Film Review

Witchboard

80’s horror veers all across the board from campy to atmospheric and everywhere in between but I think my favourite specific aesthetic from that era is, and it’s a bit hard to describe in written words, the sort of super dialed-up sexy, billowing curtains in night breezes set to spooky kinky sax/electronic music, permed hair, Ken-doll, Harlequin Romance-esque, impossibly attractive stars, ridiculously lurid 80’s style horror. Make sense? Stuff like the original Fright Night, Spellbound, parts of Hellraiser fit the bill. I am pleasantly surprised to be able to add Witchboard into the category as well, it’s a spectacular horror film I’d never heard of until it popped up on shudder but one that now owns the Ouija board sub-genre for me. It stars Todd Allen, Stephen Nichols and the late Tawny Kitaen as three childhood friends who grew up but never got out of the dysfunctional love triangle they’ve always been in. After fooling around with a Ouija board one night they find themselves in deep supernatural shit when two long dead spirits fixate on them, one the ghost of a little boy who is more or less harmless, the other a frightening, dangerous phantasm who wants them all dead. Now, this could have easily been a cheesy, routine haunting flick full of bumps in the night, POV shots and endless chase scenes but instead they’ve made it packed with dripping atmosphere, full of measured suspense and some writing and characterization that was far more mature and grounded than I was expecting. The two male leads have a genuine history together and their arc develops with believable friction and camaraderie. It’s so sad that Tawny Kitaen passed away so young, this is the first film I’ve ever seen with her but she’s just the *perfect* badass scream Queen in every way. Gotta give a shout out to Kathleen Wilhoite (Twin Peaks, Colour Of Night) too as an outlandish spiritual medium who is so impossibly over the top and adds the only element of genuine camp to the film. The score by Dennis Michael Tenney (Night Of The Demons, Leprechaun) is a beautiful, occasionally legit scary composition that for me stands with the best Carpenter electronic jangles and adds so much to the film. This is one of the coolest 80’s horrors I’ve seen in some time, and I can’t wait to check out the sequels to complete the trilogy.

-Nate Hill

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