Film Review: Witchboard (1986)

Witchboard-bluray-coverSYNOPSIS:

A woman develops an interest in her friend Brandon’s Ouija Board when he brings it by her party. She becomes obsessed with it and accidentally unleashes an evil spirit that wants to possess her body.

REVIEW:

Back in 1986 a gallon of gas cost about $.93, a dozen eggs cost $.87 and Ronald Reagan was president. The average price of a movie ticket was $3.71 and you could use those shekels to see movies like “Top Gun”, “Aliens”, “Manhunter” & “Blue Velvet”. As a matter of fact, there was a plethora of great movies released that year. There was also a glut of low budget schlocky flicks that still got theatrical distribution back then, “Witchboard” was one of these movies and proved popular enough to warrant two straight to video sequels and an upcoming remake as well.

Written & Directed by Kevin Tenney (Night Of The Demons) “Witchboard” is about a woman named Linda (Tawny Kitean) who becomes obsessed with a Ouija board that a friend brings over to a party at her home one evening. Her friend Brandon (Stephen Nichols) is something of an expert with the Ouija board and claims not only to have made contact with a spirit but develop something of a relationship with this spirit which is the spirit of a 10 yr. old boy named David. During the party Brandon tries to contact David but Linda’s boyfriend Jim (Todd Allen) & his friend heckle throughout the attempt and eventually the Ouija board levitates into the air for a second and a loud boom is heard from just outside the window. The party ends abruptly afterwards and Brandon finds the tires on his car flattened, did they make David angry?

Brandon forgets to take his Ouija with him when he leaves and the next day Linda decides to try to contact David on her own. She eventually gets in contact with a spirit calling itself David and to prove it’s good intentions it tells her where to find a diamond ring she had lost (In the bathroom sink drain pipe). But almost immediately after she contacts the spirit her demeanor changes, she becomes surly, emotional & curses like a sailor. Is this the work of David or is the spirit she’s come in contact with not really a 10 yr. old boy at all? Maybe it’s a mean, surly & emotional spirit who just happened to be a serial killer while on Earth? Maybe his name is…Malfeitor?

Yadda, yadda, yadda, you guys know how this all plays out by now. It turns out that the spirit’s name is Carlos Malfeitor & he killed nine people way back in the thirties. Well now he’s back and he wants to take over Linda’s body so he can start wreaking havoc and chop off some heads. Brandon figures this all out & convinces Jim that he’s right and together the two of them try to stop Malfeitor before he can succeed with his plan. Through trial and error they discover that the home that Linda & Jim live in is the same house that Malfeitor lived in and he’s very close to possessing Linda completely. The evil spirit dispatches everyone who gets close to the truth before they can save poor Linda and eventually it becomes a showdown between Jim and Malfeitor (Now in complete possession of Linda’s body).

In my eyes “Witchboard” wants to be something of a combination of “The Possession Of Joel Delaney” & “The Exorcist” on a bargain basement budget. It looks cheap and to call the participants “Actors” might be something of a stretch as well. Kitean gets the most out of her negligible talent as Linda but that’s really not saying too much although she looks great. Nichols is an absolute scream as Brandon and he has some pretty good lines in the film but he just doesn’t have the talent to recite them all too well. Scenes that feature him upset or scared are hysterical because of his maniacal line readings. He bugs his eyes out & yells like his hair is on fire but since this was in the eighties not one hair on his head ever gets ruffled. There also seems to be an unintended homo-erotic atmosphere that develops between Brandon and Jim, at least I think it was unintended. But there are a few scenes in which the dynamic duo seem to be really groovin’ to each other. In an odd way it might have been a interesting subplot since it turns out that Brandon is Linda’s ex-boyfriend.

The music in the film is strictly sub par 80’s pablum & the main theme sounds like something right out of Casio-Ville. There are a few musical cues that accompany the overused jump scares that Tenney sprinkles throughout the film but after the first one they become ineffective. Cinematography is at the basic “Made for TV” level and doesn’t aspire for anything more than that. There is a pretty interesting Hitchcock-ian fall out of a window towards the end of the film that while silly to look at does show that Tenney has some ambition. But it’s still a pretty dreary affair overall.

Witchboard” opened on new years eve 1986 on 15 screens and then got a wider release that following March and ended up making nearly $8,000,000 overall and while that doesn’t sound like much now let me remind you what the average movie ticket cost back then ($3.71). That’s a lot of tickets sold for a movie of this caliber and Tenney went on to direct the classic “Night Of The Demons” which was also the subject of a remake a few years back. Watching it now I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be watching it on a big screen since it felt so staid & static to me at home but what do I know? I know it found an audience and I know it remains a popular cult film to this day so I prefer to give the devil his due in this case.

But I didn’t like “Witchboard” at all. Boring, little to no blood or nudity and a stupid ending make it a film I will staunchly avoid watching again. I don’t plan on watching the sequels or the remake either although my editor might just be twisting his mustache and giggling to himself at the thought of assigning them to me right this minute!

Witchboard seems to have legacy impression that is as slightly misplaced as its theme of “progressive entrapment”. While the film garners recollection of being an 80’s cult film, I think it has more to do with the fascination of it’s lead actress Tawny Kitaen more than anything. Tawny is at her peak, beautiful and stunning…but at the heart of a mediocre film.

In any case, “Witchboard” is one of the early Ouija board movies, and deserves credit for that. The film can now be viewed on restored blu-ray per Shout Factory who have managed to make the film look  better than even when it first arrived on VHS. Purchase Witchboard here

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About The Black Saint

Those of you who don't know of The Black Saint & have yet to commit yourselves to him body, mind & soul will find yourselves in a most uncomfortable position when my army of acolytes is complete & ready to wreak havok upon this pitiful blue ball we live on. Oh, I really like horror movies as well & will take on all comers in a horror trivia contest. Bring it on!
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One Response to Film Review: Witchboard (1986)

  1. Victor De Leon says:

    I remember this movie. I recall not being interested in what was going on but Kitaen was easy on the eyes. Good review!

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