Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Witchery  (1988, aka La casa 4, Witchcraft; dir: Fabrizio Laurenti (as Martin Newlin); cast: Linda Blair, David Hasselhoff, Leslie Cumming, Catherine Hickland, Annie Ross, Hildegard Knef, Kara Lynch)





I sometimes wonder if the hacks who write copy for DVD companies actually watch the films. Here's the Plot Synopsis for the Witchery DVD, as quoted by Amazon:

"A pregnant woman is taken back to the house of her husband's mother."

NOT! Linda Blair is pregnant, but she's entirely unconnected to the house. And her stepmother just now bought the house as an investment. So Blair is not "taken back" anywhere; she was never there to begin with.

"There she begins to have strange nightmare about her child and step-family."

NO, she doesn't. She falls through a portal in the bathtub and sees a baby being tortured. Only Leslie Cumming's character has a nightmare, and that concerns being raped by a demon.

"For the husband and mother are actually reincarnated lovers who were burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft."

NOT! No reincarnation in this film. A present day couple are killed, but they're not related to Blair's character. And only the man (he's single, not anyone's husband) is burned; on a cross, not a stake. Nor is the witch (who is haunting the island) burned at the stake; she jumped from a window to avoid being burned at the stake.

"She must soon escape from their clutches or have her child sacrificed to Satan."

It would be more accurate to say that the witch wants the souls of the island's visitors (no child sacrifice), so that she may live again.

In the Product Description, it says: "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."

NOT! Hasselhoff's gal pal is played by Leslie Cumming. Hickland plays the Bad Girl/architect.


That said, this is a gem of a horror film. Eight people trapped on an island, whereupon the witch haunting it starts killing them, using their own Greed and Lust against them (kind of like how the seven deadly sins dispatched people in the Euro-horror film, The Devil's Nightmare.) Several of the people fall through portals and die grisly deaths in a medieval setting.

Some interesting notes:

* This is a rare horror film in that there are two "good girls," the virgin Leslie Cumming, and the pregnant Linda Blair. Although this is not a slasher film, even so, with two Good Girls, horror fans are left in suspense as to who will be the last to survive.

* This film has perhaps the worst day-for-night scenes I've ever seen. Some scenes are shot in pitch black darkness, other scenes are shot at dawn or dusk, still others with daylight pouring through the windows -- yet all these scenes are supposed to occur at night. We cut back and forth between these scenes, the "night time" lighting changing radically from shot to shot. At one point, people rush into the house from a pitch black night outside, then Cumming points to a bright window saying, "Look, it's no longer broken!" And we're not supposed to notice how bright it suddenly is outside!



* The boy has a Sesame Street tape recorder, and another character reads The Godfather. Yet neither Sesame Street nor The Godfather's publisher is listed in the film credits. This is refreshing, albeit rare, because Hollywood studios are so paranoid about being sued that any item caught in a shot gets credited. Ghost Dog credited Tor Books because that film showed a cover of the Tor edition of Frankenstein (a public domain work). The Caveman's Valentine credited the Chrysler Building for depicting the building, which is apparently a registered trademark.

Witchery has some cute actresses, grisly deaths (especially the chimney death -- look for it!), and spooky atmosphere. The film is a bit confusing and nonsensical (such as the link between the witch and the Norma Desmond like actress), but it's highly entertaining. Hard-core horror fans should love it.


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