Much like the feminine protagonist of Witchboard, the deliciously tacky 1986 cautionary story about why you need to by no means use an Ouija board improperly, I have an obsession. But I’m not obsessive about speaking to ghosts. I’m simply obsessive about Witchboard.
The function debut of writer-director Kevin Tenney—whose second movie, 1988’s Night of the Demons, can also be a cult traditional—Witchboard just isn’t precisely the film you would possibly image when you think about its key parts: sinister occasion video games, a ghostly child, gory murders, a lady pushed to the brink of insanity. It typically feels far more like melodrama than horror; it spends a variety of time wringing its arms over the love triangle between the three important characters, who embody Brandon (Stephen Nichols), a yuppie who is aware of an terrible lot in regards to the supernatural for some purpose; rugged regular-dude Jim (Todd Allen), who thinks all this spirit-realm enterprise is bullshit; and regulation scholar Linda (Tawny Kitaen), whose harmless supernatural dabbling spells hassle for everybody.
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But there’s extra. Brandon and Jim have been childhood BFFs who drifted aside, solely to develop into present-day enemies when Jim began courting Linda, who occurs to be Brandon’s ex. (That stated, Jim and Brandon have extra chemistry collectively than both of them do with Linda.) So it’s already messy even earlier than Brandon reveals as much as Linda and Jim’s home occasion carrying a Ouija board (snootily correcting the pronunciation of somebody who says “weejee” by declaring the identify comes from “yes” in French and German: “oui” and “ja”). Things take a flip for the weird when the spirit he summons—the 10-year-old “David”—proves mischievous. When Linda begins utilizing the Ouija by herself, accompanied solely by her meticulously manicured 1980s talons, David’s unhealthy vibes develop into harmful.
Can Brandon (a real believer) and Jim (who has a tough time accepting that spooks are concerned, regardless of some somewhat compelling proof) put their variations apart when Linda begins exhibiting indicators of possession? Will Witchboard briefly morph right into a buddy comedy/highway journey film to allow them to rekindle their friendship whereas enjoying at being occult detectives? Obviously.
In fact, most individuals keep in mind Witchboard solely as a result of it options Kitaen, whose best declare to fame might be her flip as a hood decoration in Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” video, an inescapable MTV staple again within the day. While her Witchboard character is a little more demure (except for one gratuitous bathe scene—in a film the place the dudes are sometimes unnecessarily shirtless, too), her voluminous hair is already primed for Headbangers Ball. Really, everybody within the film has a rockin’ coif—there are mullets galore, and a gum-snapping medium (Kathleen Wilhoit) who breezes by for a séance scene has a punky New Wave brief reduce.
Despite its completely 1980s setting (and that each one that wonderful hair), in contrast to another classic movies, Witchboard doesn’t continuously jerk you out of the film with interval parts. Nobody goes to Jazzercise and, except for the medium’s Valley Girl have an effect on, there’s no wacky ‘80s slang. That said, contemporary viewers will notice that the entire story is propelled by things that would take less than a minute to handle in 2019. Characters drive for hours to check microfilm at a specific town’s native library, run into bookstores to do pressing fact-finding, web page by the cellphone ebook to trace down strangers, use payphones and answering machines, and so forth. and so forth. That pacing’s truly type of good, given all of the display screen time spent watching a planchette gliding round a Ouija board, slowwwwwly spelling out clues the viewers has already found out lengthy earlier than the characters.
But Witchboard, which was clearly made on a shoestring, has simply sufficient weirdness to make up for its absolute lack of any precise scares—there are a number of “jump scares” when somebody spots themselves in a mirror; at one level, the disembodied David pours ketchup over a butcher knife in a scene that’s meant to create a grisly tableaux—to make you see why it’s develop into a cult favourite. The uneven performances add some unintentional humor, particularly anytime anybody is is known as upon to burst right into a sudden match of rage, however the characters are all type of endearing, even Brandon, who’s offered initially as type of a traditional 1980s villain, together with his costly go well with and vainness plate-emblazoned sports activities automobile, however is definitely a complete paranormal nerd.
The supporting characters are additionally notably offbeat—clearly the quirky medium, who cracks “psychic humor” jokes with horrible timing, is memorable, however so’s the detective who begins to suspect, incorrectly, Jim is as much as one thing. He’s randomly obsessive about magicians, and we all know this as a result of he brings it up practically each time he seems, together with misattributing a Vegas present to the good “Sigmund and Roy.” Show biz legend Rose Marie additionally pops up as Jim and Linda’s landlady. Even the sprawling home the place Jim and Linda have their house is noteworthy—it’s additionally utilized in 1988’s Waxwork, which stars Gremlins’ Zach Galligan and is one more cult film so as to add to your rainy-day pile.
Aside from casting Tawny Kitaen, Witchboard’s best contribution to cinema might be that it’s going to seem on any basic checklist of films that includes a Ouija board. It’s not going to vary your life or something, but it surely’s foolish supernatural enjoyable, and also you would possibly simply end up watching it on repeat for no good purpose. To quote a repeated trade within the film: “Why?” “Why not?”
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