Monday, October 22, 2012

Witchbored: "Witchboard" (1986)

This 1986 film is more infamous for Tawny Kitaen's brief shower scene than anything else, and believe me, you must sit through a lot in order to see Tawny's Kitaens.

Tawny is Linda, a bubble headed college student who lives with current jerk boyfriend Jim (Todd Allen). During a party, former jerk boyfriend Brandon (daytime TV mainstay Stephen Nichols) makes an appearance sporting a Ouija board ("it's pronounced 'wee-juh'"). He makes contact with his guide spirit David, a dead ten year old boy. Except there is another spirit in the board, and it quickly shunts helpful David aside because he is EVIL. Linda begins using the Ouija board alone, a big no-no, and one of Jim's construction worker buddies is killed in an on site "accident." This peaks the interest of jerk homicide detective Dewhurst (Burke Byrnes), who questions Jim's connection to the death. As Linda begins showing all the signs of spirit possession (she thinks she is pregnant), Brandon suspects the worst and calls in a medium named Zarabeth.

Kathleen Wilhoite brings in the film's only levity, cracking psychic jokes and brightening the film before she is impaled on a conveniently placed sundial. Eventually, Jim and Brandon, former friends who find a common bond in lusting after Kitaen, investigate the death of David, leaving Linda in town to battle the evil spirit on her own turf. It turns out Jim and Linda are living in a house where the evil spirit killed nine people fifty years earlier, and the final showdown combines the aforementioned shower scene, some lousy special effects, and Dewhurst's laughable attempt to help out the good guys.

Director/writer Tenney's script is more ambitious than his direction. In Zarabeth's final scene, she is chased by a cameraman whose shadow you catch on three different occasions. He uses zoom and fish eye lenses ad nauseum, and may rival Kubrick in the sheer number of steadicam shots allowed on one film. The gore is pretty mild compared to other horror films of the 1980's, and this may be budgetary. Jim, Brandon, and Dewhurst are all morons. Tenney makes them so unlikable, when one of them gets a hatchet to the head, I almost stood and cheered. Jim and Brandon harbor deep seated resentment over Linda, yet bicker and argue as if Jim stole Brandon's last beer, not the love of their respective petty lives. Dewhurst's preoccupation with magic may have been meant as characterization, but it does not work as anything more than an annoyance. Linda comes off as an airhead, Kitaen's valiant attempts at acting evil in the finale is so bad it's...still bad.

Throw in TV icon Rose Marie in an unnecessary role as the landlady, and Tenney proves his contempt for both his characters and the actors who must play them. The final end credits song, "Bump in the Night," may have you running from your living room, screaming.

"Witchboard" spawned two bad sequels. I am afraid, very afraid, afraid I cannot recommend this silly venture. (*) out of five stars.