In general, 1989 wasn’t a high point in horror cinema. It’s not exactly the worst year ever, but bringing us such luminaries as, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child’, ‘C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.’, and ‘Elves’ certainly makes you aware that you’re in a period of decline. (1989 did bring the world, ‘Tetuso: the Iron Man’, and ‘Things’, so even a less than stellar year can contain some gems.) ‘Witchtrap’ summarizes late eighties horror perfectly, it’s kind of lazy, there’s way too much comedy, and it's occasionally clever, but usually it’s painfully stupid.
'Witchtrap' opens with a multi-camera, drawn out, fatal railing dive of the “The Amazing Azimov”, yet another victim of the legendary Lauter House, or as it is better known: Slaughter House (get it?). The house’s owner, Devin (Kevin Tenney) is desperate to clear all the evil out of the place so he can turn it into a bed and breakfast. He hires a few different flavors of psychics (Judy Tatum and Rob Zapple), a videographer (Linnea Quigley!), and a few employees of Q-T Security (James W. Quinn, Clyde Talley II and Jack W. Thompson). Oh, and this is probably a good time to mention that the house’s last inhabitant was Avery Lauter, a stage magician/psychic/Satanist/serial killer who was found dead, minus a heart. Can the psychics lure Avery into their ghost-sucker (the titular Witchtrap) before he can resurrect himself and complete the ritual to become immortal?
‘Witchtrap’ is a horror comedy in which the deliberate humor isn’t funny at all, but several moments are unintentionally hilarious.The film tries so hard to be clever, but often falls painfully short. Not for lack of trying though. Nearly every single line of dialog that isn’t expository is a one-liner. Some true classics include:
“I always knew you were a scumbag, but I never knew how scummy a bag you could be.”
“I'll tap dance on your face like Bojangles Robinson!”
Sadly, the written word can’t quite replicate the monotone strained efforts put behind these lines. Try using your favorite text-to-speech program to create a close approximation.
Blessedly, the movie doesn’t skimp on head wounds, shower faucets jammed into necks, explosions or melting faces, and those moments, although done simply, are effective and certainly add some punch after endless plodding scenes of people wandering around the house. They do kill of Linnea Quigley way too early and as such, the movie loses some of its energy, at least until they amp up the psychic attacks again.
‘Witchtrap’ hasn’t seen much love; it was released on VHS but has yet to receive a DVD or even a Netflix Instant View. As it slowly grows in notoriety there is always hope.
Witchtrap’ was a follow-up film to Tenny’s successful ‘Witchboard’ (1986). I don’t think ‘Witchtrap’ is anywhere near as well put together as ‘Witchboard’ but I found it vastly more entertaining. It’s proof that even amongst the doldrums of 1989 horror there are a few enjoyable moments… providing you don’t set your sights too high.