Saturday, February 15, 2014

Witchboard Blu-Ray Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
It’s called an Ouija Board and it’s been used for thousands of years to communicate with the souls of the afterworld.  For beautiful Linda Brewster (Tawny Kitaen, Bachelor Party), it brings the playful ghost of a dead ten-year-old boy.  But when the friendly spirit develops a sudden taste for violent murder and demonic possession, Linda’s boyfriend (Todd Allen, Django Unchained) and her former lover (Stephen Nichols, "House") must race to destroy the ferocious portal of the damned.

Film (2 out of 5 stars)
Linda (Tawny Kitaen) and her boyfriend, Jim (Todd Allen), are hosting a party in their home, when Linda’s pretentious ex-boyfriend and Jim’s former best friend, Brandon (Stephen Nichols), brings out his Ouija board.  They begin communicating with a young boy name David, with whom Brandon has communicated previously.  During the session, David gets angry and the session ends.  The next day, Linda begins talking to David on her own, asking questions. 

When strange things start happening around Linda and Jim, Brandon convinces Jim to allow him to bring a medium into their apartment.  David, speaking through the medium apologizes for scaring Linda and promises to leave her alone.  However, once the medium begins researching, she finds that the spirit they spoke to wasn’t David, but an evil one.

Linda continues communicating with the Ouija Board and as Brandon explains to Jim, is now under the control of the spirit, and is moving the steps from just innocent play to becoming a portal to the other world that the spirit can use to possess her.  According to Brandon, this is called “progressive entrapment,” and Linda is quickly becoming more open to allowing the possession.

In order to stop the possession, Jim and Brandon visit David’s grave and site of his death.  There, they try communicating with David, only to find out the evil spirit has followed them there.  After learning the truth, Jim returns home and is attacked by a possessed Linda.  Jim realizes what it will take to save Linda and destroys the Ouija Board.

This is a typical 80s horror movie.  Lots of big hair, synthesizers, and terrible special effects.  Many times throughout the movie, I noticed inconsistencies or “goofs” typical of this kind of low budget 80s flick.  It was those inconsistencies that made this movie “so totally awesome.”  I am sure that if I’d seen this in the 80s, my 10-year-old self would have been scared, but as I sat there watching, I couldn’t help giggle at Brandon’s insistence that it is not a Wee-gee Board, but a Wee-JAH board.  And I am pretty sure my excuse for everything now is going to be because it’s “progressive entrapment…” which apparently is a “real” thing.  Everything about this movie screamed 80s, but if you watched it in the 80s, it was probably good.
Video (3 out of 5 stars)
The 1080p high-definition widescreen (1:85.1) transfer of this movie was okay.  It was grainy and typically 80s, with fog and other stereotypical horror movie effects.  Most colors were a bit muted and didn’t pop too much, but the blood was really red… like ketchup red.  In my opinion, it didn’t work. The foggy night scenes were good and not too dark and the grey from the fog wasn’t overwhelming.  An adequate transfer from 80s to today.
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono sound was good; there were a few things I noticed with lips being off from the spoken words, to the terrible sound effects for breaking glass, kicking in doors, and the gun shots.  The timing was off as well for some of the sound effects.  That said, I could hear everything without having to adjust my volume, though they did go a little overboard with the synthesizers in the background.
Extras (1 1/2 out of 5)
Even though there were quite a few extras, the majority of them were of the same or very similar footage.  It was like the studio took all the home movies from the filming and slapped it on the disc in order to have special features.  Most of the extras were more the 10 minutes long and I found myself getting really bored.
  • Progressive Entrapment:  The Making of Witchboard – Interviews and commentary by the writer and director, and other members of the crew.
  • Vintage Making of Witchboard – Original footage of the making of Witchboard… looks like a home movie.
  • Cast Interviews – Original cast interviews with Todd Allen, Stephen Nichols and Tawny Kitaen.
  • On Set with Todd Allen and Stephen Nichols – Original footage of Todd Allen and Stephen Nichols… more interviews. 
  • Theatrical Trailer – An over-dramatized trailer for the movie.
  • On Set with the Makers of Witchboard – Video footage of the set and talking to the director and producer.  Building set pieces and showing behind the scenes footage on how it all comes together.
  • Life on the Set – What it was like on the set of Witchboard – How the crew made everything work and what it took to get it all working smoothly.  Cast preparations (hair, makeup and wardrobe)
  • Constructing the World of Witchboard – How the crew made the set and how set pieces were made.
  • Outtakes – Bloopers form the making of Witchboard, which were not bloopers per se, more like different takes of the scenes with a few mistakes.
  • Behind the Scenes Gallery – A slide show of photographs taken during the making of the film.  Just the slide show, no accompanying music.  12 very long minutes of silence. 
  • Promo Gallery – Slideshow of the different posters, promotional items and movie stills.  Also, it was just the slide show with no background music.
  • Bonus - There were also two special features under the audio tab of the main screen.  These were more cast and crew commentary and a separate commentary with the writer/director, producer and executive producer.  It seemed to me like the creators knew there were tons of boring special effects, so they thought that by putting some somewhere else, it might make it seem like less or more exciting.  They weren’t.
Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Synthesizers?  Check! Big hair?  Check! Bad special effects?  Check!  These made up a movie that was so decidedly 80s, there’s no way you could mistake it for anything else.  I half expected star Tawny Kitaen to show up at some point in the movie writhing on a car to Whitesnake music.  It’s a movie I wouldn’t have been allowed to see in 1986 since I was a mere 10 years old.  However, I would have figured out how to watch it… at a sleepover, or convincing my babysitter to rent it the next time my parents went out for the evening.  I, myself, own an Ouija (wee-gee or wee-jah?) board, but it sits unused in a hall closest and I actually can’t remember the last time I used it.  Even though, I watch all the ghost hunting television shows, believe in ghosts and am convinced my 100-year-old house has two ghosts, Ouija boards scare the bejeezus out of me and this movie just reminds me to get rid of the one I have.

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