Witchcraft 16: Hollywood Coven (2016)

She doesn’t appear in this movie, nor does anything remotely as cool as her

The Witchcraft series, thought dead in 2002 then again in 2008, is over once more. I know there’s been an instalment where chief warlock Will Spanner turned to the dark side and killed everyone (part 13) but this seems even more final than that – although if these managed to turn a profit for low-budget producer extraordinaire David Sterling, who knows?

The final scene of the previous movie was the couple who were so dull I didn’t even bother learning their names having sex in a hotel room (his thing being he couldn’t, er, “perform” if there were other people in the house with them), and her getting possessed by Sharon (Noel VanBrocklin) and killing the guy, because…er…

Anyway, we get that scene again, because scumbags think we’re still here for the partial female nudity, and…cut! We’re on the set of the final scene of “Crystal Force 15”! What?

I was as thoroughly confused as anyone about the changes made to the three main characters (Will Spanner, Detectives Lutz and Garner) over the course of the first twelve movies. Then part 13 (unrelated to David Sterling, so a casual search reveals) tied most of them up, give or take. Parts 14 and 15 then made it nice and weird again, giving us what amounted to two different takes on the same basic story, and now this? There’s no film-within-a-film after this first scene but everything else operates to confuse us, including the names.

The names of the actors are the same as the parts they’ve played in the previous two movies, so there’s a Lutz and Garner, and a Will Sparrow; but their character names in Crystal Force are only referenced in one scene where they’re gathered for a table read of part 16, and never mentioned again. Although, the clip they show us of part 15 has nude lady call herself Sharon, which is the name of the character in “Witchcraft 16”, but Sharon refers to her character in the “Crystal Force” movies as Linda, meaning nude lady should have called herself Linda when she was being possessed by her spirit. I think?

Also, it’s weird when you hear Lutz and Garner refer to each other by those names, as you know they’re playing different characters, even though they never take their holsters or badges off no matter where they are or what they’re doing, as if they filmed scenes for all three movies at the same time and they definitely didn’t have money to pay a continuity person to tell them what props they needed.

Mmm… yes, I definitely am attracted to you

I’ve tried a bunch of different ways to write the above paragraphs, but I think leaving them that confusing will give you, dear reader, a flavour of just what we viewers of these movies went through. This isn’t even bringing parts 1-13 into the equation (more on them later).

There’s an interesting and even funny idea here. As the characters are sat around the table read, they discuss how all the actors from previous instalments have disappeared from the business, which can be read as they were murdered to further the witchy ambitions of the producers of the “Crystal Force” franchise, but is obviously a joke at their own expense at the quality of the actors they tend to use in these movies. It would have made a heck of a lot more sense if they’d not invented a fake franchise and had just had this take place on the set of a “Witchcraft” movie, and thrown in a few jokes about the number of different people who’d played Will, Lutz and Garner, but so be it.

To prepare them for part 16, they’re given DVDs of the previous movies in the series and told to watch them. Despite them already appearing in two movies, you mean? Anyway, the villain of the piece (or so we think) is director Jamal (Ernest Pierce), who played the reanimated corpse in part 15; he’s using viewings of the old “Crystal Force” movies to either kill cast members or activate their witchy powers, depending. This leads to yet more confusion, as the clips they watch (mostly from 11 and 12, the only two Sterling has rights to) have characters with the names Lutz, Garner and Will in them. Seriously, movie, why not have the actors use their real names and have them be on the set of a Witchcraft movie? Why go out of your way to make the whole thing worse?

The thing that makes this annoying is, like I said, there’s part of an actually quite good movie in here. The writer can write a joke – example, as they’re watching a clip from part 11, Sharon says to Samuel, “how come the guys never get naked?” (a reference to every man keeping his underwear on and in shot in these damn things), and he responds with a casual “they have better agents” – and at least a few of the actors are totally fine – special kudos to Molly Dougherty, who seems comfortable in front of a camera and could go on to better things. It’s a series that’s ripe for mockery, but they just sort of give up two-thirds of the way through and have the last section be a boring witch battle followed by an equally boring conversation, the end.

My favourite bit is when they introduce a new actor to play the part of the guy who was zapped into non-existence in the previous scene. He walks in, gets the name of the movie wrong (he calls it “Witch School 16”, for absolutely no reason, and is not corrected) but then both Lutz and Garner both are overwhelmed with lust for the man. I mean, he’s a completely normal-looking man, a little doughy perhaps, which is fine (I mean, look at me) but would he have every character go ga-ga for him? I feel like maybe he helped fund the movie or something, like if you could write yourself into a movie you’d make it so you were super-hot and mysterious and everyone wanted to bang you.

My favourite actor, Zamra Dollskin as the eternally perky Tara, was barely in it, and Will Spanner the witch (not Will Spanner the low-budget actor) didn’t make an appearance, making it the second Witchcraft movie to not feature him or refer to him at all – he gets a namecheck or two in part 10.

I think the main problem was there was no real central character. The only person who made the slightest effort to drive the plot along was Garner, but he’s not really on screen enough to be the star. The two people who you might pin the movie to (Rose or Will) are definitely supporting players in this one, leaving no-one to really get behind. Maybe Jamal?

So, an entertaining if completely confusing end to what is definitely the worst of the long-running horror franchises, as it cements its place as the longest-running of the lot. If you have a very high tolerance for movies which operate at the lowest end of the budget spectrum, then give it a go. You could do worse!

Rating: thumbs up