Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Witchboard (1986)

Reviewed By: Billy

There is a performance in Witchboard that is so surprising, so multi-faceted, and so spellbinding that it should go down in history as one of the best ever in horror films.  Early in the movie, the character appears to be controlled and tightly-wound; but watch closely, and you’ll see that at any moment, things are going to unravel.  As the film trudges on, the performance becomes wilder and wilder, bigger beyond belief, until you can’t keep your eyes off of anything else on the screen.

Ladies and gentlemen…for your consideration as the most overlooked horror performance in history: Tawny Kitaen’s hair.
When the most compelling element of a movie is sitting atop the leading lady’s head, you know you’ve got a winner on your hands.  And, my friends, Witchboard is a winner in a BIG way.  From sets that look like they were constructed in someone’s garage to a plot that literally revolves around a piece of cardboard, this movie should be required viewing for any film student itching to make a scary movie.  With almost nothing to work with, director Kevin Tenney somehow gets everything right, and turns out a horror movie that is not only hysterical to watch, but actually manages some brilliant jump-scares in the process.  Will you love this movie?  All signs point to…
So…the plot.  Well, Tawny Kitaen and her wild hair are living with Todd Allen and his equally-mesmerizing unmovable face, and there’s this Ouija Board, and…okay, well, the plot’s kind of involved and requires too much typing to summarize.  Suffice it to say that Tawny becomes obsessed and then possessed by an evil spirit.  Oh, and there’s a love-triangle that’s kind of important, between Tawny, Todd, and soap star Stephen Nichols, sporting a pretty impressive blonde "business-mullet" himself. 
Of course, we don’t care about the plot here. We are about the scares. And this is where Witchboard comes off as a masterpiece. Here’s a little anecdote to prove my point: imagine…a cold Indiana night, JM and Billy sitting on the living room floor and their parents laying on the couch. JM and Billy finally convinced their parents to rent Witchboard from DJ Video – the best VHS rental store in history – and now the family is watching it. Hey – don’t judge – this is the family that watched The Exorcist while eating dinner on TV trays. Anyway, JM and Billy have a very grumpy father who can’t lay on the couch in front of a movie without dozing off about five minutes after it starts. But every three minutes in Witchboard, there’s a jump-scare. You know…

(BANG!) A hatchet suddenly flies by the screen…

(BANG!) A phone suddenly rings…

(BANG!) An Ouija Board suddenly explodes into the air…

Some might call them “cheap” scares…but nothing’s too cheap here at Tower Farm. So, Witchboard’s jump-scares are so effective that JM, Billy, and their mother are literally levitating off the floor every three minutes until Dad, his nap interrupted, yells out, “WHAT IS THIS S&*%???” and storms out of the room. It is a classic moment in Tower Farm history, and forever endeared Witchboard to our hearts.

Of course…with the great comes the not-so-great, and to that end you have to sit through Kathleen Wilhoite’s performance as the valley-girl psychic.  But, you can’t help but fall in love with everyone else on the screen – especially tobacoo-stained, whisky-voiced Rose Marie, in a thankless role as the landlady. 
Like the Hasbro toy it’s based around, now available at a Toys ‘R Us near you, this movie is just way too fun to not like.  In fact, it’s damned near perfect…which is what makes Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway all the more incredible…it’s actually better.  So make it a double feature…and when you’re screaming out “WHAT IS THIS S&*%???”…don’t say you weren’t warned!



  1. I loved the slow-mo falling out of the bedroom window at the end. Laugh out loud funny.

  2. I really enjoy this film myself. Man, did Tawny hit rock bottom or what? She was so hot back in the 80s! What happened? Hell, even her hair is sexy as hell.

    And yeah, that psychic is just annoying. If there was a character that deserved to be killed off quicker than he or she was, it would be her. "TTFN...Ta Ta For Now" didn't happen soon enough for me.

    And I still find looking at Stephen Nichols weird without the patch. I think I've watch more Days of Our Lives than one person should. Oh well.

    Great review, Billy!

  3. This movie is a mini goddamned masterpiece of the awesomely bad. It's quite glorious. Loved your take on it, Billy.

  4. I remember this film fondly....
    And I agree about the one chick's hair.

  5. i remember my sister and i used to watch this on hbo as tots over and over again. even as kids we knew this movie was crap. mesmerizingly good crap! when the psychic was flung out the window and landed on the sun dial/ birdbath thing i cheered every time.

    if i remember right you get a sneaky peak of tawney's other hair cut when she gets spooked by spirits in the shower. that was another highlight i remember from a childhood spent hating whitesnake's music but digging their videos. hitting the netfliks now and having a witchboard double feature on your recommend.

  6. Fact: Stephen Nichols looks like a mid-80s Ken doll left out in the sun too long so that the rubber hardens.

    Also,I'm disheartened by all of the Kathleen Wilhoite hate. Zarabeth was quirky fun, besides being an obvious parody of the countless L.A. clowns claiming psychic ability.That she went out gloriously via spiritual sundial impalement only serves to make her more endearing.

  7. TINIE was here. FollowfloolowFOLljlljkklowwww. www.tinietemp.blogspot.com

  8. Witchboard is a delightfully creepy Horror film, with moments of tense suspense.

  9. Excellent review! :) The medium I probably found to be the silliest... Maybe add Stephen Nichols' staged intensity as well.

  10. This movie is totally ridic and amazing, and Tawney Kitaen is a MONSTER (as watchers of that celebrity house show she did well know). Just fyi, there's a great "gay" reading of the movie in Carol Clover's book "Men Women & Chainsaws" (in the chapter "Opening Up" on occult horror films).

  11. Found your blog via Bloody Disgusting’s Horror Blog Awards. – Congrats! So far they have been right on the money. I’m really enjoying your blog so far and will definitely be visiting more. –good work and thanks for sharing your horror love!