Reader, let me tell you a little bit about the journey my brain went on before hunkering down to indulge in a little something called Witchboard (1986), which earned three votes and entered the 2020 list of your favorite horror movies at number 246.
I knew that I hadn't seen it, even though it's something of a cl---well, it's well-known, let's say that. I did briefly wonder if I should do a Witchboard-a-thon at some point because, as I says to myself I says, "There are like 700 Witchboard movies." This is where my spiral into madness began! It turns out that there are only three Witchboard movies. Hmm, perhaps I was conflating it with Witchhouse, there must be 700 of those. Turns out that's wrong, too. So what was I thinking of? Maybe the Mirror, Mirror series? I've never seen any of those and there are a whole bunch, right? DUH I know that there is a difference between a Ouija board and a mirror, but nevertheless, my mind persists in equating the two series. Wrong again, there are only four Mirror, Mirrors! So what GD series has a million movies and is not Witchboard, Witchouse, or Mirror, Mirror? Eventually I figured out that it's Witchcraft. Go figure!
It's really pointless for me to type all of that out. It's not an exciting story in the least! But it took me forever to get from point A to point Z, so I figured I'd share. Oh! But along the way I did learn that Karen Black and Yvonne De Carlo are in Mirror, Mirror...? So I guess the journey was good for something beyond proving that my brain is full of holes (which we already knew anyway).
So. Witchboard. I bet you've all seen it, right? Well in case you haven't...
First of all, it starts with a party scene and I just could not get a handle on the demographics of this party, like how old everyone is supposed to be, how they all knew each other, if it was actually some kind of function for an insurance agency or something? Everyone seems to be well into their adulthood and some of them are drinking...milk? Who are these people?
I can tell you who two of these people are, at least: Brandon and Linda, aka holy shit is that Patch from television's Days of Our Lives?? and Tawny Kitaen looking like the "before" in some before and after shots of Miss Havisham??
Brandon and Linda used to date, see, but now she's dating and living with Brandon's ex-best friend Jim, and they're the ones who are hosting this party, whatever it is. Brandon has brought along his Ouija board and explains a whole bunch of rules for using it, stuff that no other horror movie ever bothered to tell me: it's best used by a man and a woman who have "clean systems" (that is, they are narc NERDS), it's best if the board is placed on the knees of the man and the woman before they gently lay their hands on the planchette and begin to caress--HEY WAIT, is this all actually Ouija rules or some weird attempt at getting Linda back?
Well, no matter. Brandon goes on to explain that his board seems to be attached to one spirit in particular, that of David, a 10-year-old boy who died 30 years ago. Things seem to progress well--you know, planchette moving and all that--until Jim starts cracking wise, irritating both David and Brandon with his totally sick burns like "David's alright, he's just a little dead, that's all!"
Later that evening, Linda is very mad at Jim for his behavior and don't you just want to take a nap in Tawny Kitaen's hair? It's like it's made out of Golden Retriever or something (in a nice way) and it looks so soft and luxurious and comfortable, like you would have the best sleep of your life!
Also, side note, no she's not the best actress but she tried? I think? And she's kind of charming in this. Reading a bit of the behind the scenes stuff for Witchboard, of course she was hired because she was the hot video vixen, and it sounds like she was mostly pestered on set, with the crew pulling heee-larious pranks on her like...telling her that her dog got run over by a truck and was dead.
Anyway, Brandon forgot to bring his board home with him, so Linda sets about doing the one thing no one should do with a Ouija board. Okay, sure, there are a few things you shouldn't do with a Ouija board, but perhaps the hugest no-no is using it by yourself. That's how you get a Captain Howdy! (Not a euphemism.) (But it should be!)
The spirit of David is nice, in that he tells Linda that the ring she lost a while back went down the bathroom sink. The spirit of David is not nice, in that he tells Linda that he doesn't like Jim. The spirit of David is really not nice in that he makes a pile of sheetrock fall on Jim's friend Lloyd, killing him, when the two of them are having lunch at their construction job.
Man, one minute you're just sitting there all cool, and the next minute you can be laid out by a stack of sheetrock.
The folly of life, right? The spirit of David laughs while we make plans. It really makes you think.
At this point, Linda (who I keep wanting to call Julie while I write this...? She seems like a Julie to me, sorry) is totally addicted to the Ouij and can't stop using it.
She's also started swearing (but only when she gets startled) and she's had morning sickness. Suddenly she's all "I feel like I'm going crazy!" and while I #believewomen, honestly there hasn't been a lot of evidence shown about why she'd be feeling that way? It's literally just the swearing when startled and the morning sickness. But oh well, if Linda says she's going crazy, she's going crazy, I guess.
