Peter’s Retro Reviews: Witchboard (1986)

October 21, 2011

Witchboard VHS cover artby Peter Nielsen

This week I’ll be taking a look at an overlooked horror classic from 1986. It’s one I hadn’t seen since the late ‘80s – early ‘90s I think, but still had vivid memories of. What I had forgotten though, was how creepy and atmospheric it really is.

The movie starts at a party that the young couple Linda and Jim are having for a few friends. At this party is Brandon, played by Stephen Nichols who’s primarily worked in television. He and Jim are childhood friends, but since Brandon thinks that Jim stole his girlfriend, Linda, from him some time back, they now basically treat each other like dirt. Well, actually dung would be a more appropriate word! You could definitely say they have issues!

Brandon has brought his Ouija board with him to the party and is, of course, persuaded to use it. He decides to call on David, the spirit of a little boy who died at the age of ten, for a little demonstration and asks Linda to join him. This all goes well until Jim, drunk on Jack Daniels, starts to pick on both Brandon and David… Let’s just say that things get kind of heated. Brandon leaves the party angry and, (surprise) forgets his Ouija board. Fascinated and intrigued by it, Linda starts using the board on her own, which we all know is a big no, no!

Jim and Brandon in search of answers.

Jim and Brandon in search of answers.

Linda is played by the gorgeous Tawny Kitaen (Gwendoline, Bachelor Party), so we’ll just forgive her for doing stupid things. It wouldn’t be much of a movie either if she didn’t though, right? And, yes, I’m aware of how incredibly sexist that might sound, but Tawny Kitaen looked damn hot back in the days, so… sue me!

Anyway… using the board on your own makes you more vulnerable and susceptible to both good and evil spirits and the spirit Linda gets in contact with, is not David at all. It’s an evil one impersonating David, just to lure her on. She soon starts to show signs of behavior changes. For instance, she swears like a sailor and has mood swings and morning sickness. Pregnancy, you say? Yes, and apparently also signs of a spirit possessing you.

She starts using the Ouija board incessantly and the spirit becomes more and more sinister and after a particular scary attack on Linda, Jim, a skeptic at first, is convinced that this is for real and that something needs to be done. Brandon contacts one of his friends, Zarabeth, who’s a medium, to try and talk to David and find out if he knows something about the evil spirit.

Linda is possessed by the evil spirit.

Linda is possessed by the evil spirit.

Zarabeth is (annoyingly) portrayed by Kathleen Wilhoite from Fire in the Sky and Murphy’s Law to name two and the actor playing Jim, is Todd Allen who’s been in Silverado and Swing Shift.

They perform a small séance where they do indeed get in contact with David, who confesses his love for Linda and says that he would never hurt her. We also learn another name, Malfeitor, which is the name of the evil spirit, the one trying to possess Linda and also wanting to open up a portal into this world. And from this point on, things go from bad to worse… Much, much worse!

As I stated earlier this is an effective little horror flick that does exactly what it sets out to do. Namely scare you silly! The director Kevin Tenney has done a great job in slowly amping up the tension and creepy atmosphere as the movie progresses. There are of course the obligatory “jump scares” too and for the most part, they work very well.

Witchboard was Mr. Tenney’s directorial debut and he followed that with the gory Night of the Demons in 1988. A couple of years later he also directed Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway starring the lovely Ami Dolenz and I remember that to be as good as the first one.



Sure there are things in Witchboard that could have been better or even omitted all together, like the nosy cop, for instance. He wasn’t really needed for the story at all, so we could have done without those scenes, but see past these little things and you have yourself a great horror movie to look forward to. That is, if you haven’t seen it before. If you have seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about!

It also boasts a chilling score and the song playing over the end credits, Bump in the Night, is pure ‘80s classic and I friggin’ love it!

I’ll leave you with this little “tidbit”. Check out the cover-version I’ve chosen for this movie! It’s from the early VHS covers and is so much cooler than subsequent releases, don’t you think? I’ve mentioned this in an earlier review (Kingdom of the Spiders), about the differences in cover-art now and then. Many of today’s covers are… well, kind of boring compared to a lot of the ones released on VHS in the ‘80s, so feast your eyes on the one at the top of this review and I’ll just quietly sneak off to see if I can’t find a Ouija board to play with!

And on that thought… Until next time my friends!

Peter Nielsen Bio

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