Sunday, February 22, 2009

Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993)

Reviewed by JM

“Get a grip Paige, it’s only uh weeja board”

This movie is, perhaps, the greatest piece of proof that I may offer on why I believe that sequels are always better than the originals. It is easy to take a serious horror film, the kind that is dark and creepy and hard for me to watch because my eyes can’t stop rolling and quickly crank out a sequel that is purely and wonderfully entertaining. Think about the transition from Exorcist to Exorcist 2. The original movie follows the disturbing story of Reagan and her possession by a demon. Several scenes are still shocking to watch. Part 2 follows an oddly bubbly teenage Reagan in a 70s futuristic setting where her therapist and a priest use a synchronizer to enter her mind and they all battle Pazuzu.

Of course the sequel was going to be the better movie.

Witchboard 2, however, did not have that same sort of guarantee. The original was a movie so entertaining and so good that it is easy to mistake it for a sequel.

This installment is written and directed by Kevin Tenney. This guy has written and/or directed plethora of great horror movies including Witchboard, Witchboard 3, Night of the Demons, Night of the Demons 3, and… Well, I haven’t seen anything else of his.

The movie opens with Paige (played by Ami Dolez) arriving at a loft for rent. Of note, this enormous furnished loft is renting at $700 per month. Perhaps this was more expensive in 1993. But still, $700 a month for this place seems remarkably inexpensive.

Jonas, the landlord’s husband, shows her the place. He keeps leering at Paige and lets her know that he is available “…day…or night”. Paige tells him she’ll accept the place and wants to move in next week. He agrees and tells her that she can sign the paperwork today and that he’ll have his wife, Elaine, sign the papers that night.

Now here is the weird part… He then asks Paige what her name is.

My guess is that the apartment is so affordable because old Jonas only wants cute girls moving in. There is no other explanation that I can come up with for the low rent and not needing to know her name.

Almost immediately upon moving in, an old Ouija board flies off of a shelf in the closet. Of course, Paige decides to give it a whirl. And it works. Within moments she learns that the spirit’s name is Susan Sydney and that Susan is aware of Paige’s possible promotion at work.

Actually, the spirit just spells “promo”. Paige is so self-absorbed, though, that she fills in the blanks on that one. I mean, “promo” could only mean “promotion” right? And it must be about Paige. No wonder the spirit says “goodbye” right after Paige starts yapping about her promotion. It’s too bad there wasn’t a spot on the board that read “Save it, kid” for the spirit to go to.

At this point in the movie, I usually start thinking, “If I had an Ouija board that started moving around on its own and answering all of my questions, what would I ask it?”. Then I realize that if I had an Ouija board that starting answering my questions, my screams would be heard for miles. I would be up and running down the street like a horse getting its ass stung by hornets. I would leave my possessions and never return home.

But, hey, that’s just me. Paige takes things in stride.

I am not going to waste a lot of time on the plot here. It is the exact same plot as the original. To be clear: it is not a similar plot. It is EXACTLY THE SAME. Kevin Tenney changed the names though. So, I guess it’s not a remake. It is Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (there is no devil’s doorway in this movie).

This movie does give us one innovation, though. Before Witchboard 2, it was not known if ghosts had dyslexia. In this one, Susan Sydney confuses Paige for about a third of the running time by delivering the message “rifle cape”. Eventually, Paige figures out that Susan meant to spell “fire place”. Though we never find out, I hope that Susan Sydney was able to get the specialized tutoring that she needed.

Ami Dolenz really steals the show in this one. She overacts with a gusto not seen since Sharon Stone portrayed a stroke for the Heart and Stroke Foundation (you will want to find this clip on Youtube. Immediately). Ami’s facial expressions have the type of over the top emoting that Billy and I learned about while putting on children’s plays at the Muncie Civic Theater (because you want the people in the back row of the theater to understand what you are trying to convey).

The difference, of course, is that Ami not acting for parents at a civic theater. Instead she has a camera only inches from her face. Truly, you won’t believe it when she yells, “shut the f*ck up!”. Instead of coming across as angry, Ami Dolenz delivers the line like a 13 year-old girl trying to impress her friends at recess.

Ami Dolenz spends a lot of time in this movie paired up with John Gatins (who portrays Russel). Their chemistry was so strong that they were later reteamed for another exceptional sequel: Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings.

Add in the half dozen or so good little jump scares and a truly bizarre performance by Laraine Newman and how could I give this movie anything less than five fingers?


  1. I love Ami Dolenz. this review brought a tear of joy to my eye!

  2. Love Ami and love Witchboard 2!