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1980s horror film review: 'Witchboard' (1986)




"Witchboard" was directed by Kevin Tenney, a director known for another cult horror movie, "Night of the Demons." The film was released in 1986, it starred Todd Allen, Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, and Kathleen Wilhoite. It's about a young woman's interest in a Ouija board after one of her friend's (and old fling) uses it at a party to contact a spirit of a little boy. The story involves around her, and the two men in her life, Brandon and Jim. They must come together and try to save her from the spirit's controlling nature

Brandon and Jim use to be best friends, then had a falling out, Jim is now with Linda, which Jim supposedly never knew that Brandon dated her. Anyway, besides the soapy context (funny because actor Stephen Nichols is a popular Soap Opera actor) there is a terrifying story. Whoever is close to Jim keeps dying, and a police detective is getting on his case, because really who is going to believe that a ghost is killing off your friends? Jim doesn't even believe it, it's Brandon, who has to tell him what's going on with Linda.

This low-budget movie teaches the viewer a valuable lesson, don't mess with spirits and watch out for Ouija boards. The director took a real fear for some (personally, I won't use one) and decided to base his story on that. In the 80s the slasher genre basically took over, so when you see a supernatural horror film in the 80s that isn't killing off oversexed teenagers in the woods, it's almost refreshing! That's not saying "Witchboard" isn't flawed, the movie's acting is a little stale, the dialogue is kind of laughable, and the very last scene felt quite gimmicky.

The pace is a little off, but what works for "Witchboard," is the mystery behind who the spirit is, and the terrifying scenes with actress Tawny Kitaen (Remember her on the 90s "Herucles movies/TV shows?"). The viewer almost wants to slap her for using that Ouija board, when she knows the dangers! But if she didn't use it so many times, the movie would have been boring.

Nichols and Allen contrasted greatly, one's character was high strung, while the other was laid back, and everyone kept telling him that he only cared for himself. The viewer only gets a little bit about their history, obviously it stems back more than from Jim dating Linda, but that doesn't help The movie repeatedly reminds us that these two dislike each other, but are going to somehow try and save Linda. In later scenes there is a bromance coming along, though the director cuts that short.

A small part pivotal role was played by Kathleen Wilhoite, she played the psychic. A very hip psychic, may be added to that. While it's funny, and she did it well, that kind of ruined the movie's freaky atmosphere. Though the director tries to make that up in a later scene.

Overall "Witchboard," has its interesting parts, it doesn't throw a lot out there, but what it does, it works sort of well. It relies heavily on the fear of spirits, and what happens if the thing that is killing people is indeed a ghost? Look past the cheesy scenes and not so great dialogue to find out the what spirits can do when awaken!

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