I think a good number of people have tried a Ouija (a combination of the French and German words for yes, Oui - Ja) board at least once in their lives, most likely when they were younger, as we're generally more open and accepting in believing in the supernatural possibilities inherent within the game. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's a board inscribed with all the letters of the alphabet, numbers from 0 to 9, and the words yes, no, maybe, and good-bye. There's also a piece called a planchette, which is a movable three-legged device people would put their fingertips on, and then pose questions that would be answered by whatever supernatural elements may be around at the time, spelling out words or pointing to the words printed on the board. Do spirits actually move the planchette, sending messages from beyond the grave? No...the movements are really caused by unnoticeable, and usually unintentional, forces of the persons whose hands are on the planchette, and usually end up spelling out gibberish and unintellible words.
Witchboard (1985), written and directed by Kevin Tenney, presents the notion that the Ouija board is actually a link to supernatural, even a portal at times, and what happens when a particularly nasty spirit decides to try and make use of the portal. The film stars Tawny Kitaen (yes, the girl from the Whitesnake video), Todd Allen, who appeared in the very excellent western Silverado in the same year, and soap opera regular Stephen Nichols. As the film begins, we are in the midst of a party, hosted by Linda (Kitaen), and her boyfriend Jim (Allen). It seems to be going alright, although it seemed like there was something lacking from your typical 80's party, namely the cocainia...anyway, for some unknown reason, Linda has invited her old beau, Brandon (Nichols), and the tension soon rises between Brandon and Jim, as they used to be best friends, and Brandon blames Jim for stealing Linda away from him...whether he did or not, we will find out later, but mostly this just established Linda as a real bonehead for not taking more care in making up the guest list. As a tension breaker, Linda suggests they play a game Brandon has brought, an Ouija board. Brandon, a true believer, claims to have contacted many spirits, and also claims it's all the real deal, and not some hokem pokem child's game. To prove it, he demonstrates the boards' power by trying to contact a deceased boy named David. Contact is made, but there are a few who aren't convinced, Jim being one, and he basically says it's all a bunch of hooey, which seems to agitate the spirit, and causes some unexplained phenomena included the popping of the tires on Brandon's car. As the guests leave, Brandon forgets to take his Ouija board, and so Linda starts using it by herself, which is dangerous as she soon starts acting strange as the spirit begins taking possession of her. Questions begin arise, after a couple of particularly gruesome death of a friend, regarding the true nature of the spirit, its' intentions, and its' true identity. Jim and Brandon manage to put aside their differences as they see changes within Linda, and fear she may be suffering from her contact with the unknown. Who is the spirit and what does it want? You'll find out...
This really isn't a bad little movie, as there seemed to be more emphasis on the suspense elements within the story rather than just a usual slasher picture that was so very common throughout the 80's. The direction was capable, much better than I would have though, considering this was Tenney's first film, although the script did suffer some fairly lame dialog. One thing I found highly annoying was the character of Jim and his constant use of the word `babe' when talking to his girlfriend Linda. The development of the characters was a bit weak, especially the point of Jim's inability to say the words, "I love you" to his girlfriend. His standard reply whenever she would speak the line was "I know you do". This hardly endears him to the viewing audience, but it does set up for him to profess his love later on, as he and Linda endure much by the end of the movie, and allows him to appear to have grown through the ordeal...it was just such an obvious plot device. Ms. Kitaen did better than I would have thought, as she does appear to possess a modicum of talent, and maybe with a stronger script, she might have come off better (there's even a brief nude shower scene). I felt a little disconnected from the story, as the protagonist was an invisible spirit throughout, whose motives were a bit murky until near the end. We finally do meet him, but I couldn't help think the movie would have benefited had he appeared sooner in the film. The plot does manage to stay on track through, avoiding major plot holes, and wraps up nicely with a less than shocking twist. It did plod along at more than one point, causing the film to run longer than I thought necessary, at a whopping 98 minutes. The worst part about the film was that of character Zarabeth, a medium, played by character actress Kathleen Wilhoite. You may remember her starring opposite Charles Bronson in the 1986 film Murphy's Law. I find her so completely annoying on so many levels.
The wide screen print here looks great and special features include a commentary track by the director and a couple of producers. Also included is a 23 minute `making of' documentary, a theatrical trailer, and a couple of TV spots. Finally, inside the case, is a mini reproduction of an Ouija board, complete with pointer. Anchor Bay does a great job with the release, so while the film is three stars, I am giving one extra for the overall release.