Witchboard III: The Possession (1995) Review by RevTerry

Ouija boards are pretty cool in my book. I have had homies in the past swear by them, and they can put on a good show with the talking board as a centerpiece. Also, the idea checks out for me anyway. Ghosts can't just say "yo" so they need an intimate conduit of some kind. I can follow that (at least just as much as any other invisible thing that I can neither prove nor disprove). I dig the look too; even the Walmart bought Parker Brothers version has a little spooky Twister thing going on that I can get behind. My only beef is the time it takes to make something happen. It's a fucking long-ass process. A simple swear word can take hours, no matter how many teenagers in the circle have the same idea. Maybe you could stick to “yes” or “no” questions if you get somebody on the line, but that can only take you so far. You have to ask at least a name in most cases, right? If I was to talk to a spirit, would it get pissed off if I used one hand for multitasking? It's just not in my nature to sit that long, let alone spelling out a single word. It doesn't seem so tedious in the movies--maybe it's the editing. Usually, people are either in an enthusiastic group, rapidly reading off letters like they are translating a scroll--or one person with intense eyes, alone, sweating bullets as the words are swiftly pieced out. It's more like a genie's lamp; it just needs some hands to get going, and then something magical happens. Then again, in the films, it always turns out bad like in Witchboard III: The Possession (1995).
Julie (Elizabeth Lambert) and Brian (David Nerman) are a young couple in love who have recently been forced to move to a small dingy apartment complex after Brian lost his job. Not having any luck in finding a new one, the unemployed half spends his time looking defeated when not amid a loving embrace. One day, while getting the mail, he bumps into his landlord Francis Redman (Cedric Smith) who invites him over for a drink and conversation. After showing off his collection of creepy stuff, the eccentric older man tells Brian that he was able to retire wealthy, utilizing stock tips from a friend. Brian is intrigued for apparent reasons, and Francis agrees to introduce him to his broker buddy, but instead pulls out a fancy Ouija board. Dismissive, Brian ends up playing along, and the game leads to some letters being spelled out, which he indeed recognizes as a commodity, California Orange Juice, (just like all of it, I guess I don't know how stocks work). When Julie comes home that night, she is surprised to find Francis, and a passed out drunk Brian in the couple's apartment. Since she doesn't know the dude, and he was sitting in the dark, the situation is a little weird, but Julie just shrugs it off as part of her partner’s downward spiral. The next day, the oracle’s stock tips pan out, and a reinvigorated Brian immediately hits up the source for more. Mr. Redman and the board accommodate, but the foretold stock, Coffee (again, can you just buy a "coffee" stock, like in a video game? What the fuck? I feel like I need share in Coffee), is a little more costly. This complication results in a shady-ass deal with local loan shark Finch (Addison Bell), who (even as backroom money lenders go) doesn't have the best terms and requires the cash returned in twenty-four hours, with interest. Brian, figuring he has the nether realm on his side, agrees, but unsurprisingly, Coffee doesn't pay out in time. Desperate, Brian calls on Francis, who takes him out to a balcony to babble on about having kids or something. He then gives his ring to the younger man, recites a line from the 1920s and jumps off the fucking porch, killing himself. Still without options, Brian figures the magic money-making Ouija board is now his, and he packs it up in a briefcase. For whatever reason, he decides to take it down to Finch to explain himself/ask for mercy--which ends up working out, because the cryptic object kills every bad guy in the room. What's more, Coffee stock goes up the next day. Life is good again, so the happy (and now rich) couple goes back to making love in precise positions so you can't see genitalia-- only something isn't quite right. Things add up over the coming days, and it becomes apparent that Brain has changed drastically, leaving Julie to unfuck the situation on her own. New hairdos, murderous infidelity, and board game abuse follow as Julie faces off against the deadly entity. Also, the evil being is trying to spread his seed, as in having a kid, you know, demon stuff.
