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Blu-ray Review: Witchboard
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

Witchboard Blu-rayWitchboard
Blu-ray + DVD Combo
Director: Kevin S. Tenney
Screenwriter: Kevin Tenney
Cast: Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols, Todd Allen, Kathleen Wilhoite
Scream! Factory
Rated R | 98 Minutes
Release Date: February 4, 2013

“Don’t play it alone.”

It’s called a Ouija board and it’s been used for thousands of years to communicate with the souls of the dead. For the beautiful Linda Brewster (Tawny Kitaen, Bachelor Party), the board summons the playful spirit of David, a dead ten-year-old boy.

At first, David is nice and helpful, assisting Linda with the recovery of her lost engagement ring. As Linda continues to communicate with David, however, she discovers the spirit is actually an evil being acting under the guise of friendly deceased boy.

When “David” suddenly develops a taste for murder and demonic possession, Linda’s boyfriend (Todd Allen, Silverado) and his friend (Stephen Nichols, House) must destroy the board and free Linda from its control.

Directed by Kevin S. Tenney (Night of the Demons), 1986’s Witchboard is another forgotten low-budget horror flick resurrected by Scream Factory, a branch of Shout! Factory dedicated to releasing cult horror and science-fiction films.

The Oujia board has been featured in many films, from The Exorcist and The Uninvited to Sorority House Massacre 2 and What Lies Beneath. Following its commercial introduction in 1890, the Ouija board was regarded as a harmless parlor game until American Spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use as a divining tool during the First World War.

During the “Satanic Panic” of the ’70s and ’80s, religions (most notably Christianity) associated use of a Ouija board with satanic rituals and the act of demonic possession, deeming the parlor game as demonic in nature. Even though science has debunked the magic of the board and planchette, the game is still considered supernatural and not to be tampered with.

According to Witchboard, Oujia sessions were a staple of any self-respecting ’80s party – and if Tenney’s Night of the Demons is to be taken seriously, séances too! It’s a good-enough premise, summoning an evil spirit who possesses the babe from that Whitesnake music video, but Witchboard is pretty silly.

Witchboard starring Tawny Kitaen

There are some pretty ridiculous lines delivered completely straight. During a scene where James, Linda’s boyfriend, and Brandon are in a race against time to discover how to defeat the evil spirit, comes this little gem: “What’s our first move when we get there?” – “The Big Bear public library.” Yep, we’re going to fight this ancient demon like the Hardy Boys, with some shit we photo-copied from a book in the Big Bear public library!

Another great line that says it all: “Evil? What the hell does that mean?” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie, horror or otherwise, where a character needs the idea of EVIL explained to them. Thank God we’ve got Brandon the Oujia expert here to elaborate!

Presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1, the technical merits of Scream Factory’s Witchboard release are pretty solid. The movie was shot on a shoestring budget ($2 million), so there are some under-lit scenes that look noticeably rough thanks to the high-definition presentation. That’s only here and there though – for the most part the film has a great, natural look to it, with colors that are both accurate and densely saturated.

As for the audio, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix (delivered via DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) is a bit high-pitched at times, especially when it comes to Dennis Tenney’s synthesizer-heavy score but otherwise fidelity is great and dialogue is easy to hear. Like all Scream Factory releases, Witchboard is packed with extras, including two audio commentaries: one with director Kevin Tenney, actors Kathleen Wilhoite, James W. Quinn, and Stephen Nichols and an additional track with Tenney, producer Jeff Geoffray, and executive producer Walter Josten.

There’s also “Progressive Entrapment: The Making of Witchboard,” a 45-minute feature with interviews with Tenney and various cast and crew. Tenney claims some of the film is actually based on real life experiences. There’s also a bunch of vintage footage, including behind-the-scenes featurettes about the making of the film and constructing the world of Witchboard. Of course there’s your standard assortment of trailers, outtakes, and photo galleries – that stuff that you never really watch but it makes you feel good to know it’s there, just in case.

All in all, Witchboard is worth look; it’s silly ’80s video-cheese at its finest – perfect for a bad movie night – and Scream Factory’s high quality presentation is the best way to watch it. Apparently, Witchboard was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2004, but that version is discontinued so unless you have a VCR and a time machine, this is the only way to see Kevin S. Tenney’s Oujia board flick. Check out the trailer below for plenty of Tawny Kitaen goodness.


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