DECEMBER 24 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : WITCHTRAP
While Witchboard was the real draw for most people, I was actually more interested in Witchtrap (aka The Presence), as I had never seen it. And since it didn’t start til almost 11 pm, it also presented me with a challenge - if I slept through it all, I’d have no movie for the day since Witchboard didn’t count. Well, I am proud to say I met about 90% of that challenge (less proud to admit the part I dozed through involved a guy getting run over by his own car, Maximum Overdrive style).
Kevin Tenney certainly set the bar low for the film, repeatedly mocking it during his introduction before Witchboard and during the Q&A in between the films. But really, I don’t think it’s all that bad. Sure, it suffers from some bad acting and takes a while to get going, but that’s hardly unique to this particular genre. And it has a great lead performance by James W. Quinn (who also popped up in Witchboard), some pretty nifty/gory deaths, and a howlingly bad cameo performance from Tenney himself. Plus, as the saying goes, no movie featuring the line “Well scratch my balls!” can be altogether bad.
Back to Quinn though, this guy is terrific. He’s playing a wise-ass ex-cop who never opens his mouth without insulting someone, but can do the hero stuff too (albeit while getting a bit ass-kicked; think Fletch crossed with Ashley J Williams). His comebacks are comic gold, as are some of his more obscure comebacks (when someone mentions that they never found the bad guy’s heart, he quips “San Francisco is nearby, maybe he left it there.”). Also, as the entire movie was ADR (the source audio was destroyed, or something), he is one of the few actors in the film to still sound natural; I never would have guessed these great lines were recorded in a booth months later.
I can’t say the same for some of the other actors, particularly Judy Tatum as one of the mediums. It’s a shame (for the film) that her character is saddled with most of the exposition, because she isn’t quite up to the task for the ADR work. I don’t mean she can’t stay in sync with her mouth (everyone actually does quite good with that), I mean she just sounds flat, like someone who can’t speak English saying their lines phonetically. She’s clearly not much of an actress anyway, but this just sinks her. On the plus side, some of her more random lines come across as even funnier than they would be had they been delivered properly (her character frequently hypothesizes or jumps to conclusions on unknown matters, so when she sees a girl who was killed in the shower, she somehow assumes that the ghost “probably raped her as well”).
Speaking of the shower death, that belongs to Linnea Quigley (hence the nudity). She gets a shower head to the neck, which leaves a giant hole (sharp edges on that round thing, I guess). We also have an exploding head, a bullet to the head (the ghost “shoots” it at the guy), an axe to the head... come to think of it, every death in this movie is based on the head being inflicted somehow. That is, with the exception of guy in the opening scene, who suffers cinema’s longest railing kill (we see him go over like 6 different times - and in 6 completely different positions in relation to the railing) before crashing to the ground below, presumably shattering his bones and destroying his vital organs. It’s hard to tell, because while the gore in the rest of the movie is quite good, the blood guy totally botched this one - the blood appears to be pooling TOWARD the guy’s body as it leaks from an offscreen source. It’s a charmingly inept sight.
But that’s what the movie has: charm. I’ve seen a lot of bad horror movies*, and this is certainly a bad movie in the traditional sense. But what separates it from something like Wolfman is charm. Everyone seems to be having a good time, the story is silly but solidly told (i.e. it’s not incomprehensible), and it gives the viewer 6 or 7 great deaths to enjoy. No one is out to win any awards, and the light comedic tone, save for some occasional character beats (some of which, we later learned, were added in during post to give the film a contract-required 90 minute runtime), is consistent throughout the film.
Tenney came back for a rare 2nd Q&A after the movie, joined by Quinn and J.P. Luebsen (and a producer whose name I cannot recall, sorry!), where he explained about the audio and some of the other things I mentioned. He also mentioned that, sadly, it is not on DVD. Tenney said he would look into it after discovering that there is an appreciative audience for the film (it played just as well as Witchboard did, as far as I could tell). VHS copies exist, some of which apparently have a disclaimer that the film is NOT a sequel to Witchboard, despite throwing Luebsen in his Malfeitor makeup on the cover (not the worst case of false advertising; Luebsen at least appears in Witchtrap, albeit as another character), but I assume they aren’t easy to find. Hopefully the DVD will happen; if nothing else, fans of actors like Nathan Fillion and Bruce Campbell should enjoy Quinn's similarly “charming asshole” performance.
What say you?
*More than one person (two, in fact) has suggested I compile either the 365 best or 365 worst HMAD movies for a book, the type you read in the bathroom or get as a gift for a family member that “likes movies” and you can’t think of anything meaningful to buy him/her. While I would certainly do more than just copy/paste the original review, would you buy such a thing when you can get the gist of the content for free? And why am I asking this as a footnote to a review for one of the more obscure movies I’ve reviewed all year?
DECEMBER 24 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : WITCHTRAP
Well, Witchtrap is another winner....not even Linnea Quigley can save the bad acting in this movie! Ok, some guy dies and leaves a house to his nephew I believe it was, whose last name is Laughter...slaughter withough the S!
So, anyway, some magician goes to the house for some reason and ends up falling out os a second story window. So, the guy who owns the place decides to make it into a bed and breakfast and sends a security team, psychic, and camera crew to prove the place is haunted because apparently everyone in America likes to stay at haunted places!
