Not too long ago, I posted an image of my latest t-shirt acquisition. It was a promo thing for getting a subscription to Fangoria. I proposed a challenge–tell me what anthology movie the t-shirt image referred to along with the name of the segment and the star. The first person to provide all of that information was Ann R. The image refers to Creepshow, specifically “The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill” starring none other than Stephen King. Well spotted.
Her, uh, “prize” was that she got to assign me a movie, and that movie is WitchTrap. I’d never heard of it before which is always fun, so I revved it up last night and took it for a spin. Wowzers. There is So. Much. To talk about. First of all it’s directed by Kevin S. Tenney, the same creative genius behind Witchboard (what a happy little coinkydink). Sadly, there was none Tawny Kitaen’s acting prowess to save WitchTrap from itself.
Second, let’s have a word about promotion. Clearly the folks in marketing wanted to align this movie with Witchboard in such a way that it seemed like some kind of sequel. If it please the court, I submit Exhibit A.
I think those are some right similar lookin’ W’s. Smacks a bit of the ol’ bait n’ switch, yes?
But on to the movie itself. It literally starts off with a bang. A guy staying in the haunted Lauter House autodefenestrates (impressive yeah?) and dies of rapid deceleration trauma. This leads the current owner, Devon Lauter, to contact paranormal researcher Agnes (who at the time is nekkid in the bath reading The Fall Of Atlantis, as one does). He wants her to bring her team to said mansion (nicknamed Slaughter House, ho ho).
The team consists of Agnes, her husband Felix who is a mental medium and looks like a really bad cross between Benedict Cumberbatch and Scott Bakula, Whitney who is a physical medium (Agnes explains the difference with Ye Olde Clubbe Of Elucidation), and the videographer Ginger. Ginger Kowowski. Wow indeed, as time goes on.
This merry band is accompanied by 3 security experts: Murphy, Levi, and former detective Tony. There is a brief seance upon the group’s arrival in which Agnes first communicates with Lauter through Felix who then has a seizure immediately after. Still with me? Good. So it sounds like we’re off to a flying start. Sadly, that’s all way more compelling to read about than it was to watch. This is partially because of the “acting.”
Lines sound like they’re being read, gags are lame and fall flat, and diction is inappropriate. I mean nobody who has just seen a dead body is going to calmly pronounce the word “didn’t” as “did-dint”). In general, ain’t a great deal of stagecraft goin’ on for probably the first 75 minutes.
Admittedly it is kinda fun to watch these folks plod their way through the dialogue. One notable exception is Kathleen Bailey (Whitney). She doesn’t stand out in terms of ability, but in terms of “you might wanna brush those scenery crumbs off your chin, dear.”
As for plot, precious little actually happens for about an hour. It’s revealed that late owner Avery Lauter was, as is so often the case, a warlock and probably murderer. We also meet Elwin, Avery Lautner’s groundskeeper, whose presence doesn’t seem to alarm anyone.
There’s a good deal of discussion, klunky exposition, and wandering around the house until Ginger gets whacked in the shower. I would have put up the ol’ spoiler warning, but you can see this one comin’ a mile away. From there, as expected, the team gets picked off one by one.
Practical effects, such as they are, seem for the most part pretty tired. There’s a serviceable hatchet to the head while at the opposite end of the spectrum is the ghost containment device. Apparently an unseen entity automatically gets turned into mist as it gets sucked into a “spirit vacuum.” The overall impression is that a big chunk of the budget went into the melty, drippy sloppiness of the last act. This is also where Tony (James W. Quinn) and Kathleen step up the acting somewhat.
And yet, WitchTrap has its weird little charms. The jumpscares are bad, but they’re still jumpscares. More than once they follow the “fooled ya” jumpscare immediately with a real or kinda real one. There’s also a decent Scanners-like head explosion. I’ll be watching again if I’m honest. And so, thanks to Ann R for putting this on my radar!
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