• Kelly M. Hudson

Beware the Witchboard!


Linda (Tawny Kitaen) and her man Jim (Todd Allen) throw a party in their nice house, inviting friends over to relax and drink and have fun. One of these friends is Brandon (Stephen Nichols), a former lover of Linda’s and former best friend of Jim. The two men are at each other’s throats constantly, with Linda trying to keep them in check. Brandon produces an Ouija Board and compels Linda to contact a spirit with him. They get in touch with a spirit Brandon is familiar with, a small child named David. But things get weird and the session gets broken up, to much laughter and derision. Intrigue is struck, however, and Linda becomes obsessed. She begins to speak with “David” on her own, using the board. Only it’s not really David, is it? The spirit speaking to her is malevolent, and wants her for his own. Bad things start to happen and slowly Linda becomes possessed. Brandon and Jim must put aside their differences and come together to figure out a way to defeat this evil spirit and save Linda. Can they do it, or has time already run out?

Witchboard was a big movie for girls from my age group. They flocked to it like girls a decade later would flock to The Craft, and kids before us clung to The Goonies and kids after us held Hocus Pocus tightly to their hearts. This is not me being dismissive, just relating how popular this movie was for a certain segment of people around the time it came out. It was a massive cult hit on the VHS rental circuit, and I can’t tell you how many times I watched it on cable. It was a movie I enjoyed but never really connected to. I thought it was fun but a bit too long and at that point in time, I was really into gore, man, and this movie was about as dry as a desert when it came to the grue. I still enjoyed a good ghost story, and that’s basically what this one amounts to. I decided to revisit it (after at least 25 years of not seeing it) and found I felt mostly the same about it, with maybe a little extra dash of appreciation on the side. I really enjoyed the care and attention writer/director Kevin S. Tenney puts into his script. He does try to legitimize and examine the world of spirit communications, not discarding genuine concerns of that occult community in favor of bawdy Hollywood scares. Sure, there’s some exploitation moments (come on, it’s a low-budget horror film from the 80s) but he does not sacrifice validity in favor of cheap thrills. To be fair, though, there are plenty of cheap thrills (you don’t get that nude shower scene out of Kitaen otherwise) to be had, thankfully. Yes, there is some blood, and a couple of creative kills, but mostly this is a drama between two friends who have lost touch and must now put aside their differences to help someone they love. It could be a Hallmark movie, if you took out the boobs and the bits of blood. And I guess that’s why I never fell in love with it; the movie never gives in fully to the horror and embraces it, until the very end, where it comes across as a bit silly, to be honest.

It was fun watching this one again and wondering for the millionth time why it was so popular back in the day. My guess is that Ouija boards were still pretty forbidden and exotic, and there was no internet or cell phones or modern things to eat up our time and thoughts. The was still an exotic mystery to the boards. It’s a decent movie, not bad at all, but I prefer Tenney’s later films, when he gets wilder and really lets loose.

★★✮☆



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