Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Witchery (1988)

Reviewed By: Billy

Cinema history is crammed full of classic star pairings; one can hardly think of Vivien Leigh without Clark Gable, just as Humphrey Bogart goes with Lauren Bacall and Katherine Hepburn with Spencer Tracy. Well, friends, after watching Witchery, I will proudly add two names to the list of Tinseltown twosomes: Linda Blair and David Hasselhoff. Just one of these names billed above the title guarantees a good time; but two…well, that’s a rarity worthy of top spot on your Netflix queue. And speaking of the credits, a suspiciously large number of Italian-sounding names show up (director of photography Lorenzo Battaglia, anyone?), which pretty much means that David and Linda were slumming it overseas, parlaying their name value into a cheapo foreign production.

Really…how can we go wrong?

Witchery thrusts us into the excitement right away, as a badly-wigged pregnant woman in a nightgown is chased over some sand dunes by five men dressed as Zorro. After running into a big hotel with one of the longest hallways in history, said pregnant woman jumps out a window…which frame-by-frame analysis reveals to be a large male stuntman in a wig and completely different nightgown. Cut to pregnant Linda Blair waking up from a nightmare.

OK…why aren’t you rushing to rent this yet?

Next we’re introduced to the Hoff and his girlfriend, played by Leslie Cumming. Cumming’s performance is one that must be seen to be believed; really, there’s no way to describe it, except to say that if you injected me with horse tranquilizers every hour on the hour, I would still project more energy than this woman. Her lifeless delivery, slurred words, and expressionless face are at once befuddling and oddly hypnotic; it’s kind of like listening to a 24-hour marathon of painter Bob Ross…if Bob Ross looked like Daphne Zuniga, had a speech impediment, and kept talking about something called the “witch’s light.” Anyway, combine this with David’s easygoing “Knight Rider”-esque delivery and you’ve got one of the most awkward couples in horror movie history.

Meanwhile, pregnant Linda’s being stalked by the Lady in Black, played by Hildegard Knef (apparently a major German film star at one point, which makes this performance all the more tragic), whose face is covered in chalky makeup and unbelievably sloppy eyeliner and who keeps flashing some kind of fake diamond pendant that apparently blinds Linda and causes her to almost get hit by construction equipment. Hildegard next pops up in a jaw-dropping dialogue scene with Linda’s little brother – both the kid and the old woman deliver their inane dialogue as though they’re both learning to speak right then and there. To wit:

LADY: Zho we mit agen…Toe-mee. (So we meet again, Tommy.)
BOY: Howdyu knowmah-nayme? (How do you know my name?)
LADY: Ah know alotuff tings. But you bettery-back. Your sisterbutt a present-or-yoo. (I know a lot of things. But you better hurry back. Your sister bought a present for you.)

Really…it’s like watching The Miracle Worker if Annie Sullivan were drunk and Helen Keller had just been injected with Novocaine. Suddenly we’re back to David and his girlfriend, who’s having a hell of a time enunciating the confounding line, “Sometimes I feel confused and even scared to find what I’m looking for.” Did the casting director purposely look for people who cannot speak? What is going on here?

This is a question you’ll just keep asking as the movie progresses…as there’s absolutely no coherent plot. Somehow David, Leslie, Linda, and her entire family end up in the hotel from the dream, all the while Hildegard is up in the attic chanting to a baby in a crib. Next come endless scenes of this incredibly wooden cast walking around the spooky old hotel, during which an annoying synthesizer score consisting of four notes blares constantly in the background. Special effects include badly superimposed faces and an animated, shimmering light worthy of the best “Thundercats” episode. And surrounded by acting so bad it wouldn’t pass muster in community theatre, Linda and David really do come off as fine thespians…perhaps that’s the most incredible special effect of all.

Finally, after a collection of scenes that don’t seem to come from the same movie, we end up with a "logical" climax in which the Lady in Black possesses Linda Blair. Until now the Lady in Black has been doing just fine on her own, so why she needs to possess someone is unclear. Anyway, when Linda was possessed in The Exorcist, we got disturbing makeup and a horrifying voice spewing profanity. Here in Witchery, we get frizzy hair and incomprehensible dialogue including: “There are three doors to the dark side. Lust, avarice, and ire. Linda for the lust and Rose for the greed, and ire of the persecuted witch. Add Jane’s baby, and the one element that unites and completes the rest. The loss of purity.” WHAT? Is this English? What does this mean? Adding to the flummoxing dialogue is the fact that Linda is dubbed by Hildegard, who seems to be having even more trouble pronouncing her words than in the dialogue scene with the kid.

Finally…and I am not making this up…Linda jumps out the window (just like in her dream), and yes, frame-by-frame analysis reveals that same portly stuntman in a brown bouffant wig. People, what else do I need to say here? If you’re not slipping on a jacket right now to run to your video store, then you must not be able to move. Will it help to mention that in the last moment of the movie, Leslie Cumming actually turns to the camera and addresses the audience? Or that we get a synthesized Eurotrash theme song over the closing credits, sung by a woman who sounds like she might be Japanese and learning English phonetically? Come on, people…this may be the greatest movie of all time. Go! Now! And make sure to grab the DVD with all FIVE FINGERS!!!


  1. Billy-

    The dialogue between Lady and Boy is wonderful!!

    Thanks for the inspiration to finally sit down and force myself through "The Chilling" again. Linda Blair!


  2. You had me at "Hasselhoff and Blair."

  3. I's too good to be true, right?