|Kevin S. Tenney
|Kevin S. Tenney
|Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Kathleen Wilhoite, James W. Quinn and Rose Marie
“When someone uses a Ouija alone, like Linda, she’s very susceptible to the spirit she contacts” – Brandon
Linda (Kitaen) becomes obsessed with a Ouija board trying to contact the spirit of a 10 year old boy who died many years ago. Her former lover Brandon (Nichols) becomes worried that the spirit is in fact an evil one who intends on possessing her and convinces Linda’s boyfriend (and his former best friend), Jim (Allen), to help find out the truth.
“Witchboard” was a hit on home video and the cool VHS cover of the film graced the horror section in every decent video store in Iceland. I remember my brother renting it and I sneaked a forbidden peek (being around 9-10 years old) and a scene that took place by a lake and included a Ouija board, two guys and a floating axe to the face completely freaked me out and was forever embedded in my mind. I didn’t dare pick that one to rent in the coming years and I was well into my 20’s when I finally watched the whole movie.
I was kind of nervous about revisiting “Witchboard” as I didn’t want to trash those fond memories of being really scared. But the film holds up as not only a decent fright flick with a killer premise but the dramatic core is surprisingly well handled and mostly well acted. There’s something so unnerving about a Ouija board and the unknown forces they may awaken and director Tenney expertly stages spooky scenes with some very memorable imagery. It’s not very gory but what little bursts of violence and mayhem the film does deliver it does with gusto. This was Tenney’s first feature but he maintains a suitably creepy atmosphere throughout and wisely leaves a lot to the imagination.
Allen and Nichols have good chemistry and play very well old friends whose relationship has turned sour through the years. They never feel fake and while Allen’s character, in particular, has a jokey and could-care-less attitude at the start his layered personality (and Allen’s very decent performance) comes through and his character transformation is a big part of why “Witchboard” really works. This is down to Tenney the writer and director who coaxes good performances from decent actors who get to portray multi-dimensional characters in a well written script that happens to focus on the horrors brought forth by an evil spirit and a Ouija board.
The set pieces are really good and in this area director Tenney really shines. His other works include the terrific “Night of the Demons” (1988), the surprisingly enjoyable “Witchtrap” (1989) and the overall decent “Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway” (1993) and all of these B-movie fright flicks are way better than you’d expect. He has a certain style that suits the genre and it’s a shame he isn’t steadily churning out horror fare.
In the end; “Witchboard” is a decent horror film in every respect. It has some cheesy 80’s hairstyles and fashion and a rather irritating jokey performance by Wilhoite as a psychic but these minor negatives are more than compensated for.