TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHBOARD (1986)

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WITCHBOARD (1986)

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This 80s horror written and directed by Kevin Tenney (Night Of The Demons) is a silly flick when viewed strictly as a horror movie, but is so delightfully 80s…with it’s feathered hair, heavy metal music, valley girl psychics and, of course, 80s icon Tawny Kitaen as it’s lead…that it’s just a lot of fun to watch even though it is devoid of scares, or much suspense and evokes more laughs than chills.

The film starts out at a party being held by gorgeous Linda Brewster (Tawny Kitaen) and her overly obnoxious boyfriend James (Todd Allen). A former friend of Jim’s and ex-love interest of Linda’s, Brandon (Stephen Nichols) brings a Ouija board and tries to make contact with the spirit of a little boy. Things go awry as Jim’s taunts provoke the spirit and when Brandon leaves in anger, he leaves the Ouija behind. A curious Linda begins to communicate with the spirit of ‘David’, but her sudden shifts in behavior and the strange and sometimes violent occurrences that begin to occur around the couple, indicate that the spirit Linda has evoked is no child and certainly does not want to play. Can Jim save Linda before she is possessed by this malevolent entity, or it kills him and anyone that stands in it’s way?

While presented seriously by writer/director Tenney, this is still a very silly flick, but is a lot of fun as it is just has so much 80s nostalgia. There is little suspense and no real chills or scares, but it is a very good example of the tonal shift 80s horror movies made about midway through the decade, from the dark and somber slashers inspired by Halloween to lighter toned and more colorful flicks such as this and the Elm St. sequels. The attempt seems to be to make a straight horror, but when you introduce characters like Kathleen Wilhoite’s over-the-top, wisecracking, valley girl medium, any attempt to be taken seriously goes out the window just as it does when Whitesnake video girl Kitaen begins to threaten Jim in a husky man’s voice while dressed in men’s clothes. Fun…sure…scary…hell, no. There are a few instances of gory violence, but they are too few to really add impact, though they are well executed by the FX people. The movie is competently made on a small budget and certainly entertains, but it’s too silly to be anything but a light diversion that now packs a heavy dose of  80s era nostalgia…which is fine with me. Roy H. Wagner’s cinematography is a little too bright and colorful to add atmosphere to a horror film, while Dennis Michael Tenney’s score…with it’s theme performed by metal band Steel Breeze…evokes the 80s but not chills.

The cast are all satisfactory enough. Tawny Kitaen was at her hotness prime and while she is a stunner, she is a bit wooden as Linda and not very convincing in the possession scenes despite the dubbed man voice, but considering how silly it all is, it doesn’t really hurt the proceedings. Allen comes across as a jerk and it takes most of the film to warm up to his Jim and believe he really cares about Linda. Stephen Nichols gives us a Brandon who is a pompous elitist at first, but he legitimately seems to want to help and takes responsibility for what’s happening and transforms into a likable character, when all is said in done. As Zarabeth, Kathleen Wilhoite gives us a totally over-the-top, valley girl psychic that really smothers any possible tension made up to this point and while her character’s time on-screen is brief, she is disruptive and it’s hard to believe the arrogant Brandon would take her the least bit seriously…we certainly don’t. I’m sure that is how the character was written and directed to be played, but one has to wonder why Tenney would choose to make a joke out of a pivotal scene with such a flamboyant character.

Overall, I find this movie a lot of fun, but not sure for the reasons intended. It’s story is routine and been done before, there is little tension or suspense and the gore is effective but very minimal. There is, however, fun to be had watching the actors try to play this stuff straight and the film is at least competently made. There is also heaping amounts of 80s nostalgia to be had and that in itself makes this a good time to watch, especially with quintessential 80s babe Tawny Kitaen as our lead. A fun movie whether that was the intention or not and one best enjoyed with a few pints of your favorite poison.

3 possessed video vixens.

witchboard rating

and as a bonus Steel Breeze with their biggest hit, You Don’t Want Me Anymore…

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4 thoughts on “TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHBOARD (1986)

  1. Pingback: From Frights To Fun: The Evolution Of 80s Horror | MonsterZero NJ's Movie Madhouse

  2. Pingback: TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988) | MonsterZero NJ's Movie Madhouse

  3. Pingback: TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHTRAP (1989) | MonsterZero NJ's Movie Madhouse

  4. Pingback: TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (1993) | MonsterZero NJ's Movie Madhouse

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