, with the Vice President, two army guys, an army gal, a secretary and the scientist sat round it; the big computer screen is clearly a green-screen effect, and a bad one at that, because whenever the camera moves the graphics stay in exactly the same place.

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The sole half-decent actor is sadly subjected to a spot of general technical incompetence too. Jenny Allford is a regular in grade-Z cinema like this, despite being a bit too good for it all. She’s the villain’s assistant / lover, and in the time it takes her to walk from one side of his tiny boat to the other, she’s managed to change bikini from white to a sort of leopard-print. I feel sorry for her, as she’s obviously only there to be eye-candy (during a “press conference”, the screen is half taken up with the reporter in the middle distance, half with an extreme close-up of her ass). Well, I feel sorry for everyone who agreed to be in a film like this, but especially the women who are glorified props.

I could go on, but there seems little point. I beg you, dear reader, to avoid this film, and if there are any pyromaniacs reading this, I’ll send you the film company’s address and a box of matches. It’s another one of those films where the only question you’re left with is why? Why bother making any of this? Can they possibly have watched the final edit of this film and gone “yes, this is as good as we could have made it”? Who aside from a mug like me is spending money on this film? Is it a front for money laundering, because it can’t possibly be an attempt to make a good film?

Rating: thumbs down