Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.
There are some movies that scream out from the decade in which they were made. You can often tell a ‘70s movie by the fashion, for instance. For the ‘80s, there’s something harder to define yet no less obvious and clear. ‘80s horror movies especially have a particular look and feel about them. I’ve seen a lot of horror movies from that decade; as someone who graduated from high school in 1985 it is probably my most formative decade. Of all of them, there may be no more a film of its time than Witchboard.
If you guessed that this was going to be a movie that focused on a Ouija board, you’d be right. If you also thought there was going to be an actual fight over the pronunciation of the board, you’re more prescient than I thought. We are told in no uncertain terms that it’s pronounced “Wee-jah” and not “Wee-jee.” This isn’t ever going to be important to the plot in any meaningful way, but a lot is going to be made of this.
Anyway, at a party, rich ‘80s douchebro Brandon Sinclair (Stephen Nichols) talks up his knowledge of the occult. Eventually, he gets his ex-girlfriend Linda Brewster (Tawny Kitaen) to use the board with him. It’s his contention that the board is more or less connected to the spirit of a young boy named David. The two seem to make contact, but the whole thing is scoffed at by Linda’s current boyfriend, Jim Morar (Todd Allen). The spirit of the board seems to get agitated by this and, from the spirit world no less, manages to slash Brandon’s tires.
Of course, what has really happened is that they have awakened a much angrier spirit. When Linda starts to use the board by herself, this spirit starts to influence her much more strongly. She starts taking on different habits, like cursing a lot more than she ever did. Meanwhile, Jim’s co-worker and fellow scoffer at the part, Lloyd (James W. Quinn) is killed on site at his construction job, and for a variety of reasons, Jim is implicated in the death.
Brandon grows increasingly concerned and eventually gets Jim on board. It turns out that the two of them are former friends, and that Brandon resents Jim being with Linda. They bury the hatchet for long enough to try to save her from potential possession by the spirit of the board. This involves bringing in an extremely annoying medium who calls herself Zarabeth (Kathleen Wilhoite), who does manage to make contact and eventually pays for this by having her throat slit and being chucked out of a window onto a sundial in one of the movie’s best moments.
The problem with Witchboard is, frankly, that it can’t make sense. We’re going to learn eventually that David, the spirit the board is connected to, is being suppressed by a stronger spirit. This spirit, we learn is the one that is doing things like killing Zarabeth, which means that it’s manifesting in the real world. At the same time, we are being led to believe that the spirit is attempting to possess Linda. But why? If the spirit is capable of manifesting in the real world sufficiently to use a knife to kill someone and then toss that person out of the window, why is a different physical body to possess needed? The whole idea of possession becomes moot if the creature in question is capable of manifesting in any way.
That said, I give Witch board a lot of credit for giving us the attempted bromance of Jim and Brandon. Naturally, as the film progresses, the two are going to become more and more friendly with each other. In this respect, Witchboard is a bit of a gay rom-com. I mean, it’s not, but if you replace the relationships both men have/had with Linda, it could certainly work this way. There appears to be genuine sexual tension between the two of them.
I don’t really know how much I liked Witchboard. I was excited by the title, because it sounds like it’s going to be completely batshit crazy, and it simply isn’t. We get a lot of advertising for Ouija, but not a great deal more that makes much sense.
I had hopes for this, but it couldn’t come through. Not even the presence of Tawny Kitaen, possibly the most ‘80s movie queen of the decade—even more than Pamela Anderson—could make it anything more interesting than wanting to be taken a lot more seriously than it deserves.
Why to watch Witchboard: Few movies are as ‘80s as this one.
Why not to watch: It’s more cheese-filled than a danish.