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Witchful Thinking

Witchery (1988)

This is the description of the movie I read (from IMDB): “A pregnant woman is taken back to the house of her husband’s mother. There she begins to have strange nightmare about her child and step-family. For the husband and mother are actually reincarnated lovers who were burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. She must soon escape from their clutches or have her child sacrificed to Satan.”

Sounds intriguing, right? And it stars David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair! Tell me that doesn’t make you curious. Well, sorry, folks, that description is totally wrong. This is the real description of the film (which I got from Amazon): “Gary (David Hasselhoff) and his gal pal Linda (Catherine Hickland) visit an island off the coast of Massachusetts where a haunted resort hotel looms to do research on witchcraft. They’re joined by the Brooks family (including a pregnant Linda Blair), prospective buyers of the property. When a violent storm prevents them from leaving the island, they’re forced to endure the vengeful wrath of an evil witch who won’t quit until every last one of them dies a horrible death!”

And even that description isn’t totally correct. Gary’s “gal pal” is actually named Leslie and played by Leslie Cumming. Of course I didn’t find out that the original description I had read was totally wrong until I had suffered through the entirety of Witchery and forgotten all about reincarnated lovers and babies being sacrificed to Satan. I believe the description from IMDB actually applies to the 1989 film Witchcraft. All of the misinformation probably stems from the fact that Witchery has about one hundred Also Known As titles and one of them was Witchcraft. (The others include: La Casa 4, Evil Encounters, Evil Dead 3, Ghosthouse 2, The Haunted House and Witchcraft: Return of the Exorcist.) And to further confuse things the title card that came on screen during the opening credits of the version I watched was: Witchcraft (Evil Encounters). OK, does your head hurt as much as mine does?

The movie begins with a pregnant woman running from a group of Witchfinder General looking types. As the names of the film’s “stars” appear two of the actors credited side by side are Leslie Cumming and Bob Champagne and of course I pause to consider – wouldn’t Cumming Champagne be an interesting name? Sorry.

Our being-pursued pregnant woman is wearing some kind of shiny magic diamond pin on her nightgown. The magic pin does not help make her very bright, however. She runs into a large house, dashes upstairs and down a long hallway. All of the doors in the hallway are closed and she begins banging and pounding on them, trying to get one open. One of these “locked” doors she tries very clearly has a key in the keyhole.

She continues attempting to open doors – she tries another one that, yes, has a key in the lock. I am now hoping she dies. Soon. Oh yay, the witchfinder gang appears in the hallway and advances toward her. Pregnant girl tries another door – and guess what? It has a key in the lock too! I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this movie…

Oh, thankfully she jumps out a window just as the mob wielding gardening tools closes in on her.

As she falls to her death we cut away before she hits the ground and now zoom in on the face of Linda Blair bolting awake in bed. Oh, she was a-dreamin’. About a really stupid chick. As Linda gets out of bed we see – that she is pregnant! And wearing a night gown just like the girl from the dream. Linda regards her baby bump in the mirror glumly. Where is that glow that pregnant women are supposed to have? Where is the baby’s daddy?

Now we are introduced to Leslie (Leslie Cumming) and she is walking down the same hallway that Linda Blair was just dreaming about – only now all the doors are open. I guess someone in this movie knows how to work a key. Leslie comes to the end of the hallway and wouldn’t you know it, there is a broken window.

This place that Leslie is at, and that Linda was dreaming of is a rundown hotel on a privately owned and thus deserted island and Leslie has come here, with her boyfriend Gary (David Hasselhoff) to work on her book about witches. Gary is a photographer and Leslie asked his to accompany her and shoot some photos for her book.

We cut back to Linda Blair – the name of character is Jane Brooks – as she is walking in the city and passing a construction site. She stops when a creepy looking woman in black (Hildegard Kneft) catches her eye. This woman has the magic pin from Jane’s dream, and the light from it blinds Jane just as a girder falls from a crane overhead and crashes down a few feet in front of her. She could have been killed! Poor pregnant Jane! And the woman in black has vanished!

Back on the island, Leslie and Gary are discussing a light they’ve been seeing every day at noon shining from one of the upstairs windows. Gary says there is nothing that could be causing it! He has studied the hotel from every angle! Then Gary has to start in about that whole virgin thing again! He tells Leslie he doesn’t think it is natural for a woman her age to have never slept with a man, and why doesn’t she just give in and go to bed with him? He thought if he came with her to the island she would put out. Well, Leslie doesn’t want to discuss it.

It turns out that Jane’s mother Rose (Annie Ross) has bought the old hotel and she plans to turn it into a club. The whole Brooks clan will be going to see the property tomorrow, but the architect that Rose wanted to use to restore the place is not available. Rose’s husband Freddie (Robert Champagne) says he know of someone and makes a call.

