Horror Film Review: Witchboard (dir by Kevin Tenney)

Oh my God, what is the thing with Ouija boards in movies?

Seriously, nothing good ever comes from using one.  I have seen hundreds of movies featuring people foolishly using Ouija boards and, without fail, it always seems to lead to someone getting possessed by an evil spirit and then killing all of their friends.  Whenever I see anyone using a Ouija board in a movie, I always want to ask them if they’ve never seen a horror movie before.

Then again, despite knowing all the of the terrible things that can happen as a result, I have had a few Ouija board experiences.  For instance, when I was like 13, I asked a Ouija board if a boy named Diego liked my friend Jenny.  The board replied that Diego liked me and Jenny needed to deal with it.  Jenny accused me of manipulating the pointer and basically never spoke to me again but I suppose that’s better than either one of us getting possessed by a homicidal spirit.  Myself, I don’t even believe in ghosts but I still find it difficult to resist a séance.

I guess my point is that it’s easy to laugh at movie characters who foolishly use Ouija boards but the main reason were laughing is because we know that we’re just as stupid as they are.

I recently watched one of the better Ouija board movies, 1988’s Witchboard.  It’s about an angry spirit that might be named David, a skeptic named Jim (Todd Allen), a believer named Brandon (Stephen Nichols), and the woman who they both love, Linda (Tawny Kitaen).  When I watched the movie, I immediately related to Linda, mostly because we both have red hair and everyone in the kept talking about how Linda hardly ever curses.  That’s pretty much the way I am too, though there are exceptions.  For instance, on Monday, the internet was down for 12 hours and I cursed up a storm.  Linda, meanwhile, starts cursing after she has a bad experience with a Ouija board.

Jim (who is Linda’s current boyfriend) and Brandon (who is Linda’s ex) spend a lot of time debating who is to blame for Linda potentially getting possessed.  Personally, I hold them both responsible.  Brandon is the one who brought his Ouija board to Jim and Linda’s party.  Brandon is also the one who contacts the spirit of a boy named David.  At the same time, Jim’s the one who insulted the spirit, which led to Brandon’s tires getting slashed and Brandon storming out of the party.  Brandon left behind his Ouija board, which Linda then used unsupervised.  (Apparently, that’s something you should never do.)  Basically, Jim and Brandon came together to form a perfect storm of testosterone-driven incompetence in this movie.

Soon, people are dying and Linda’s acting weird.  When one of Jim’s friends is killed in a construction accident, Linda is upset to see that Jim didn’t even cry.  Brandon informs her that Jim has “ice water in his veins.”  For his part, Jim just wants to know why Linda is suddenly using so much profanity.  Brandon brings in a medium named Zarabeth (played by Kathleen Wilhoite), who is one of those extremely flamboyant and outspoken characters that you’ll either totally love or thoroughly hate.  (Personally, I liked the character.  Even if she was somewhat annoying, she brought a jolt of life to the film.)  Zarabeth attempts to exorcise the spirit of David and ends up getting tossed out a window as a result.

It’s tempting to just shrug and say, “Well, this is what happens when you mess around with the spirit world,” but Witchboard actually does a pretty good job of developing its characters and getting you to care about what happens to them.  The fact that Jim and Brandon are both in love with Linda adds a bit of unexpected depth to the film’s story.  Does Brandon really believe that Linda is being stalked by a spirit or is he just trying to win her back for himself?  Even the seemingly throw-away detail about Jim’s emotional reticence pays off later in the movie.  And, when that evil spirit does finally actually make a physical appearance, he’s just as creepy as you would hope he would be.

Witchboard is a definitely a film that will be appreciated by anyone who has ever used a Ouija board and felt kind of nervous about it afterwards.

One response to “Horror Film Review: Witchboard (dir by Kevin Tenney)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week in Review: 10/15/18 — 10/21/18 | Through the Shattered Lens

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