A Movie A Day #271: Spellbinder (1988, directed by Janet Greek)


Jeff Mills (Tim Daly) is an attorney who might be unlucky in love but who still owns a copy of every movie that Frank Capra has ever directed. (There is even a scene where two of his friends are seen looking at his movie collection and saying, “He’s got every movie Capra ever made!”)  Miranda (Kelly Preston) is the beautiful and mysterious woman who Jeff saves from an abusive boyfriend.  Within minutes of meeting her, Jeff invites Miranda to say with him in his apartment.  For Jeff, it is love at first sight but his friends (Rick Rossovich and Diana Bellamy) worry that Jeff is getting in over his head with a woman about whom he knows nothing.  Weird things start to happen in Jeff’s apartment and a woman (Audra Lindley) shows up in his office, taunting him about how she dug up his mother’s bones and used them in a black magic ceremony.  Eventually, Miranda confesses that she is on the run from a Satanic coven that was planning on sacrificing her but is she telling the whole truth?

Spellbinder is an enjoyably daft movie, especially if you are a fan of Kelly Preston.  It’s not that the rest of the cast isn’t good but this really is Preston’s show and her mix of All-American beauty and otherworldly sexiness is put to good use as the enigmatic Miranda.  It is easy to believe that Jeff would fall in love with her despite not knowing much about her.  The movie also has a few good scare scenes, like one in which the faces of all the members of the coven suddenly appear crowded around a window, staring in.  A slickly made example of how Hollywood made money off of the Satanic panic of the 1980s, Spellbinder is essentially The Wicker Man set in Los Angeles and is more entertaining than Neil LaBute’s actual remake.  (Even if it doesn’t have any bees.)

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