Archives for posts with tag: Witchboard

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWELVE

Ouija

Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard (1986) remains for this reviewer the definitive horror treatment of the Ouija board phenomenon; but those wanting more in the same vein could do worse than last year’s Ouija, especially considering that Ouija board movies have never constituted a particularly robust or prolific genre. There is nothing very original in Ouija, but that is not necessarily bad. The first elegant hour or so of this spooker conforms to teen horror expectations well enough and is comfortably suspenseful in its attention to the conventions, with star Olivia Cooke and her friends finding themselves visited by an unknown force after attempting to contact recently deceased pal Shelley Hennig through the titular spirit-conjuring game.

The last half hour suffers from too much onscreen revelation, with CGI frights taking the place of the great unseen – the bane of far too many Hollywood horrors in this age of digital effects – but the relative strength of the first portion still makes Ouija marginally recommendable for less-than-demanding admirers of the genre. Cooke looks good and is tolerable in the lead, but cute and creepy character actress Lin Shaye, who also energized a memorable scene in the same year’s The Signal, is more worthy of mention for a puny but pivotal role as an insane asylum patient with some inside information.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ouija is:

3. Insensitive! The idea that evil can and ought to be destroyed in a furnace may offend Chosen viewers of delicate sensibilities.

2. Multiculturalist. Bianca Santos plays the token Latina friend. Black mourners at blonde bimbo Hennig’s wake demonstrate that she was a decent person. Nona (Vivis Colombetti), meanwhile, puts in a good word for supernatural Mexican folk wisdom.

1. Ambiguously anti-family. Hennig’s house is haunted by the spirits of a little girl (Sierra Heuermann) and the spiritualist mother (Claudia Katz) who tortured her by stitching her mouth shut. It turns out the little girl was even more monstrous than her mother, who apparently was justified in performing this highly irregular surgery, while the mother’s other daughter, played by Shaye, is also a devilish lunatic. The biggest mystery about this family, which lived in the house in the forties and fifties, is why there was no father in the home. Was he a casualty of the war or did he abandon his wife and children? Is the mother’s frightful grotesquerie a commentary on the plague of single motherhood, or on the uncaring men who abuse them? The meaning of Ouija’s portrayal of the family hinges to a large extent on these unanswered questions; but Ouija with no uncertainty seeks to cast doubt on the idea of the perfect atomic age family as glimpsed in the vision of Norman Rockwell and various television sitcoms. This is a pathological past, in comparison with which the multicultural and erotically permissive present is normal and salutary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Witchtrap

Witchtrap (1989) ****  Writer-director Kevin Tenney’s follow-up of sorts to his 1986 masterpiece Witchboard, this 1989 effort is, as a disclaimer on the back of the VHS box warns, nonetheless “not a sequel to WITCHBOARD.”  However, like its predecessor, it does concern the depredations of an evil spirit lingering in the world of the living and is concerned, as is Witchboard, with the existence or not of God and of the supernatural.  Similar plotwise to Puppet Master 2Witchtrap is the story of a team of paranormal investigators who move into a reputedly haunted house with high-tech equipment which, they hope, will document the spooky phenomena and help rid the place of its unsavory vibes.  Unfortunately, where Witchboard succeeds through fine-tuned tension, controlled atmosphere, and an air of pervading menace, Witchtrap is totally hokey and more liable to elicit laughs than to tingle spines; but the corniness and questionable acting do at least make Witchtrap a consistently enjoyable watch and an instant inductee into the glorious 80s camp classics pantheon of horror.

Kevin Tenney’s screenplay is full of fun, by turns quick with crude and hilarious one-liners and headscratchingly odd dialogue and events.  James Quinn, returning from Witchboard, has Witchtrap‘s best role as the sarcastic, wisecracking private dick brought in to provide reluctant security for the team of paranormal investigators.  Among the latter are Rob Zapple, who turns in a serviceably nerdy wimp performance as a medium, playing possession to zany and over-the-top perfection; two interesting-looking but frankly terrible actresses, Judy Tatum and Kathleen Bailey (who played a police detective to similarly underwhelming effect in the same year’s horror comedy Night Visitor); and – appearing long enough to please her fans and get undressed – Linnea Quigley, who so enlivened Tenney’s other masterpiece Night of the Demons.  Hal Havins, another Night of the Demons alumnus, contributes funny overweight villainy as the haunted house’s caretaker, and Tenney himself, in what is easily Witchtrap‘s worst, most deadpan performance, plays the owner who hopes to turn the place into a profitable bed and breakfast.  Not a very scary movie, but guaranteed to entertain the chintzy synth horror set.   4 out of 5 stars on the funk scale.

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