Monday, December 2, 2013

Just Like Chat Rooms, But With Crossdressing

I’m probably one of the few people who hear “director of Pinochio’s Revenge” and immediately think “must bump movie up to top spot of queue.” But see, Pinnochio’s Revenge is so much better than any film called Pinochio’s Revenge has any right to be. Factor in that Carol J. Clover devotes a full chapter to Witchboard in Men, Women & Chainsaws and you have an eager little me happily diving in.

Quick Plot: Jim and Linda are an attractive young couple living together with Patrick Swayze Ghost syndrome, i.e., he can’t say those three words rather important in a romantic relationship. That’s the least of their problems. 

At a party held in their apartment, Linda’s ex-boyfriend/Jim’s ex-best friend Brandon (Patch from the supercouple era of Days of Our Lives, no less) breaks out his Ouija board to contact David, a 10-year-old spirit who takes an immediate dislike to Jim and crush on Linda. Like most ghostly beings, David is less Casper and more poltergeist, although he does a fancy bait ‘n switch by starting off quite friendly. 

Apparently, that’s how some evil ghosts lure the ladies into full-scale possession. Even a super punky nerd psychic can’t seem to fully exorcise Linda’s little demon, although the side benefit is that hunting the evil helps to reunite former pals Brandon and Jim.

It’s that relationship that Clover focused mostly on in her 1989 study, and it truly does make Witchboard a better-than-average watch. The film doesn’t exactly terrify or lock you in awe, but there’s such solid characterization going on that elevates the material to something worth caring about. Linda comes off like a good, decent person, and the fact that Jim and Brandon have such a personal history lends plenty of substance to how they proceed. It’s a simple story of demon-possesses-girl, but in writer/directory Tenney’s hands, we actually care.

High Points
Though the finale doesn’t quite hold up, Witchboard still has a few surprisingly effective and simple jump scares

See how much better a standard horror movie is when the writer actually takes a few minutes to flesh out the characters?

Also, when it gives them awesome '80s hair
Low Points
Demon voice. Never. Do. Demon voice.

Lessons Learned
Just like Korean cell phones, some Ouija boards also make adequate breathalyzers

Internet-speak abbreviations were actually popularized by punkette mediums that dress like k.d. lang

IMDB Goodtimes
The Internet Movie Database is often filled with a little fun. Witness, upon searching for Witchboard, the fourth suggested match was none other than Mrs. Ashboro’s Cat, better known to Animals Doing Human Stuff Month fans as Ghost Cat

Witchboard isn’t the funnest or scariest horror film to come out of the ‘80s, but it’s refreshingly well-written in a way that makes the time flow by quite easily. The film went on to spawn two sequels (the first one also directed by Tenney), although I have no idea how they measure up. This isn’t an immediate drop-everything-and-rent, but it’s a genuinely good little genre movie that makes character count.


  1. I'm going to have to rewatch this. I remember it being a slumber party staple for me and my friends back in "the day" but I haven't revisited it since the 90's... all I really remember is "TTFN" and the fact that I believe this movie is where I got my love for a good impaling... especially on a fence.

    1. I think The Hand That Rocks the Cradle was my first 'fence impalings ROCK!' memory. Or the In Living Color spoof of it. Same difference.

  2. Witchboard proves that Pinnochio's Revenge was no fluke.. or is that the other way around.. err either way PinRev Rocks!