In Witchboard, a group of friends pull out a Ouija Board at a party to make contact with the spirit world. In the process, an entity latches onto Linda, one of the party guests, and begins to change her behavior in all sorts of ways. The spirit has Linda taking on some new personality traits, such as swearing like a sailor and quickly becoming ill tempered. Linda quickly discovers that the wraith that has attached itself to her is not interested in being nice. It is interested in being a dick.
Before Tawny Kitaen was writhing around on the hood of White Snake’s car, she was a serious actress, honing her craft in films like Witchboard. Kitaen stars as the primary protagonist Linda. Her performance is highly overacted but it’s good for some chuckles. Kitaen’s acting borders on so bad it’s good territory. But even with Ms. Kitaen’s chronic overacting problem, the film is still quite a bit of fun if you don’t take it too seriously.
Kevin Tenney (Night of the Demons 1986) directs Witchboard and though he can’t seem to rein Tawny Kitaen in, he is able to elicit bearable performances from all of his other leads. He also demonstrates an understanding of the importance of atmosphere. Witchboard builds sufficient tension to hold the viewer’s interest very early on. The Ouija Board scenes are intense and much scarier than anything that goes on in the more recent Ouija Board thriller I am ZoZo.
In addition to directing, Kevin Tenney is also the screenwriter. His script is not bad but it’s not great either. It may be partially responsible for contributing to some of Tawny Kitaen’s scenery chewing (some of the dialogue is a little more intense than it should be). But when one strips away what doesn’t work with Tenney’s screenplay, you’re not left empty-handed. The original idea is clever and we do come to enjoy the primary players in the film (even Tawny Kitaen) after getting to know them. Considering this is Kevin Tenney’s feature film directorial debut and screenwriting debut, I think that some of the mistakes can be forgiven. While the screenplay certainly isn’t flawless, it is unnerving and builds characters that the viewer quickly takes an interest in.
The body count isn’t terribly high but the deaths that do occur in the film are done very well. The lack of a body count is mostly made up for by the film’s atmospheric quality. The suspense mounts and continues to build up until the fairly epic conclusion.
As far as the film’s sequels go, don’t waste your time on those but the original is an intense and ultimately entertaining feature. The DVD version of the film appears to have gone out of print but Scream Factory recently released a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. If you haven’t had a chance to seek out Witchboard, it’s not half bad. If you don’t set your expectations too high, you might very well enjoy it.
Director(s): Kevin Tenney
Writer(s): Kevin Tenney
Stars: Tawny Kitaen, Stephen Nichols
Studio/ Production Co: Paragon Arts International Cinema Group
Budget: $2 Million (Estimated)
Length: 98 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Supernatural Horror