Watch Out for the Witchtrap!
A big sprawling mansion with a reputation of being horribly haunted is owned by a rich guy through an inheritance that he doesn’t really want but also doesn’t want it to go to waste, either. He hires a psychic to stay in the house for a night and “cleanse” it but the man throws himself out of a second-story window, plummeting to his death. So now the owner has hired a respected crew of paranormal investigators to come in and document this haunting and to clean the estate of its evil. His plan is to turn it into a bread and breakfast and use its spooky reputation to entice people to stay there, but to make it was safe as possible. As part of this plan, three armed men, a professional security team, is hired to help out. There is great friction between the unbeliever tough guy Tony (James W. Quinn) and the leader of the psychical group, Whitney (Kathleen Bailey). She insists that the spirit of an evil warlock is haunting the establishment and Tony is sure that all the trouble is being caused by a psychotic groundskeeper. Turns out, they’re both sort of right. Whitney must confront the concrete reality of a madman on the loose and Tony must learn to cope with the fact that yes, a ghost witch is behind all of the carnage. Things get weird and weirder still, before the ultimate confrontation with evil finally takes place.
This is a wild one. There’s plenty of kills and just enough gore to keep you involved between the staider passages where folks are standing around talking about ghosts. The gorgeous Linnea Quigley has a support role in this, and of course she gets spectacularly naked before she gets killed (by a possessed shower head!), thus checking off every box on the 80s exploitation horror list. The story itself is pretty compelling and interesting, all the psychic mumbo-jumbo ringing true and authentic, and the tough-guy brute that Quinn plays is a well-rounded and highly interesting character. The scripting is top-notch, with dozens of noir lines flying around with wild abandon. When you combine that with all the horror bits, you’ve got yourself one fun movie. The only real thing that holds it back is the acting; some of it is so stiff you could use it as boards to build a house. I mean, it’s really bad in some places. But, for people like me, this adds an extra level of charm to the proceedings. The only other minor quibble I had with it was the pacing. It felt longer and more drawn-out than it actually was. I think most of that is due to the moments when the momentum comes to a complete stop as characters stand around and talk things out. This is a strange little flick, made with a lot of heart and charmingly devious intent.
I wouldn’t call this a lost classic, but it for sure is a diamond in the rough. I can totally see how it gets ignored when it comes to “Best of 80’s Horror” lists, but it would be mistake to count it out. There’s a bonkers quality to it that, while not as perverse or depraved as say, Amityville II, still holds up to this day. A lot of wild shit goes on in this movie and you could say it’s “so bad it's good,” but that would be missing the point. Come for the ghostly witchery, stay for the hard-boiled dialogue, and thrill to the gore and the horror. Witchtrap is a damned good time; don’t miss out.