(US - 1986)
Written and directed by Kevin S. Tenney. Cast: Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Rose Marie, Kathleen Wilhoite, Burke Byrnes, J.P. Luebsen, James W. Quinn, Judy Tatum. (R, 98 mins)
With countless iconic slasher films and monster movies with then-state of the art makeup effects to cut their teeth on, horror fans who came of age in the '80s are perhaps the most sentimental about their movies. But with that comes the risk of being sentimental for the era rather than the movies themselves. There's no doubt that the '80s were a great time to be a horror fan, but--and we're all guilty of it--sometimes we champion films today that play a lot better in our memories than they do in present-day reality. Sometimes this nostalgia backfires and you find something you held dear really isn't all that good. Do you leave it alone or do you risk taking another look? I hadn't seen 1986's WITCHBOARD since perhaps 1990. I had no strong affinity for it but recall it being a competently-done B-movie from back in the day. It was recently released on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory and I decided to give it another look after approximately 25 years.
Out of the Cellar, as well as a couple of their videos, in addition to dating Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby. But it was 1987 that proved to be Kitaen's breakout year with both WITCHBOARD and her involvement with Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale. The pair became an item after Kitaen appeared in several of the band's videos and were married from 1989 to 1991. Kitaen's fame was fleeting, and by the early '90s and onward, her acting gigs were sporadic while her tabloid notoriety increased due to a drug bust, a DUI, later accusations of spousal abuse by her second husband, major league baseball pitcher Chuck Finley, and, perhaps most cringe-inducing, a several-year fling with O.J. Simpson that apparently dated back to her WITCHBOARD days (on the bonus features, crew members recall Simpson's frequent calls to the production office and visits to Kitaen's trailer) and through her marriage to Coverdale. All things considered, it was inevitable that Kitaen would end up on trashy reality shows like THE SURREAL LIFE and CELEBRITY REHAB, but looking back, she does an alright job in WITCHBOARD. She's no great actress by any stretch, but she's got a presence that's both seductive and wholesomely appealing in equal measures. She clearly got sucked into the L.A. fast lane, though let's place the blame where it probably lies: O.J. Simpson.
"Bump in the Night"), some of the smartass quips Tenney supplies his actors with are real groaners (when told he's rude, the hero huffs "I got a D in manners!"), some attempts at humor fall embarrassingly flat (what's with Burke Byrnes' detective teaching himself to juggle?), and the "falling" effect used in the climax (hooking star Todd Allen up to a rig and slowly pushing him out of a second story window and lowering him onto a car) is laughable. But Tenney does a commendable job with cheap jump scares and building suspense. There's always an inherent unease in any situation where people are communicating with spirits and Tenney handles these elements like an experienced pro. All hell breaks loose when Linda (Kitaen) starts putzing around with a Ouija board left at her house after a party by her ex-boyfriend Brandon (Stephen Nichols, then a popular star of DAYS OF OUR LIVES). Brandon and Linda were communicating with David, the spirit of a murdered eight-year-old boy, much to the dismissive derision of her boyfriend Jim (Allen) and his blue collar buddies. Using the Ouija board on her own, Linda thinks she's communicating with David, thus ignoring Brandon's warnings to never do the Ouija alone and that spirits often lie. It turns out she's communicating with the spirit of axe murderer Malfeitor (J.P. Luebsen), who then uses Linda as a portal to re-enter the world and off those closest to her.
psychic humor." What a shock to see that he's onscreen for a total of maybe five seconds in a dream sequence where Linda sees herself being decapitated. It's such an effective shock, and Luebsen is made up in such a memorably creepy fashion that his appearance, however brief, really sticks with you.
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