The phone begins to ring just as blondie Linda (Catherine Hickland) gets out of the shower. She sees a vision of the woman in black in her bathroom mirror! She answers the phone, and we find out that she is the architect Freddie was talking about and she makes plans to meet the family at the docks and sail with them to the island to see the property. Linda asks who recommended her to him and Freddie says he got her name from the Taylors. But she says she doesn’t know any Taylors!

The woman in black is in an upstairs room of the hotel, where she appears to live, rocking an empty white bassinet. Why not black?

Leslie’s research for her book seems to consist of her walking the same hallway over and over. She is a hardcore serious investigator. Honestly, she seems as if she can barely read, never mind being capable of writing a book. She reads passages to Gary out of an old text she brought to the island about witches and it is in a deadly dull monotone – the same monotone she delivers every line of dialogue in. I don’t know if this actress has a slight accent or her mouth is filled with marbles or she is missing part of her tongue, but she slurs everything she says. It is kind of fascinating actually – like a mystified Dorothy Parker from another planet using the English language for the first time. And the actor who plays Tommy (Michael Manchester) Jane’s younger brother is equally as horrible and enthralling – he delivers his lines in drawn out halting bursts of syllables.

While the Brooks family is trying to find someone to sail them to the island, Tommy meets a young girl who tells him he should not go there – because a witch lives there.

We get more of the magic light, and this time it illuminates the sky in a dazzling display.

The realtor that Rose had been working with is unable to make the trip, but offers up his son, Jerry (Rick Farnsworth) as a substitute. On the boat ride to the island Freddie asks why it was so hard to find someone to take them and Jerry replies that the locals have all kinds of crazy legends and superstitions about the island – “Witches and rainbows and shit.”

When they arrive, the sailor tells them that if they are not back by low tide, he will be gone.

Taking a tour of the house Jerry informs everyone that the last owners were just desperate to sell, Oh, hahaha! Always a good sign. Freddie says that the place gives him “the shivers” and Jerry says not to worry about that, “we’ll have the heating fixed up in a snap.”

The sailor waiting at the shore sees the woman in black leaving the hotel. He pulls a bottle of booze out of his jacket and when he looks back, the woman is gone. But! Her face appears in in the bottle just as she materializes beside him and uses the magic diamond pin to do her sparkly light thing on him.

Jerry is telling everyone now that some movie actress who used to be a little crazy was the last person to live in the hotel. She quit making movies because she didn’t want people to see her aging. “By the time she retired she was already… you know… retirement age. She couldn’t possibly still be alive.”

I thought he just told us that there were owners, plural form and that they were desperate to get rid of the place? Were they renting it to the actress? Did no one ever go through the place and make sure that it was vacated? Because obviously the woman in black (is she the actress?) has set up camp in one of the upstairs room. Or did the lady in black own the place and put it on the market? Was it all part of her plan to lure them to the island?

Now the boat that brought everyone is sailing itself away and we see the dead captain hanging from fishing nets on the mast. Foxy Lady is the name of the boat, F.Y.I.

Jane, the old adventurer, has wandered off on her own and typical Jane! drops a bottle of her pills into a bathtub full of absolutely filthy water. As she tries to retrieve them something grabs her and pulls her in. Now, if you thoughts the effects from the light in the sky picture above looked hokey, you have to see this. I wish I had an image of it to share. Jane is shown “falling” into a swirling vortex of red. I don’t know if it is a doorway to hell, or an entry into an alternate dimension or if she is just going down the drain. I do know though that it is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen.

Jane ends up somewhere – I don’t know where, but I think it is a baaaaaaaad place. And she isn’t even wet! There are fires burning and as Jane watches she sees what look like two old bums fighting over the body of baby, wrestling for it over flames. When they notice Jane, they begin smacking the baby against things, and with a gruesome smile, one of the them tears some flesh from the baby’s leg with her teeth and takes it out of her mouth to show to Jane. The light show trickery happens again and Jane passes out. She wakes up on the floor of the bathroom with everyone standing around her.

Jane says that something pulled her down into the tub – which has no water in it now, and she still isn’t wet. In the palm of her hand she finds a tiny porcelain baby hand which shatters on the floor when she drops it. Everyone decides it is time to leave.

Gary and Leslie have been hiding upstairs in one of the rooms this whole time because though Leslie did ask for permission to come to the island and do research it was never given to her.

Well, duh, the boat is gone and Freddie blames Rose because she didn’t tip the captain. Tommy starts taking about the woman in black and points to an upstairs window were the curtains are moving and says “There she is!” Everyone heads back to the hotel, and Gary thinking they’ve gone, is coming downstairs just as they come in.

