I have a serious psychological condition: I am compelled to watch any ripoff of The Legend of Hell House. It does not matter if it was made in Turkey and lacks English subtitles. It could even be a shot-on-camcorder fan fiction version, starring furries dressed in llama suits, recorded in a hotel room at an anime convention. If it falls under the category of “investigators are trapped in a haunted house with a murderous ghost,” I will watch it.
Therefore, I was beyond delighted when I found Witchtrap, a late 80s B-movie in which a team of psychics and detectives try to exorcise the ghost of a satan-worshipping magician (J.P. Luebsen) from a mansion which the ghost’s nephew (director Kevin Tenney) wants to turn into a hotel. I was even happier when, in the first five minutes, a guy in a jacket with sequined lapels took the world’s longest slow-motion dive out of a second floor window because of the ghost. Then the head investigator (Judy Tatum), a lady who looked like my eighth grade home ec teacher, showed her boobs in the tub, in a scene that could have been played out absolutely anywhere in her house besides the tub. Okay, maybe I wasn’t as happy about the boobs as I was about the guy who tried to fly away from the ghost. But I was happy about what the blood on the concrete and the gratuitous boobage represented: pure exploitation.
Witchtrap has some inventive carnage, like a ghost that throws bullets fast enough to splatter brains on the wall, and Linnea Quigley being killed by the shower head flying out of the wall and ripping out her throat. I was also pleased with the constant stream of smartass dialogue. Most of it came from the mouth of the detective played by James W. Quinn, who got to deliver such gems as “You’re going up there to investigate Casper the fucking ghost; you don’t need a detective, you need Bill Murray.” His partner (Clyde Talley II) got some good lines too, such as, “I’ll tapdance on your face like Bojangles Robinson!” Gold.
But while Quinn was pretty charismatic, some of his costars didn’t do as well with their straight man (or woman) roles. Tatum’s character was so awful that I wanted to cheer when she got an axe through the head. The physical medium/winner of the 1988 Mall of America Joan Cusack look-alike contest (Kathleen Bailey) spent the entire movie faking violent orgasms as the ghost used her as a conduit into our plane, when she wasn’t busy preaching a sermon about Gawd and the Debbil. The other medium (Rob Zapple) did a good job being possessed, though, and I will admit that the actresses were saddled with delivering most of the OMG serious lines in what was supposed to be a ridiculous movie.
Whatever. When you’ve got a ghost who can possess someone and make her chug an urn full of cremains, or will a guy’s head to explode, who can complain about anything, right? 80s junkies could do a lot worse than this. It’s not a lost classic, but it’s a super fun artifact.