Witchcraft (1988)

witchcraft_1Psst…Not to witch-splain or anything, but I think your pentagram is upside down.

AKA: Witch and Warlock

Grace Churchill just gave birth to a happy and healthy baby boy. Her husband, John, is thrilled, but tells Grace that he won’t be able to spend much time with her and the baby due to work. To counteract this, he asks Grace to move into his mother’s home for a week, so that she can help Grace take care of the baby. New grandmother, Elizabeth, seems more than happy to have them there, but it doesn’t take an expert to know that something is a little off. 

Before long, Grace is coming across strange dilapidated rooms within the home, and she begins having eerie visions about rituals and death. Her best friend Linda tries to soothe her, but the longer she stays in the house, the more she realizes that she needs to get her son and herself out of there before something truly terrible happens.

Witchcraft_2Too late.

Witchcraft is yet another movie originally distributed by Troma (Yay!), as well as the starting point for the (surprisingly long) Witchcraft film franchise which, as of 2020, is up to sixteen films. Yes, sixteen. Considering I didn’t even know this franchise existed until last year, that’s a staggering number. Even the Friday the 13th series is only up to twelve, and that includes the reboot and a crossover. 

But if you’re as shocked with that number as I was, try not to feel too bad about it. A modicum of research reveals that the series is primarily known for its length, its relative trashiness and its tendency to reuse the same basic plot point over and over (and over) again. So unless you’re seriously lacking some softcore porn in your life, you’re not missing out on much. However, unlike the rest of the series, the origin story seems to be an outliner.

Witchcraft_3

Of course, that’s not to say that the film is really all that much better than the films that followed it. One has to remember that this is a Troma film, and Troma is one of the kings of corny, B-movie schlock. But Witchcraft is also a bit of an outlier itself in the Troma catalogue, as the film plays it’s horror angle pretty straight, with only a small amount of (intentional) humor or corny-ness. Perhaps they couldn’t think of a way to shoehorn any humor into this Rosemary’s Baby inspired rip-off, or perhaps they just wanted to do something different. Whatever the case, there is only one character here that is intentionally used for comic relief, and even her antics are used sparingly. The rest of the film’s humor comes from enduring the film’s poor acting, bad special effects, and some of it’s very odd plot holes.

Witchcraft_4
Hmm…Never a good sign when the priest looks at a baby like this.

Okay, I must admit, as far as the acting goes, it’s less bad and more… ‘meh.’ It’s actually pretty subdued as far as Troma films go. Most everyone here is pretty serious, but there are some notable moments of actors either trying too hard or just not having the chops to pull off the emotion needed to become more invested in a scene. For instance, the actress who plays Grace is overtly sweet and cute and can pull of unease and concern well enough, but the more overtly ‘panicky’ moments just don’t gel. But hey, at least the villains manage to maintain an ominous aura throughout the film. Granted, staring creepily at people isn’t all that hard, but I appreciate the consistancy non the less.

Witchcraft_5
This lady was a pro.

As for the effects, most of it is either practical or subtle film overlays, so the viewer isn’t condemned with horribly recurring CGI. As for the quality of those effects though, well…. There’s a good bit of blood throughout the movie, but it’s not nearly enough to make the true gorehounds happy. You do get to see a priest cursed with a horrible case of facial boils off himself, but the closer you look at it, the more that makeup looks like a caked-on mess. And the less said about that sad looking, decapitated head, the happier we’ll all be.

Doesn’t mean I’m not going to show it to you, though.

Witchcraft_6Yes, gaze upon this sad bastard and weep.

Witchcraft_7

Really though, my biggest issue with Witchcraft had less to do with the technical side, and more to do with the plot. We’re never told why Grace was chosen to be the mother of New Saten, or why she seems to be having all these supernatural experiences in the house. Is it an effect of the house? Is Grace a witch and just not know it? Are her husband and mother-in-law just jerks? No idea. If John’s family is supposed to be filthy rich, then why is half the house a dilapidated mess? Even better, if they have that much money why did anyone think forcing the new mom to stay at grandma’s was the best course of action instead of, say, hiring a nanny and staying at home? Or hell, forget the nanny, they could have asked Lina for help. She seemed more enamoured with the kid than his own mother. I guarantee she would have jumped at the chance to help. And that doesn’t even begin to get into the motivations of the butler, who seemed to know exactly what Elizabeth was up to but continued to work there anyway. Did he just not care, or did he fully support witchy grandma and change his mind? Alas, we’ll never know. 

Witchcraft_8I find it hard to believe that a single flower persuaded him to switch sides, but maybe he doesn’t get out much.

So is Witchcraft any good? It’s… okay. The acting is okay. The effects are okay. And the plot is fine enough as long as you don’t actually try to think about it. Basically, it’s a serviceable enough B-movie as long as you don’t look too hard. It is slogged down by a bunch of extended ‘meandering’ scenes in order to pad out the length, but as far as Troma movies go, it ain’t that bad. I’m still not sure how the hell this bland little film spawned so many sequels, and I don’t think I can force myself to watch too many more if they get progressively worse from here, but the first one is interesting enough that I’m glad I gave it a go.

Witchcraft is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Vimeo On Demand and Troma NOW. (I didn’t know they had their own streaming service. Neat.)

It is also available on DVD.

Witchcraft_rentWitchcraft_dvd

Michi

3 thoughts on “Witchcraft (1988)

  1. Awesome review, this has been sitting in my Amazon Prime queue for weeks; I am going to have to get on with this one soon! (Also, had no idea there were friggin’ 16 of them! Jesus!)

    Like

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