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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, November 4, 2019

Witchtrap (1989)

This is one of those late eighties flicks that I remember renting a few times. Directed by Kevin Tenney it features a couple familiar faces from his earlier Night of the Demons though here in smaller supporting roles. But is it as good as his earlier work like the previously mentioned movie or the later Brain Dead? Let us see.

The movie kicks off with a dude in a killer seventies’ tuxedo being chased by something unseen thru a large house. He seems scared of whatever it is and eventually ends up leaping or falling out the window to his death. This leads us to the setup for our main characters. Agnes Goldberg is assembling a team of investigators on behalf of the owner of the house. Their goal is to locate and expel the ghost that is haunting the place. We also find out that the man who died was a famous magician sent to spend the night as a gimmick as the owner wants to turn the place into a haunted bed and breakfast. But having an actual ghost killing the paying customers is bad for business. Along with the team are some private security sent along to keep them safe.

Once they arrive, they start messing with the ghost, which is a bad idea. They figure out it is the former owner of the house, a mass murderer named Avery, who is haunting it. But it isn’t that simple because he had everything setup to make himself immortal but was interrupted before he could complete his ritual. Instead of being expelled by the medium he uses them to help finish or at least he tries to. This leads to a lot of death as the bodies start to drop all over the place. Eventually we are left with a couple survivors that need to either stop Avery or die trying. Well you can probably guess how that goes.

This is a strange movie that I remember being better than it really is which is probably why I watch it every few years only to realize that I don’t like it that much. First up this movie had a much smaller budget than Tenney’s Night of the Demons, and it shows. The camera work and lighting aren’t that good with everything having a strange almost shot on video feel in spite of being shot on 35 mm. It just feels cheap and I can’t explain why that is. I also thought the cast wasn’t very good with wooden line delivery and zero emotion in their performances. What makes this really annoying is that the best actors, Linnea Quigley and Hal Havins, both carryovers from the previous year’s Night of the Demons, have small supporting roles. Either would have been better than those given the lion’s share of the screen time. Oh, and Tenney casting himself as the owner of the house was a huge mistake. I respect him as a director, but he can’t act.

Linnea Quigley needed more screentime
I will say that they did some decent special effects work both with the ghost and the kills. They were especially clever with the ghost’s appearance on screen as he is mostly only seen on their camera equipment. This ghost story spends as much time and effort on the kills as your average slasher movie does. We get a fun exploding head, an axe to the noggin’, and a floating bullet. But my favorite has to be how Quigley’s character is dispatched by a killer shower head. There is even a melting body that was decent.

Sadly, good special effects work can’t save this movie. Between the mediocre cast and familiar plot, I found this difficult to get thru. It drags a lot in the middle before picking up at the end. Not sure why I keep forgetting how disappointed I am in this movie. I guess I’ll be complaining somewhere about it again in another five years. Until then I’d say pass on this one and check out Night of the Demons or Brain Dead, both excellent movies from Tenney and much better examples of his work.

© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer

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