Non Canon Review: Witchboard (1986)

JUNE 3, 2009


One of the first horror movies I ever saw was Witchboard, and it was also one of the few I can say legitimately scared me. Something about the POV shots really creeped me out, and for a while I was also wary of being in close proximity to a sundial. The last time I saw it, in 2002, I wasn’t scared of the movie so much as I was of my girlfriend’s unbalanced ex, who kept calling the house she shared with some other girls (who would answer the phone) asking if she had “come home yet”, while circling the house. Fun. Needless to say, the idea of seeing it at the New Beverly was quite enticing, as it would certainly be a more enjoyable experience.

And it was! While the movie doesn’t quite fully hold up to my memories (a sentiment shared by writer/director Kevin Tenney, who was in attendance), it’s still a highly entertaining, fairly original horror movie, with some great gory deaths to enjoy in between scenes of some of the most unintentionally (I think) homoerotic buddy scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.

See, our two lead heroes used to be best friends, but that soured when one of them began seeing the other one’s ex girlfriend (Tawny Kitaen!). So of course they get up in each other’s face for the first half of the movie, only to re-bond as they go off to investigate the source of all the supernatural phenomena that plagues them. Any one of their scenes in which they talk about their past friendship could easily be mistaken for talk about a romantic relationship, which just adds to the enjoyment. There’s a scene where one of them mocks the other one’s lovemaking skills, which SHOULD annoy the guy but instead results in them tossing laundry at each other (in a motel room no less).

The movie also has its fair share of hilarious dialogue. Stephen Nichols' “proper” pronouncement of Ouija (“wee-jah”, not “wee-jee”) gets a laugh every time, as does his frequent explanation of “negative entrapment”. “Jesus, why are we laughing...” would take too long to put into context here, but suffice to say it’s the 2nd funniest line in the movie. The funniest would be, after delivering a long exposition speech about ghosts and the Ouija and such, Nichols caps it off by saying “And that is why I have to go to Big Bear”, a locale that had never even been mentioned in the film up until that point. The awkward line was sadly explained away by Tenney during the Q&A (a prologue, set in Big Bear and depicting the death of the kid who they believe is causing all their problems, was cut from the film), but it’s not going to stop me from using it in casual conversation whenever I think of it. You know, like, “My coworker was out today, so I had to work a double shift, which didn’t give me time to watch a horror movie until 11 pm. And that is why I have to go Big Bear.”

Tenney threatened a remake as well (if they want to cast similar looking people, my choices would be Bradley Cooper, Simon Baker, and Kate Mara), and I can’t say it’s the worst idea, provided they improve the pace a bit and retain the mystery as to who exactly the spirit is. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more from Malfeitor, the actual villain who only appears in a pair of dream sequence shots and in a photo. Actor J.P. Luebsen manages to create a memorable LOOKING villain, but damned if I know much about him or how he gained this power over the Ouija (and what took him so long to resurface).

One thing they definitely need to keep (and again, maybe expand) is the magic-obsessed cop. Even though I’ve seen the movie a half dozen times, for some reason I didn’t recall a single thing about this character, which is even stranger when you consider what an oddball highlight he is. He’s only in like three scenes, which is a shame as there are several magic tricks and magic-related double entendres he never got to use. He is incredibly focused on the main guy’s missing hammer (which has a blade on the other side of it), and that leads to more wacky dialogue (something about how the cuts on the rope from one death matched the cuts on someone’s neck in another). And he gets one of those 80s deaths, where he shows up for the big battle only to be killed instantly without any sort of real comeuppance or realization of his errors in judgment. This can be fixed, I think, and the role can be given to someone like Dennis Farina.

The DVD apparently has commentary, but none of the deleted stuff Tenney mentioned. He doesn’t seem optimistic (or even really interested) in putting together a 2nd edition, but since A. it’s an Anchor Bay release and B. there’s a remake coming along, I can almost guarantee a double dip. Still, if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it for group viewing. T-T-F-N!

What say you?

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  1. Cant say I enjoyed this one, its all so hokey, havent seen the sequels yet but Id still give them a go! I love the concept, hated the film

  2. In relation the magic-obsessed cop: one of his scenes is repeated almost verbatim in the Tenney-scripted Night of the Demons 3. That's about the only thing worth mentioning about that film, though....


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