Gary explains who he is and tells them that he and Leslie are ready to vacat the island too. Gary has a Zodiac parked outside, and though it won’t fit everyone, he can make a run to the mainland and send back help. But it turns out the sea is too rough for him to go safely.

Jerry’s mantra is: “Don’t worry, when my father finds out I never came back, he’ll save us.”

Rose decides to go upstairs and get some rest and is killed in what I thought was a service elevator but turns out to be a safe – which opens into a long, deep shaft. Rose is pulled in and we get the bad red vortex effects again.

Leslie is telling Jane about her book and why she picked this island to do her research – she read about an island where many witch burnings took place and a woman accused of witchcraft took her own life instead of burning at the stake – and the island she read about is exactly like this one!

Rose is tied to a chair, and the old bums are sewing her mouth shut while the woman in black talks about the “three doors to hell” – the first of which is greed. Rose somehow returns from – hell? the realm of the woman in black? – and is now hanging upside down in the fireplace chimney. How she got there I have no idea – I suppose the old red vortex deposited her. Everyone decides to build a fire, being as how it is so cold, and no one smells Rose cooking to death. Wouldn’t that be pretty noticeable?

Linda and Jerry decide to head upstairs and have some sex and Freddie being the creepy perv that he is is spying on them. But before he can really get an eyeful the candle in the lover’s room flickers and then goes out. And now both Linda and Jerry in that evil swirly redness!

Jerry’s father has noticed that his son hasn’t returned and goes to talk to a police officer. The police officers says there are killer waves out there making it impossible to get to the island, and wonders why Jerry’s father is so worried anyway – after all, they are in a hotel.

Linda and Jerry end up where everyone else did, only in the beginning it is filmed like the mirror ball scene from Labyrinth. Now the woman in black is going on about the second door being a door of lust. Linda is tortured by the two old bums, while Jerry is crucified.

Freddie goes downstairs and tells Gary that “the strangest thing” just happened and the two go looking for the couple – and find Linda, a swordfish snout impaled through her neck.

The woman in black appears in a sleeping Leslie’s room murmuring about “virgin blood.” A skinny man with slicked back black hair and a melted mouth appears and rapes Leslie. This is Satan. You wouldn’t know it from watching the actual film, but I know it because I looked it up in the credits. Leslie wakes up screaming, and the room is now empty, but her top is ripped open and she has scratches and blood on her inner thighs.

The woman in black is upstairs in her room and has made an effigy which she lights on fire. Outside on the beach, Jerry is on an upside down cross being burned alive. Gary and Jane and Tommy and Freddie all freak out and Gary runs upstairs to get Leslie.

Leslie – because she knows about this stuff – says this is all part of some ancient ritual – a satanic ritual. Only SUTONIC is how she says is. She fails to go into any details of what the ritual entails or what the ultimate goal of the ritual is.

Rose’s body is discovered, Freddie is killed (though this happens without him ever going through the vortex and I’m not entirely sure what the third door is or what his death was supposed to be representative of) and Jerry’s father gets the police to take a helicopter to the island – but the house is smarter than them and locks all of the doors and windows – and even makes the windows shatter proof so that when Gary tries to bust one out with a chair nothing happens.

The broken window in the upstairs hall magically repairs itself – and guess what? Linda Blair gets possessed. She begins speaking in the woman in black’s voice. She says they were all chosen and she brought them to the island, and she talks about the three doors to the dark side. Linda Blair is so obviously in this movie just for a paycheck and invests nothing in her character or her acting. I can’t say I really blame her considering the ineptitude of the group she is surrounded by and the horrible script she had to work with.

The ending comes to us directly from The Exorcist as the demon inhabited Linda Blair throws herself out the window – and we find that love conquers all – as long as you have a Sesame Street tape player.

The last scene of the film is Leslie in the hospital being informed she is pregnant.

OK – what the fuck? What I mean is – what the fuck? Who made this? Who ever allowed it to be released? What the hell was that pin? What was the woman in black trying to do – release the devil from hell? Get herself reincarnated back into a baby? Take over Linda Blair’s body and life? And if Leslie has already been impregnated by Satan why did the woman in black even bother with possessing Linda Blair? And if she wanted Linda Blair on the island why did she appear to her her in the city and nearly kill her? Or was she saving Jane’s life by distracting her so that she didn’t walk to where the girder was about to land? And why wasn’t she killed when she was sucked into the vortex? And if there are only three doors and it takes one death for each to be opened, why were four people (not counting the sailor) killed? But most importantly: Why do I care? D

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