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June 14, 2011

The Ballad of a Witchboard Survivor (Guest Post by Dod of The WGON Helicopter)

(Note from The Mike: Today's guest at FMWL is none other than the very cool Dod of The WGON Helicopter.  Dod is a....well, we'll just say he's a veteran in '80s horror fan terms, and he's hear to relay one of his favorite experiences as he fought to survive the '80s!  Enjoy his piece below, and don't forget to head over and check out his site for more fantastic commentary on horror flicks!  Thanks for joining us, Dod!)
 When the call went out for horror bloggers to write a little something about horror in the 80's, I had to snap to attention.  I not only lived in the 80's, but I partied my way through a majority of those years.  Horror movies played a big role in my entertainment menu, and one film in particular somehow found its way into our VCR time and time again.  It was a film that consisted of one part delicious cheese and several parts pure, unadulterated 80's.  I'm speaking, of course, of 1986's Witchboard.
Written and directed by Kevin Tenney, Witchboard wasn't just produced in that heady decade.  It damn near symbolized the decade.  I can still remember it clearly - well, as clearly as I could.  February, 1988:  After a night of Busch Light and Pisanello's Pizza, wandering into one of the many local video stores in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, looking for something to watch.  Three Men And A Baby?  No, too cutesy.  Gymkata?  No, too awesome.  Hardly Working with Jerry Lewis?  By all that is holy, no.  Witchboard?  Well, why not for at least the fourth time.  Besides one of the guys on our dorm room floor hadn't seen it yet, so there you go.  Piling back into my roommate's old K-Car - I am not making this up - we ventured back for some good ol' Oujia-themed goodness.
If you haven't seen it, Witchboard is the story of Jim and Linda (Todd Allen and Tawny Kitaen), a young couple in love but not without a few issues.  A love triangle of sorts exists as Linda's snobby ex-boyfriend and Jim's ex-best friend Brandon (Stephen Nichols) still has a thing for Linda and takes pot shots at Jim whenever he can.  He's also an expert on the Ouija and demonstrates his prowess at a party by contacting the spirit of a little boy named David.  After leaving the party in a huff due to a little spat with Jim, Brandon leaves behind the Ouija board.  Linda gets all adventurous and uses the board to call on David again, and they develop a quick bond.  But Linda's breaking a cardinal rule of Oujia by using the board by herself.  Weird things begin happening, from the innocuous (finding Linda's lost ring) to the insidious (Jim's buddy is killed in an "accident").  Linda's becoming addicted to the board, but Jim has his doubts about it.  He and Brandon kiss and make up without the kiss and investigate this David spirit on their own.  A call to a psychic (Kathleen Wilhoite) ends badly and Linda has a rough encounter with what she thinks is David.  Jim and Brandon go on a road trip where bridges are mended, clues are discovered, and hatchets are buried...literally.  It all spirals into a showdown between Jim, Linda (as possessed by a toothy bloke called Malfeitor), a police detective who thinks Jim's responsible, and the titular board.

Everything about this movie screams the 1980's.  Tawny Kitaen is in it, with beautiful big hair.  She was not far removed from one of my all-time favorite comedies in Bachelor Party and was just about at her Whitesnake car-dancing peak.  With all the legal troubles she's had over the recent years, it's easy to forget just how gorgeous she was in 1987.  Kathleen Wilhoite is in it.  She was guest on a slew of 80's TV shows like Family Ties and Cagney & Lacey as well has having a supporting role in the iconic Road House.  Stephen Nichols is in it.  He was in TV's pop culture soap opera phenomenon General Hospital which had enjoyed its most popular run ever just a few years before with the whole Luke and Laura storyline, which involved intrigue and spies and a giant ice ray that could freeze a city.  But how would I know?  I don't watch soaps.  Ahem...
The colors, the clothing, the hair.  Hell, the very look of the film...it's all the 1980's.  And it all ends with a rockin' hair band anthem for its theme song ("Bump In The Night" by Iannis Xenakis).  I don't care if it seems cheesy now.  I don't care if the movie's only slightly creepy compared to the kind of movie I enjoy now in 2011.  It was about the fun.  It was about a bunch of goofy, pizza-filled, Busch Light-fueled dudes kicked back in their Central Michigan University dorm room, not caring about what was happening outside, not caring what the next 10, 20, or 30 years would bring us.

If Witchboard was bad, we didn't care.  It was good to us, and now all these many years later, it's absolute nostalgia.  You want a time capsule of the "Me Decade"?  Fire up the old VCR and pop in that worn VHS tape of Witchboard (or pop in the DVD, I won't judge), order a pizza, and take a trip back in time that doesn't require 1.21 gigawatts.

A big thank you to The Mike for allowing me to be a part of the 80's horror celebration!

Now please enjoy the trailer:


Oh, and a bonus! Please to enjoy the aforementioned song "Bump In The Night":

5 comments:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I love Kevin Tenney for Night of the Demons. I wonder why I haven't seen Witchboard yet . . .

Great review! You make the film sound phenomenally creepy (which is good enough) as well as assure us that it leaks 80s goodness from every pore (which is extra awesome).

Syrin said...

I've never heard of this one, but you had me at Tawny Kitaen. Definitely going to have to check this one out.

Jinx said...

Wonderful stuff! I love Witchboard so much! I spent my youth aspiring to have Tawny Kitaen's hair, it will forever be my dream hair.

Dod said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

Tawny Kitaen is easily one of my top symbols of the 80's. LOVED her in "Bachelor Party" and then this movie. Oh, that hair!

I call the movie cheesy, but it's with great affection - always felt comfortable watching it.

The Mike said...

I never connected with Witchboard when i first saw it, but this loving account has me certain to revisit it soon. Thanks much Mr. Dod!