With the swagger of a television movie, Witchboard III makes a run for ridiculous supernatural action, sexy thrills, and steamy hamfisted drama. Using the original series concept as a backbone, it lays the focus on to the possession trope, sprinkles in some sleaze and haphazardly forms cliche relationship issues common to the 90s Showtime lineup.  Although dry, it runs at a quick pace, keeping it alive as an entertaining piece of supernatural schlock. There isn't much mental fat in the plot available to chew. The somewhat messy, elongated introduction only works to set up the unholy playing field. There is plenty of supposed drama in the air, but the tone never makes the sale. It's hard to take seriously, and it doesn't really seem to care all that much, intent on getting few cliche details in to pad the predictable, amusing payout. A somewhat atypical horror character, Julie is the most filled out aspect of the film and avoids some of the normal trappings for a quasi final girl. The story seems to have some stock in her strength and mental state as she deals with her hubby being a demon but never actually puts enough on screen to drive it home. Instead, the tale mostly follows along with the demon, once he has lept off the board and taken control of Brian. It's not an original arch but allows the film to engage in some b movie chaos as the evil ghost executes his convoluted plan in the physical realm. His path of silly destruction takes shape in 90s extremes, and he even slicks his hair back, so you know he is the evil version. The positionings surrounding his spiritual abduction are mostly just technicalities patching a way to fun occult cheese. Host body Brian isn't that likable to start, with his only real character traits being desperation and ungreased hair. The titular arcane object has a limitless arsenal of powers with associated triggers like a low budget flattened lament box. In fact, in a lot of ways, it feels like it was one franchise license (and a few years) away from being one of the many straight to video Hellraiser sequels.  Probably to its benefit, there is no twisting in the plot. It's pretty loose with the logic, but generally speaking, things line up in the end. Altogether, It’s fully functional as slightly sleazy, black magic junk food, although maybe not as filling as its predecessors.
Witchboard 3, as the title implies, is the second official sequel to 1986s Witchboard. It is the only film in the series directed by someone other than Kevin Tenney, who wrote and directed the original two as well as a spiritual successor (for legal reasons) with another production company. Tenney is credited on writing the original script in this case, with edits by Jon Ezrine and director Peter Svatek. Besides the fact Witchboard, as a series, has little continuity outside of the Ouija board shtick as a 90s third entry to an 80s horror franchise, The Possession holds the line comparatively well. Tenney's absence is felt, however, as the tone has changed, and it's missing his style of character focus. In many ways, it feels like a low budget pilot for a television show based on the franchise, something along the lines of Highlander: The Series. Witchboard 3 was made two years after Witchboard 2. The budget came in at about $2,000,000, and production took place in Canada as opposed to LA in the first two. Before the sequel Director Peter Svatek's only full-length feature had been The Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck (1975),  where he co-directed alongside Jean LaFleur (Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia, 1977). The following year he would make Sci-fighters (1996 with Roddy Piper and Billy Drago), and slimy (lose) HP Lovecraft adaptation Hemoglobin (1997). Still active today, Tenney has made his permanent home primarily in television drama. Seasoned voice actor Cedric Smith appears as the demonically possessed landlord with the on-the-nose name. When this movie was released, little RevTerry was enjoying him weekly as Professor Xavior on X-Men: The Animated SeriesElizabeth Lambert provides a little extra depth for her character and gives a solid overall performance that, if anything, seems a bit chopped up in the final product. B-movie regular David Nerman essentially portrays two people using the same body, which he plays out like those movieland high school transformations, where the kid comes back after summer, suddenly cool but douchey. It's probably the weakest acting from the leads, but the animated intensity and various awkward facial expressions are appreciated.
On the technical side, the flick fits generically between VHS era trash and Cinemax original nudie pictures. Think more Red Shoe Diaries than Emanuel 2000 (what? You don't know your softcore porn nuances?) The camera quality is broadcast level and all the sound fits. There is a range of editing styles on display, some better than others. Further pulling away from any real emotion, the camera angles showcase a few cartoon performances out of the actors, which might not be the most effective choice for the subject matter, but it's pretty enjoyable to watch. Similarly, the editing is all over the place. With a rapid pace, the cuts keep it from it dragging but frequently make it feel cheaper than it possibly had to. A mixed bag of techniques form the special effects, ranging from goofy practical fun to god-awful computer-generated transformations. Once or twice, the inept level knocks the wind out of otherwise serviceable supernatural violence. There are some spaced out worthwhile kills and a little gore, the best of which is slightly tainted by the appearance of the monsters true face via burred digitally imposed excrement. I dug the full-on horned beast crafted for the finale, it had a Wishmaster 3 vibe only with more rubber and a hunch. It doubles the amount of nudity for the series, but it feels tame in the Shannon Tweed style tale. Cheap, low balled and full of that bad movie smell, the film is perfectly watchable late-night cable edition to an already low budget series. I can get behind that.
One part its namesake and one part 90s softcore porn, Witchboard III: The Possession (1995) brings back the Ouija and few other tricks for a 90s run through, Skinamax style. Outside of an underutilized character, it's nothing new, but the satanic cliches and sleaze have a lot of miles left in them as far as I'm concerned. For a horny 90s sequel, it fits well enough in its 80s based series, although, in this case, the target was a little wide. It's a small scale, trashy possession story with minor splatter and some boobs, and I'm ok with that. I just have to hope there is a better way out there to talk to dead people (and demons), because if I could sit patiently while something dusty was spelling out words, I would have done better in school.
 1h 33min | 1995
Director: Peter Svatek
Writers: Jon Ezrine, Kevin Tenney

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