She tells David that she's going to give the Ouija board back to Brandon and David gets so mad! SO mad, in fact, that a knife flies off the wall and stabs the floor, and then some ketchup spills on it.
When he finds out that Linda has been using the board all by herself, Brandon shows up at her apartment out of concern. "Has she been swearing a lot?" he asks Jim. Because she has, Brandon worries that Linda may be falling to "progressive entrapment" and that the spirit is lowering her resistances in order to possess her. In other words, yeah, she's getting Captain Howdied. That means there's only one thing to do: call a medium!
Brandon brings in his friend Zarabeth, who serves to inject a little energy into what has really been a pretty dull movie so far.
Yes, that is Kathleen Wilhoite! But if you are anything like me, you always think she's Amanda Plummer when she shows up in something.
Anyway, Zarabeth is great, just pure 80s kitsch à la Cyndi Lauper, a refreshing change from the kinds of mediums we tend to get in horror movies. She channels David, who apologizes for being a jerk. It's just that he loves Linda, and he doesn't want to leave her. However, they tell him that he must leave her, and David is like "okay :( "
But later, David is like "Haha psych!" and, well, once she returns to her kitschy apartment, it's TTFN, Zarabeth. (You'll get that joke if you've seen Witchboard.)
David is getting so powerful that he doesn't even need the board anymore, but Linda can't help herself. She's even more progressively entrapped!
She ends up in the hospital after getting thrown into the wall by an unseen force, so Brandon and Jim take the opportunity to head to Big Bear, because that's where David supposedly died. The drive up the coast in Brandon's convertible, at the library they use a microfiche (which is very exciting for me), they investigate at the cemetery, and they share some tender bonding moments at a motel.
Look, on the one hand I say, how nice that these two fellows have rekindled their friendship! Earnest friendship between men is so nice, especially in horror movies!
On the other hand, I spent some time imagining the Witchboard that liberals want, the one where things didn't work out between Brandon and Linda and Jim has never told Linda that he loves her because Brandon and Jim are in love and they realize it in Big Bear. It would be a better movie.
Anyway, they swing by Wanda's Warehouse of Witchcraft and pick up a new Ouija board in the hopes of contacting David. We get some lakeside man-hands-on-planchette action, and I am not dissuaded from my gay Witchboard fantasies!
David lets them know that he's not the one who's been doing all the bad stuff, and that EVIL is here. Before you can say "Does he mean...Victor Buono?" though, all my hopes and dreams are crushed when Brandon ends up dead, the victim of a hatchet wielded by an invisible force. As he cradles Brandon's dead body, Jim cries for literally the very first time in his whole life, a sad reminder of the Witchboard we could have had. The Witchboard that would have thrown the first brick at Stonewall. The Witchboard that will live on in my fanfiction, Witchboard, But Now It's Gay for Real (working title).
Anyway, the evil is referring to someone named Malfeitor. Jim swings by Wanda's Warehouse again, and as I'm typing this I am wondering if he just left Brandon's body by the lake...? Hmm. Well, whatever. Wanda's got all the lowdown on Malfeitor in some book: he was a serial killer who chopped up his victims with an axe, but the police killed him in the 1930s...in the very same house where Jim and Linda live! Wow, what are the odds?
Wanda is so cool, though, right? In my fanfiction, she will help Jim and Brandon as they solve supernatural mysteries together. Be sure to like and subscribe.
Meanwhile, Linda has checked herself out of the hospital and is back on the board.
Jim returns home to find the apartment trashed (they are not getting their deposit back) and Linda now fully possessed by Malfeitor! But, instead of her teeth turning into corn teeth and her eyes turning yellow and blah blah pea soup and all the usual gross possession trappings, she puts on some eyeliner, a suit, and is hot.
They have a showdown, a cop who thinks Jim has been doing all these murders shows up, and yes that is theeeeee iconique Rose Marie as the landlady.
The ending of Witchboard is...well, "exciting" is the last word I'd use to describe it, honestly. The whole movie, in fact, is kind of fun but also just sort of there. Maybe it's the Kevin Tenney of it, or the 1985, or the Tawny Kitaen, I don't know, but I was expecting a little oomf? A little 80s bonkers? Not any sleaze, exactly, but some more action, certainly. It's all so tame! Not much really happens! Unless you're really into seeing hands on a Ouija board, in which case you'll get a thrill in just about every other scene. Hmm. Well, that's okay. At least I've seen it now, and I know it's not Witchouse, Witchcraft, or Mirror, Mirror. Small victories, am I right?