A Journal Of The Dark Arts
With its dollar store costumes and Casio soundtrack, the only horror on this shot-on-video dreck is that it’s spawned FIFTEEN sequels to date!
Let’s face it, as horror lovers, we often have to wade through a torrent of bad movies to find the gold and hidden gems. This is especially true when you get into the territory of low-budget horror, often shot on and then released directly to video. So you know that it’s a bold claim, from someone who grew up in the suburbs in the ’80s with only a video card to keep him company, that Witchcraft is among the worst movies i’ve ever seen!
That’s not that uncommon among Z-grade horror movies. The trouble is that Witchcraft commits the most unpardonable sin, especially among horror movies – its boring. Seemingly endless shots of Grace Churchhill (Anat Topol) wandering through an unfinished basement that’s supposed to be some rambling, crumbling estate, almost the entirety of Witchcraft is as soggy and bloated as a mouldering cardboard box.
For the sake of due diligence, i’ll include a short summary of Witchcraft‘s plot, although if you’ve seen Rosemary’s Baby i mostly needn’t bother.
As Grace Churchill is having her baby, disturbing visions flash in her mind that show two witches being burned at the stake. It is later learned that these two people are John (Gary Sloan) and Elizabeth Stockwell (Mary Shelley, whose career really went downhill after writing Frankenstein), who were burned in the year 1687. The visions seem to stop once her baby, whom she names William, is born. Things get worse when she, her husband, and the baby temporarily move into her mother-in-law’s creepy old house. It’s here that the visions start returning, and all sorts of spooky events start happening around her, including a priest hanging himself in their backyard. Grace discovers that the two witches she saw burned at the stake are her husband and mother-in-law, and they claim William as theirs. As the two try to kill Grace in a Satanic ritual, they are killed by their mute butler, leaving Grace to save William.
So, does this cinematic atrocity really deserve a review? No, not really. But that’s what we’re here for, here at Forestpunk. We wade through the junk stores as much as museums, if not more, looking for gems and buried treasure, then come back and report what we find.
Witchcraft may be among the worst movies i’ve ever seen but that doesn’t mean its without its charms. They’re just few and far too far between. There are some gems of hideous ’80s aesthetics, from Grace’s friend Linda’s penchant for leather dresses (stylishly paired with some Big Bird orange tights), to more cheap satin nighties than you could shake a ritual dagger at. Pair this with Elizabeth’s house, where nearly the entirety of the action takes place, which is a strange amalgam of 80s yuppie pad and crumbling New England farmhouse, and Witchcraft is worth a look for those who watch horror movies for the aesthetics. If so, you might watch Witchcraft on 10x speed, as i did when i went back through looking for screenshots. It almost doesn’t seem overlong or boring at that pace.
You’d also miss out on the soundtrack, however, and it’s the only way you could. Apparently Randy Miller never got the memo on using silence to ramp up tension in horror movies. Instead, he seems enamored of his early digital synth, really putting it through its paces as he summons synthetic French horns, tympani, flutes. It’s hard to believe he would go on to work with luminaries like Sir Anthony Hopkins. He must’ve learned a thing or two when working on such cinematic materpieces as Police Academy 6: City Under Siege.
There’s a similar lack of subtlety in Witchcraft‘s editing, which comes across as a High School A/V student. You’ve never seen so many wipes, this side of a BBQ convention. There are also a few psychotropic VHS FX sequences, like the flashbacks in the mirror or the priest hallucinating flames around little baby William. These are probably Witchcraft‘s only saving grace.
It’s terrifying to think there are currently 15 Witchcraft sequels. The series would increasingly degenerate into softcore territory and genre parody. It’s a testament to the original, then, with its lack of sex and nudity. It seems to suggest they were at least trying to make a real movie.
I give Witchcraft one-and-a-half skulls – one for furnishing an entire movie from the local thrift store and another half for some junky aesthetics that could be useful for some trashy mixtapes.
You can watch all of Witchcraft on YouTube. It’s up to you if you want to do so.
Welcome to 31 Days Of Horror! Each day this month, i’ll be reviewing and recommending horror movies, in addition to other media, art, and culture relating to the Horror genre. Make sure to check back as this site’s about to run red with more delicious horror madness than you could shake a stake at.
We’ve got a pretty stacked queue already, but am always open to suggestions, recommendations, and just knowing what y’all would like to see on this site. And what are y’all watching, reading, and listening to, this Season of the Witch?
Also, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Letterboxd, for even more horror aesthetics and inspiration. Every day is Halloween here in the Forestpunk turret, so we’re looking forward to unleashing our plague of madness and wonders on the world. Happy October!