Laura (Kathleen Beller) is preparing to go out with her boyfriend, Michael (Michael Brandon), only they are running late because he can’t find his cufflinks. I hate it when that happens! Anyway, during the search, Laura and her slightly kooky roommate, Cindy (Sherri Stoner), find an old Ouija board in the closet. Laura and Michael go out, and Cindy lights some candles and tries to contact the spirit world. Alone.
While we have certainly learned over the years from a horror movie education that one shouldn’t use a Ouija board alone, or, in some cases, at all, Cindy’s problem isn’t with the spirits. Her problem is with the black-gloved maniac who comes in to kill her while she’s in the middle of her seance. Right then, Laura comes home and climbs up the fire escape, having lost her keys. Although she sees the murder happening through the window, by the time she summons the police and they break in, the murderer is gone along with Cindy. Worst of all, a gruff detective played by Dennis Franz (who else?) thinks that Laura made the whole thing up.
Oh, did I say worst of all? Well, even worse, Laura may not even be Laura. It turns out that her whole life matches with that of a fictional character in a series of young adult detective books, her resume is fabricated so she loses her job, and she conveniently forgot to tell Michael she’d had electroshock therapy in the past. Or had she herself forgotten? She might be a liar, or she may have amnesia and not remember why someone is trying to kill her. Because he is still stalking her, even though nobody else has seen him. And what about the message Cindy took from beyond, left by a guy named David who claimed to have been killed in their apartment in 1978? What the hell is going on?
Deadly Messages is a lot of fun, even though it’s dangerously close to being a chick-in-peril movie. It actually, being from 1985, does form a nice bridge from the classic TV horror movies and the Lifetime thrillers we see today, because there really is something supernatural going on with the Ouija board. I don’t know why, but the paranormal makes almost any movie a lot better in my opinion. It’s just unfortunate that we have to also wade through the tension that comes from Laura not being believed, or believable, but I guess that’s where the “thrills” come in. The rest is a pretty satisfying stalker/ghost story.
Also, it has the awesome horror movie trait of including wacky minor characters. There’s a guy Laura runs into at the mall who insists the only reason she doesn’t remember him is because he used to wear a toupee, and then snatches a wool cap off of another customer’s head to show her what he’d look like with “hair.” There’s a pawn shop employee who has to deny Laura a gun because of a waiting period, but he then follows her out to her car and sells her the gun anyway for an extra 50 bucks. Best of all, weirdo character actor Charles Tyner plays the horror movie-loving desk clerk at the motel where Laura stays, and does a little of the quirky acting with which he also provided extra texture to movies like Harold and Maude. While Deadly Messages is no Harold and Maude, it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of the 70s TV horror movie who don’t mind a little 80s TV flavor.