So, they get there and set up all their stuff. The main psychic lady, Agnes, is one of those people who has no clue how to act, and she pronounces every single word perfectly and basically just makes you sick. Her husband, Felix, is a weenie, but he's a guy that the ghost can talk through. Theres also another lady who the ghosts can supposedly come in to...she just walks around gettting possessed or something by the ghost. Linnea Quigley is the video person, and she gets killed almost as soon as she gets naked. The security team is ridiculous. The boss of security, Mr. Murphy, lets his two men just cuss him out and call him all sorts of names without doing anything about it. One of the security guys, Levi, likes Linnea Quigley (Ginger), but he gets run over by his own car a few minutes after Linnea Quigley gets in the shower. The other guy...Mr. Vicente...what an idiot! He makes all sorts of stupid jokes, and he's really cocky.
Ok, so that puts us up to where they're in the house and they're waiting for something to happen...and stuff always happens when they're not watching the cameras, but that's beside the point. Oh, there's also a groundskeeper who gets blamed for all the deaths even though there's no way he could have done it.
Ok, so now it's night time and the head of security gets some kind of steel ball through his head...so now there's only one security guy, the husband and wife team, and the medium...who is constantly gyrating on the bed while being possessed or something...I think the ghost is supposed to be going through her.
Ok, so now the groundskeeper, Elwin, shows up in the basement, and he and Mr. Vicente get into a fight and throw and take punches that from the sound of them no human body could possibly withstand! Elwin finally runs off at the end of the fight. So anyway, now they finally decide maybe it's the ghost that killed everyone and they decide to leave. But, when Vicente goes out to the van, Elwin is out there. He must have a clip that hold about 100 shots, because he blows up the van and shoots Felix who has come out to see what's going on. He's ok, but he's out of action.
Anyway, the real reason why this chick decided to come here is because she has made some stupid ghostbusters thing that sucks energy into it. The idea is to let the ghost talk through Felix, and when it tries to go into Whitney the medium, it will be sucked in. There's also another way to kill the ghost...they can find his missing heart and reunite it with the remains...that will lay him to rest for some reason.
Ok, so now Whitney has run off because everyone's in danger since the ghost can come through her...so she goes to the cemetery of course! The discover that the heart is in the basement, and now they just have to find the urn that the ghost took...so they get the ghost to come back into Felix, and the psychic lady tells him the whole story. So, instead of telling where the urn is, the ghost decides to blow Felix's head up...what a stupid psychic! I don't wanna call her hotline!
Ok, so now we're down to Vicente, Whitney, and Agnes..and Elwin's still on the loose somewhere too. So Whitney's going to leave, but Elwin comes up to the car as she's about to leave and Vicente has to make stupid jokes while he kills him! Whitney says he was possessed, and she knows that type of thing, so maybe he was...anyway, she leaves...she drives all the way to the Sherriff's station but it turns out to be an illusion, and she ends up back at the house!
So Vicente gets knocked down and these hands start coming out of the wall. Then an axe flies through the air and kills Agnes! As its about to kill Vicente, he picks up the ghostbusters thing and sucks the ghost in it! Whitney says she can feel him in the machine and that he's going to get out. So, they need to go find his ashes. So, they think about it, and decide his ashes MUST be in the chapel upstairs...so they take off up there with the heart.
Meanwhile, the ghost escapes from the box or whatever you call it. When they get to the top of the house, the ashes aren't there, and the ghost goes into Whitney. So, anyway, the ashes are up there, because as Whitney, the ghost opens up a door and gets them...then he or she or whatever drinks them and turns into the dead Mr. Laughter!
So now he just needs to kill Vicente, but he says..."You can't kill me...I'm immortal! I have no heart!" And this gives Vicente the idea to shoot the box with Laughter's heart in it. So he does, and then throws it out the window...and the ghost dies. What an idiot...he should have just shut up, killed Vicente, and sealed his heart back up in the wall! Oh well, that's that...it's just too bad Vicente didn't die...everyone hated him!
Anyway, after the ghost dies, Whitney is underneath his skull! Really weird...I think she should have been dead...that had to break some kind of ghost rule didn't it?
There's weird sound effects in this movie...they always seem to have to add something like birds chirping no matter what's going on. And no matter what's going on in the house, they play that stupid ghostbusters machine throbbing noise.
Another weird thing about this movie is that almost every shot is a 1-shot. When two people are talking, hardly ever are they shown together...always one at a time. It's like they didn't know their lines or something and had to do them one at a time.
Classic B! But you'll have that Vicente guy.
DECEMBER 24 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : WITCHTRAP
At the old Lauder home, mysterious things are occurring and the owner of the house wants it sold before more people die. It seems it is haunted by the previous owner who was engaged in satanic rituals to become immortal, when he was stopped by police years ago - and now the sales company needs the demon exorcised before they can sell it. It is then that Dr. Goldberg brings her psychic husband Felix and other pals to do their best on the spirits but the spirits are all too willing to play the game. And one by one the mediums begin to die off. It is then that the death of one occupant of the house, a magician rumored to be a serial killer, is announced. All hell breaks loose from then on and only 1 selfish security guard can save them from the evil spirit. But will he be able to save anyone else besides himself?
Overall: Terrible film that is more of a comedy than anything. It actually starts off with a disclaimer that it is not a sequel to "Witchboard" - however, it has the same plot, the same director and 3 of the same actors. It also stars Linnea Quigley ("Night of the Demons," "Death Mask") so do enjoy her obligatory shower scene.
Comparison: Beavis and Butthead meet Dead Again