Witchery (1988)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Amityville 4 - The Evil Escapes


Hell Night


Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?
Or a boring witch?
Finally, someone has made a movie that combines the excitement of watching paint dry on the wall of a theater showing a Steve Guttenburg film festival with the fun of watching David Hasselhoff try to deflower a virgin. So gather the kids around the set and get ready for Witchery!

Strangely, the Internet Movie Database and other online sources seem to confuse Witchery with Witchcraft (1988), an American movie that has spawned an amazing 11 sequels to date, and another film named Witchcraft that was made in the 1960s. Where this confusion come from, we're not sure. Those other films may be bad, but it's unlikely that they plumb depths such as this.

On an island off the coast of Massachusetts, Leslie (Leslie Cumming) is researching a famous witch incident that occurred there. She's also brought along her boyfriend Gary (David Hasselhoff), who is a photographer. Apparently there is a "witch light" on the island, and Leslie wants him to get a picture of it. Gary, meanwhile, is apparently only there to nail Leslie. Goody! We were worried that we wouldn't get to see the mating habits of David Hasselhoff.

We knew this was going to be a rough movie almost immediately. You could hit Leslie in the face repeatedly with a big stick and she wouldn't be able to act bruised. Compounding her total lack of acting ability is the fact that she's totally mush-mouthed. We could hardly tell what she was saying -- and sure enough, her character is the one with most of the exposition.

"I dreamt I had signed for Zapped 3!"
As anyone familiar with horror films knows, when people show up with little or no acting skills, it sometimes means that the film is a foreign production filmed on US shores, without the benefit of professional actors. And because the filmmakers don't speak English well, they can't tell how bad the English performances are. That's the case here. Most of the behind the camera talent is Italian, but the film was shot on location around Boston. You can easily tell which actors are pros, and which were cast for their looks.

Anyhoo, Leslie fills us in on the background of the island, most of which is coming from an obscure German book she is translating. There were witches, they were burned at the stake. Attention horror filmmakers: No witches were burned at the stake in the US. We pretty much subscribed to the hang 'em, drown 'em, or let 'em rot in jail theory of witch disposal.

There is a hotel on the island now, and that was owned by a movie star who threw herself out a window. Or maybe a witch did that. Witchery is so boring that we quickly lost interest in anything that wasn't pushing the plot forward.

And the nominees for
the worst career move are...
To get more victims on the island, we are introduced to a bunch of other characters. It seems that a rich family is going to buy the hotel and remodel it, so they decide to visit it, along with the real estate agent and an architect. The family is made up of Rose, the greedy matriarch, her husband Freddie, who is ugly, their very young son Tommy, who can't act, and their grown and pregnant daughter Jane, played by Linda Blair. The real estate agent Freddie looks and talks like Robert F. Kennedy, and the architect, Linda, is a passably attractive woman, which of course means that she is a sex fiend.

Everybody gets stranded on the island and pretty soon scenes of people wandering around the house are randomly edited between scenes of creepy things happening. Finally, there is a mysterious Woman in Black wandering around the house who seems to be running the show. Is she the movie star? A dead witch? A particularly bad Amway representative? It's never completely clear.

"Pier One has been here."
Some of the allegedly spooky events in the movie include: Jane drops her pills into a bathtub, then gets sucked into another dimension through the inky surface of the water. Hey, someone finally invented Linda Blair disposal. No muss, no fuss. But then it spits her out again. (All together now: darn!) Rose also gets sucked into another dimension, through a wall safe. Then she gets deposited in the chimney with her mouth sewn shut, so she won't scream when her husband unknowingly lights a fire below her. Later Freddie and Leslie get sucked into the alternate dimension and are crucified. And lastly, Leslie is raped by the devil.

The Woman in Black occasionally talks about the "three doors to Hell," which are avarice, lust, and ire. Those doors (represented by the people she's killed), along with the blood of a virgin, will allow her to reincarnate herself as Jane's baby. And there's the moral of the story. Leslie's virgin blood was procured when she was raped, so she could have avoided that trauma if she had just has sex with the Hoffster. So ladies, if you're a virgin and David Hasselhoff says he wants to have sex with you, we would advise you to say yes. The alternative is even worse.

Towards the end of the film the WiB seems to have taken over Jane instead of her unborn baby, as was her stated intention. But who knows how these possessions work? Jane is played by Linda Blair, so maybe she just got possessed by force of habit.

"Darn it, Michael, I'm a high
performance vehicle!"
Kitt finally exacts his revenge for
all those tanks of low-octane gas.
Witchery is a miserable film; incompetence oozes from every frame. To explain why people would be trapped on the island, the characters talk about a huge storm that is engulfing the area. The problem is, there is no storm. We never hear a storm. Out the windows, we see no storm. We see shots of police cars on the mainland, driving down the street, with no storm in sight. Okay, the streets are wet, but that may just mean Ridley Scott was filming there the day before. The only evidence we see of the storm (other than people saying things like "The wind is picking up," when it clearly isn't) is a repeated shot of some breakers, but not even very big breakers. Not since Ed Wood Jr. have we seen ineptitude on this scale.

(Dr. Freex claims to have witnessed a similar level of uncooperative cinematic weather in his review of Jack Frost -- no, not the Michael Keaton version -- which we encourage you to read.)

Witchery has strikes against it for including David Hasselhoff in one of his creepiest roles, but we must also give it kudos for all the nasty things that happen to him. It's not every day you get to see the star of Baywatch and a German singing sensation cough up blood, but Witchery delivers the goods when the chips are down. Does it make up for the missing story, the substandard acting, or the inane dialogue? No, but it sure gave us a few minutes of the giggles as we rewound and played that scene over a few more times.

Review date: 07/26/2000

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