Way before they were in vogue in horror, Ouija boards made the odd appearance here and there in our movies. Rarely did we get movies that made them the focus of the story, especially not in the 80s. Enter Witchboard, a cult horror released in 1986.
Brandon (Stephen Nichols) has a Ouija board that he uses to communicate with the spirit of a young boy named David. Eager to impress Linda (Tawny Kitaen) at a party, he summons the spirit of David to show off.
No-one really buys into it even though the board is violently thrown across the room. One person in particular who is unimpressed is Jim (Todd Allen) who happens to be Linda’s boyfriend.
When Brandon leaves, he accidentally forgets the Ouija board which Linda then uses the next day to contact David. She sparks up a friendship with the spirit but at the same time, accidents that could cost Jim his life, keep happening around him. One in particular sees a piece of drywall crush his colleague at construction site a moment after Jim moved out of the way.
If all of that wasn’t rough enough for the man, Linda’s behaviour begins to change. She gets angry, starts swearing and isolates herself. Brandon begins to suspect that David is jealous of Jim and trying to control Linda. He convinces Jim to allow a medium named Zarabeth (Kathleen Wilhoite) to hold a séance with Linda. At this they convince David to leave Linda alone even though he protests his innocence. However, later Zarabeth is killed and Linda is violently attacked.
Is David just a jealous spirit or did something worse and more evil come through the Ouija board too?
Witchboard is a somewhat entertaining horror film with a mysterious story that plays out smartly. It’s one of those where you suspect you know what is going on but until it is confirmed you can’t be sure. That being said, it really lacks tension and certainly doesn’t offer anything in the way of scares.
A lot of that can be blamed on the performances. While no-one is inherently bad, it does range from uninterested to over the top silliness. The scale sees Todd Allen at one end, looking like he’s not sure what he is doing there and Kathleen Wilhoite at the other. Her psychic character is a hoot, so wacky and unusual that she lights up the screen with her silly performance. It’s a real shame that she’s not in it more even if her laugh is like nails on a chalkboard.
In the middle we get a middling effort from Stephen Nichols and a decent showing from Tawny Kitaen. Neither light up the screen but play their parts perfectly fine. Although the latter does seem to have a bit more fun near the finale.
Witchboard’s biggest flaw is that it takes itself far too seriously. What looks like it should have some humorous moments really doesn’t. That serious tone makes a lot of the slower scenes drag on that much more. A shame because we could have had something really worth crowing about here instead.
Instead we have a horror that does brighten up when certain characters are around and does tell an entertaining story. However, its flaws are way more prominent then you’d like and a lot of those are what you’ll remember when the credits roll.