Review by Michael Jacobson
Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Kathleen Wilhoite, Burke
Byrnes, Rose Marie
Director: Kevin S. Tenney
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 24, 2004
many horror films have saturated theatre screens and video shelves over the
years that I find it’s a very easy genre in which to overlook a gem.
Case in point is Witchboard. Not
many seem to remember this mid-80s horror offering, but this clever,
well-written and acted movie has long been one of my favorites.
In fact, when I bought my first DVD player some six years ago and made a
list of all my most desired titles, Witchboard was on it, along side
movies like Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Star Wars!
took a while, but my patience and faith has finally been rewarded…Anchor Bay,
the supreme master of horror on DVD, has released this nearly-forgotten jewel,
and going back and experiencing it again for the first time in maybe ten years
or so definitely ranks as one of the most fun times I’ve had with my DVD
player this year. Suspenseful,
smart, and even surprisingly original for a horror flick, Witchboard is
still one of the rare ones that make falling asleep afterwards a struggle.
begins at a party. Linda (Kitaen)
is there, with her current boyfriend Jim (Allen), who’s drinking a little too
much, and her former boyfriend Brandon (Nichols), who used to be Jim’s best
friend before…well, you know. It’s
not exactly a set-up for a tension-free evening.
the party really gets happening when Brandon pulls out his ouija board and
intrigues the guests with his tale of talking to spirits from the beyond.
With Linda’s participation, they use the strange device to speak to a
ten year old boy named David.
Brandon accidentally leaves his board behind, however, Linda starts using it
alone to contact David. And what
began as a little harmless fun soon evolves into an all out scarefest.
Brandon tries to convince the skeptical Jim that a bad spirit can use a
lone user of a ouija board as a portal to the world of the living.
And as Linda’s world of terror grows more and more out of control, it
threatens to envelop everyone around her. The
two one time friends are soon desperately trying to unlock the mystery behind
David before Linda becomes irreversibly possessed.
It leads to an all out battle for her very soul.
movie is smarter than a lot of horror offerings…it develops characters, lets
the story evolve from a simple premise, and focuses more on generating suspense
than hitting you over the head with gore (even though there are some rather
violent scenes here and there). Almost
20 years later, it still stands up an effective fright film.
The only two things that really date it are the synth-pop soundtrack and
Tawny Kitaen’s hair, which was so big she probably got a hole in the ozone
layer named after her!
tales have always spooked me more than standard slasher pictures, because when
dealing with a spirit nemesis, the characters are completely vulnerable, both
physically and psychologically. This
is the kind of movie that understands that instinctually, and plays it for all
it’s worth, getting under your skin and inside your mind with a few simple
ideas and strokes. Witchboard is
not only one of the 80s’ best horror flicks, I think it’s one of the best of
all time. Check it out for yourself
if you don’t believe me…just don’t play it alone.
80s have always been a problematic decade for film-to-disc transfers.
Anchor Bay’s anamorphic widescreen presentation is serviceable, but
shows some of the limitations usually spotted with movies from that time period.
Brightly lit scenes look remarkable, with good coloring, clean images and
solid detail, but as the scenes get dark, there is a little murkiness here and
there and some loss of definitions as tones approach solid black.
A bit of grain is also noticeable. Overall,
a satisfactory effort, if not an exemplary one.
mono soundtrack is likewise serviceable but limited; dynamic range is minimal
and spoken words, music and effects are clear if just a tad thin sounding.
No real complaints or compliments to bestow here.
disc includes an enjoyable commentary track from writer/director Kevin S. Tenney
and producers Walter Josten and Jeff Geoffray, a making-of featurette from 1985,
a trailer, and two TV spots.