In this low-budget movie, Grace (Anat Topol), her husband John (Gary Sloan), and their newborn son, William, move in with John’s mother, Elizabeth (Mary Shelley). It’s only supposed to be temporary but Grace soon comes to feel as if Elizabeth never wants her or her son to leave. Even though John supposedly owns “half of Massachusetts,” he’s clearly not willing to stand up to his mother and, at times, it seems like he’s closer to her than he is to his own wife.
Meanwhile, Grace is haunted by visions of a puritan couple being burned at the stake. When the local priest has a vision of his own and sees William’s crib surrounded by super-imposed flames and he tells Grace that William needs to be baptized as soon as possible, Grace suspects that something strange is happening. When the priest ends up hanging from a tree in the backyard, Grace knows that witchcraft must be afoot.
Obviously influenced by both Rosemary’s Baby and The Amityville Horror, Witchcraft isn’t terrible but it’s not very good either. For a low budget film, the acting is surprisingly adequate and Elizabeth’s creepy mansion is a good location for a cheesy horror movie. The film’s plot, though, is predictable. You will guess what’s going on long before Grace does. What’s strange is that the film is full of references to things that supposedly happened but which we didn’t see. For instance, Grace says that she had a vision of the priest hanging before she actually saw him. That’s the way things usually happen in a film like this but how come we didn’t get to see that vision too? How come Grace doesn’t mention it to anyone until after the priest is actually dead? Did the movie run out of money before they could shoot the scene? Did it just slip someone’s mind to include the scene in the film? What’s going on?
The most amazing thing about Witchcraft is that this forgettable film was a big enough hit on video that it got a sequel. And not just one sequel. As of right now, there have been fifteen sequels to Witchcraft, each one of which is a direct sequel to the one that preceded it. (There are 18 films in the Amityville franchise but few of those films share a direct connection beyond the use of the word “Amityville” in the title.) Compared to the later films in the Witchcraft franchise, the first one is pretty tame. Later installments would play up the sex to such an extent that they became notorious for it. The first Witchcraft discreetly fades to black whenever Grace and John are in the mood.
Witchcraft is forgettable but, as the first entry in an apparently unkillable franchise, it’s an important landmark in direct-to-video history.