Witchery (1988)

You’ve probably seen this flick, you just may not recognize the title.  Like many flicks with Italian funding, this was released with several titles.  The DVD was released under the title WITCHERY.  It’s also been released as EVIL ENCOUNTERS, WITCHCRAFT, and GHOSTHOUSE 2.  It’s the Italian haunted house, witchcraft movie starring David Hasselhoff and Linda Blair.  Gary (Hasselhoff) is a photographer who is shooting an abandoned hotel on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.  His girlfriend, Leslie (Leslie Cumming-who’s only other role is in ZOMBIE 5: KILLING BIRDS), is obsessed with books on the occult.  She is researching legends of a witch’s light on the island and is certain something is going on at the hotel. Gary’s also a total creeper.  Leslie is a virgin and he tries to talk his way into bed with her almost constantly throughout the first 15 minutes of the film.  “It’s not healthy for a woman your age to be a virgin” is just one of Gary’s smooth lines.  Hey Leslie, don’t hassle the Hoff just cause the Hoff’s hassling you.

The Brooks family wants to see the island because the parents, Freddie (Robert Champagne) and  Rose (Annie Ross), want to purchase the hotel and rebuild it as a resort.  Their children Jane (Linda Blair) and Tommy (Michael Manchester) are along for the trip as well but difficulties continue to arise.   After the original architect cancels, they find it hard to get out to the hotel because the “Sailors got a lot of superstitions about this island.  Witches and rainbows and shit.”  Storms end up trapping the family on the island along with Gary and Leslie, realtor Jerry (Rick Farnsworth), and sultry nymphomaniac and architect Linda (Catherine Hickland).

One of the film’s small blessings is that the Brooks family matriarch is quickly dispatched once things finally limp forward.  She is absolutely insufferable.  Her sharp tongue leads the Woman in Black to have her lips sewn shut in graphic detail by her demonic minions.  In a set piece she is hanged upside down in the chimney as the stranded group gets cold sitting in the parlor.  They break up a chair and the Hoff quips, “Good thing your wife isn’t here.  She’d probably make me pay for it.”  The fire is lit and poof.  No one notices the smell of roasting flesh until Freddie says the wood the chair is made from smells funny!  What the shit…

Anyway… there are three doors to hell: lust, avarice and ire.  The ghost of the long dead German actress witch introduces the set piece murders.  What is it with Italians and the doors to hell?  It’s almost easier to name an italian film that has a door to hell in it than one that doesn’t.  Ma Brooks is a greedy and cheap old bat so door one, avarice, makes perfect sense.  Jerry and Linda sexing it up is easy to peg as the second door to Hell through lust.  Ire…seems not to make an appearance in this flick.  For a horror film with such a bleak ending and Italian sensibilities it is shocking that the third door didn’t get kicked down as this group of mostly unlikable characters drives the world into hell as often happens in these flicks (i.e.. ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH).  

A police cruiser with the town’s lone officer drives through town with lights on for no apparent reason and equally inexplicably Laurenti cuts to this scene several times.  It appears to be filler under the pretense that the viewer is curious about what Jerry’s father is doing back on the mainland…The final act is ridiculous with two of the survivors ending up on the shore awaiting rescue and then having to re-enter the hotel for the missing kid.  In true Italian fashion the erstwhile hero meets his end as Linda Blair cranks both the hair and the ham all the way up to 11.  

The acting ranges between a low of godawful and a high of atrocious.  The Hoff does the lions share of atrocious acting which is sad because he really isn’t on screen that much.  Linda Blair and Michael Manchester tied at godawful with Blair getting the advantage because Manchester was like six years old at the time.  The practical effects are pretty good.  The lip sewing scene actually made my skin crawl a tad and the roastings looked pretty good overall too.  

The “doorway” effect is a site to behold.  It comes from way out of left field and left this viewer clutching his side laughing.  Then the ever-present reflecting brooch pin was a pain in the ass and some of those scenes show some major source damage.  Other ham handed mistakes such as nighttime exteriors and daytime interiors just add to the enjoyment of this Joe D’Amato produced flick.  WITCHERY is a fun twisted flick and well worth the time to watch.  Did I mention Satan sexually assaults one of the characters?  This flick does have D’Amato’s hand on it and it shows…there’s also a baby munching scene…WITCHERY has a lot going for it plus the Hoff.  A weird flick from late in the Italian DTV era.

The Shriek Show DVD is pretty bare bones.  There are some trailers: SHADOW DEAD RIOT, JUST BEFORE DAWN, A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, DEVIL DOG.  There’s also a reel of Joe D’ Amato trailers.  It’s a pretty clean transfer of a source that is rough in some places presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.

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