Saturday, 3 February 2018

Witchcraft (1988)

Witchcraft is a straight-to-video horror title that I would never have felt the need to watch until I discovered one important fact. It started a series that has currently reached instalment number sixteen. SIXTEEN. I'm not sure how easy they are to get a hold of but, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I am going to do my very best to see them all.

Grace (Anat Topol) is about to have a baby. All is going swimmingly with her husband John (Edward Ross AKA Gary Sloan) until they move into his mother's house. That's when the plot really begins to start up. Grace starts having disturbing visions, her favourite priest (Alexander Kirkwood) is adversely affected, and there are generally unsettling goings on that prey on her mind.

Directed by Rob Spera and written by Jody Savin, who haven't done anything else that I have seen (to date), Witchcraft is, to reach for the nearest comparison, a clumsy mix of Rosemary's Baby and The Devonsville Terror. The visions mostly feel plucked from the latter, a scene in which a number of visitors gather round to see the baby highlights the former, especially when Grace is visted by an attractive friend, Linda (Deborah Scott), who is pointedly ogled by at least one of the older visitors.

The acting is about what you would expect from a DTV flick called Witchcraft. Topol and Sloan aren't great, Mary Shelley plays the mother-in-law in a turn clearly influenced by "The Handbook Of How To Portray People Who Are Really Really Suspicious And Probably Evil", Kirkwood is given the obvious selection of affected priest tics to work with, and Scott is a surprising highlight. You also get Lee Kissman as Ellsworth, a man who seems to roam the house missing the days when he was being trained up for the role by his Uncle Lurch.

Despite the limitations of the budget, there's a lot here that's better than it could be. Savin may have written a pretty awful script but that's compensated for by decent enough work on the technical side. Yes, most of the film takes place in the one location, with one or two scene set elsewhere (supposedly set elsewhere, I should say), but the camera moves around okay, the editing doesn't make it into an unwatchable mess, and even the music by Randy Miller isn't too bad.

With a few extra ingredients this could have been a much better film. It tries to play things too seriously when it should have gone all-out and just had more fun. The fact that it resists the impulse to pad out the runtime with gratuitous nudity and gore is admirable, yet it also feels like this is the kind of film that would benefit from such obvious tactics, especially when the few special effects moments on display here are among the more careless and disappointing aspects.

It wasn't a great film but it wasn't too painful to watch. I had a little bit of fun with it. I wonder if I'll feel the same way when watching the sixteenth film in the series.


Get your copy of the first film here.
Americans can get it here.

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