Donna Bleed (www.twitter.com/DonnaBleed) brings you another great b-movie review.
Since I wasn’t run off with flaming torches and pitchforks, I decided to give you guys another one. One of my very favorite bits of cheese; parents hate ‘em, the kids adore ‘em, they’re a hit at slumber parties…have you guessed it?
That’s right, it’s Witchboard!
It’s totally the 80’s, ladies and gentlemen, that is fer sure! There is a lot of neon and spiky hair at Linda (Tawny Kitaen) and Jim’s (Todd Allen) party; They’re celebrating…something; what it is isn’t really ever made clear, or I missed it because I’m on a lot of sinus medication. What is clear is that there are a lot of Pepsi products, a lot of Jack Daniels, and a lot of macho posturing over Linda between Brandon (Stephen Nichols) and Jim. This entire first scene could have had the dialogue replaced with grunts and club waving and the point still would have come across. Rich boy lost girl to poor boy, and Rich Boy is trying to convince her he’s better. With a Ouija board. Yeah, I know, you’d think it’d be a little sexy, what with the board sitting on their knees and them having to get close, but his pinky ring and her firey mane gets in the way. I’m serious; it looks like Tawny had been attacked by the Blob, only it didn’t eat her, it just chose to perch on her head forever. I know this was in the Whitesnake “Here I Go Again” heyday, but come on, this is a ridiculous amount of hair.
Basically what little party footage we have is a lengthy pseudo-intellectual yuppie-type party discussion on religion and spirituality (Don’t you love those kind of parties!), culminating with Brandon saying he’s essentially an athiest, but he likes to talk to the spirits of the dead through the Ouija. Let me pause here by saying that you come across as a huge dick, when you correct people when they say “Wee-Gee” instead of the proper “Wee-Jah,” then go into the history of it being the French and German Words for ‘Yes’ and then giving the pronunciation guide again. NOBODY CARES, BRANDON! It’s a party, relax! You’re wearing an 800-dollar suit, sitting on a naugahyde sofa that’s covered in cheese popcorn. Nobody gives a rat’s a** about your seance credentials. We cut to scenes of the dudes that I’d be hanging out with if I had been there, namely Jim and his best friend, Lloyd (James W. Quinn), then finally back to the seancing. Is that a word? If not, I’m making it one.
Anyway, he convinces Linda that since their systems are ‘pure,’ (as in no smoking and no drinking tonight) they start to use the board. Brandon is trying to reach his spirit guide, David. He is the spirit of a 10-year old boy with a very nasty temper who can blow all four tires on your Cobra if he thinks you’re making fun of him. The first of many jump-scares present in this movie, this one is very effective, except for the girly leap that Brandon gives when the noise startles them all. Trust me, what this film lacks in content, it tries to make up for with jump-scares. And lots of shots of Tawny in baby doll pajamas, rolling around in the king-sized waterbed. Hey, it’s the 80’s. Live it up.
In the fracas, Brandon forgets the Ouija board, and of course, Linda can’t resist it’s ability to highlight her manicure the next morning. She asks it several questions, the big one being “Were the tests positive?” implying that she thinks she might be pregnant. Ladies, Ouija boards are 100% accurate with these delicate matters, so don’t go wasting money on silly things like a pregnancy test or a doctor’s appointment, just consult the spirit world and everything will be just fine! We learn that David doesn’t like Jim, and doesn’t want to come back as Linda’s baby because of it. This is followed by the sad death of the most entertaining character in the movie, and the ruination of a perfectly good Sonny’s Bar-B-Q hat. RIP, Lloyd, your screen time was much too short. I have to say that am quite impressed at the speed of the police involvement in this movie; the homicide detective, Lt. Dewhurst (Burke Byrnes) is already questioning Jim, rhapsodising about Vegas magic acts, and inserting a red herring while at Lloyd’s funeral.
The middle of the movie can pretty much be summed up as this: Linda continues to use the board, scary things happen, she has a lot of morning sickness, Brandon thinks she’s possessed, and is trying to convince Jim. We also get a little bit of the story behind the testosterone-fueled posturing between Jim and Brandon. Not much, but enough of their pouting close-ups make it onto the screen for you to realize that they’re both huge weenies, and it wouldn’t be bad if a load of improperly secured sheetrock fell on them both. I mean, these guys are pout MASTERS.
After Linda ends up so scared she visits the creepy landlady (Rose Marie of the Dick Van Dyke Show), he agrees to let Brandon bring in a punk-rock medium, Zarabeth (Kathleen Wilhoite). I must give the directors credit; the effects for the time were pretty good, and the collapsing pyramid of Mountain Dew cans is impressive. Brandon takes back his evil ouija, and takes Zarabeth home. Zarabeth dies a few minutes later, which is sad; the movie could have used a little bit more of her “psychic humor.” She does give us a clue as to who is doing the killing. I won’t say who, but I will say that the word is Portugese, and I’ve had too much cough syrup to even begin to get it right. Also, her death scene is pretty good. Note to self: don’t keep spiky lawn ornaments around.
After Zarabeth’s untimely death, Brandon discovers that he’s been duped; he was given a chalkboard with Linda’s grocery list instead of his ouija, so he decides to go on a fact-finding mission. Jim witnesses Linda undergo a psychic attack during which she flings herself around like…well, I can’t really say what she flings herself around like, or the site will get letters, so I’ll say that it was graceless, and quite the opposite of the way she flung herself around in the Whitesnake videos. She gets a concussion, and is admitted to the hospital, and Jim finds out that she’s really not pregnant, so all this morning sickness is ouija-induced after all. That pesky cop comes around again, making more references to magicians and jugglers, and implying that Jim’s missing drywall hammer is responsible for another death.
Jim joins Brandon and they motor off to Big Bear to verify David’s story, to the place David supposedly met the Reaper, but not before stopping at an occult store for another ouija board, and do a seance on the pier. Jim asks Brandon the same question I hoarsely screamed at my TV: Doesn’t the board have to be on your knees? Not when it’s where the spirit supposedly died. The camera does that thing where it takes on the POV of the evil spirit flying around, then some barrels come untied and knock our intrepid heroes down. They’re okay, though, until Brandon takes an axe to the face.
Then we have a bizarre breakdown by the one person who has shown no emotions aside from anger and amusement. Jim cradles Brandon’s body, sobbing and screaming like a little girl. Once again, the cops are hot on his trail, but first he has to deal with Linda in drag, trying to kill him with an axe. After escaping the hospital and being attacked by the shower, she’s now possessed by the evil Portugese mass-murderer ghost dude that lived in their house and has been running around killing the good characters! An intense fight scene, complete with him pulling punches because he doesn’t want to hurt her. The cop busts in, but Linda quickly subdues him with a poker to the head, then tries to convince Jim to shoot himself because it turns out he’s the portal for the evil after all (SHOCKING TWIST ENDING!) but Jim shoots the ouija board instead, and the evil pushes Jim’s through the window, where he executes a graceful backwards gainer onto a white station wagon.
Yet another stupid, redemptive ending, they get married, but in the wreckage of the apartment, the landlady discovers the ouija board, full of bullet holes but none the worse for wear, the perfect setup for a sequel! Of which there are two. This one scores a 5 out of 10, for some decent jump scares, and the writer’s gumption to kill off a character who says, “Do you see ‘Spaz’ written on this man anywhere?”
Check out the trailer for “Witchboard”