For the first Terror Tuesday of June, we were treated to a gift from the 80’s horror gods, WITHBOARD. Starring Tawny Kitaen (yeah, the girl in the Whitesnake video), Todd Allen (The Apostle, Django Unchained), Stephen Nichols (multiple soap operas, Soapdish, The Glass Cage, House), and the always amazing Kathleen Wilhoite (Dream Demon, Roadhouse, Angel Heart) . Preceding Ouija by decades, this prodigal film about summoning the dead through a Milton-Bradley board game is probably the most fun while also having some authentically scary scenes (seriously, I almost jumped out of my seat twice). Written and directed by Kevin Tenney, who went on to write and direct both sequels, this film was the reason that he dropped out of grad school, according to our hostess for the evening, Heather Buckley. Whether or not that was a good idea is debatable, but I’m personally glad he did because this film is really a gem.
WITCHBOARD is absolutely a product of its time. Everything about it screams “EIGHTIES!!!” from the hair, the costumes, the music (ohhh, the music), and that special type of acting that you really just don’t see anymore. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not Oscar-worthy either, and you know what, that’s fine. The performances are incredibly enjoyable. I particularly enjoy Stephen Nichols as Brandon, the guy who owns the Ouija board that starts all the trouble in the first place. He started his acting career in theater and soap operas and you can really tell. I’m not sure if he’s the worst actor or the best actor in this film, but he certainly performs the hell out of his role. I also love, love, love Kathleen Wilhoite as the new wave punk-rock psychic medium, Zarabeth, who tries to help our leading lady, Linda (Tawny Kitaine), escape the board’s clutches.
The plot of the movie has holes you can drive a truck through, but I’ll do my best to give you a clear synopsis without giving anything away. The film opens at a party where we meet our three principal characters, Linda, Jim (Todd Allen), and Brandon. Brandon and a friend are discussing whether or not God exists; Brandon is staunchly atheist while the friend definitely believes in a higher power. Somehow, the conversation turns to the spirit realm, which oddly enough, Brandon believes in wholeheartedly. He has brought the Ouija board to the party and he and Linda decide to talk to a spirit who Brandon has talked to before, David.
Jim and Brandon get into a fight about Jim being an alcoholic, the Ouija board, powered by “David” gets mad and flies across the room, while also puncturing Brandon’s tire. Brandon accidentally leaves the Ouija board at Linda and Jim’s house. Oh yes, Linda and Jim are a couple, but Brandon is still in love with Linda after a failed relationship years before. Apparently he and Linda attend law school together, and Jim is a construction worker who dropped out of medical school (yeah, I know). Brandon made clear that the Ouija board must be used by two people but that darn Linda decides to use it on her own, which is when all hell breaks loose until the climactic fight to keep Linda from being possessed, not by David, but by the spirit of a Portuguese serial-killer named Malfador who of course lived in David and Linda’s house until he was killed there. There’s so much more that I’m not telling you about because you should see the movie for yourself, especially if you’re a fan of 80’s horror.
I would lastly like to give a shout-out to Cristina Cacioppo, creative managar at Alamo Drafthouse NYC for assigning this film to Heather Buckley to present (and honestly for all the awesome creative work she does for Alamo, which is A LOT). Heather wore the best witchy punk outfit for the screening, which went so well with the vibe of the movie. I had planned to dress up too but I had been travelling all day before so I failed at meeting my full witchy outfit potential. Maybe if there’s a screening of Witchboard 2, I can try again!
Thanks for reading, and watch the damn movie! Also, come out to one or more of Alamo Drafthouse NYC’s Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays this month. There’s so much cool stuff on deck, including Demons, Santa Sangre, The Hidden (with director Jack Holder IN PERSON), and many more! If you’re too lazy or don’t live in New York, keep coming back every week to Nightmarish Conjurings to read all about ‘em!