Monday, March 23, 2020

The Unpredictability of WITCHBOARD 2: THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY

There is horror that was made in the ’90s, and then—there is ’90s horror. This is an important distinction that needs to be understood. See, out of the plethora of horrors created in the ’90s, there’s a select few that literally define that era.

Often times, these specific few stand apart as ones that oozed with unpredictability. Whether it presented you with how cheesy a horror could actually be, how high a man’s head could pop off, how bloody a cabin could get, or how heartbroken you could become despite a story doused in demons and death, these horrors will forever stand out in your mind. Take for example Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway, written and directed by Kevin Tenney. While I can chat for hours about Tenney’s Night of the Demons being my favorite film, I often turn to Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway for its expertly crafted unpredictability in plot and horror pleasure. Here’s why.

Paige (Amy Dolenz) is a beautiful young woman that moves into a new apartment. She’s in pursuit of a new life as an artist, one far-removed from her years in the corporate office or next to a boyfriend who considered this dream absurd. In her apartment, she finds a Ouija board that the former tenant left behind. She uses it; and soon, messages surface that claim to be from Susan (Julie Michaels), the former occupant of the apartment who claims to have been murdered. Beyond the grave, wherever her grave may be, Susan seeks revenge on her murderers. But being dead, Susan has much time to kill. She is helpful to Paige and her pursuits of this artist life. However, the perfect time will arrive when Susan is ready to collect.

While the first Witchboard mostly contained one-dimensional characters that encouraged you to focus more on the lore of the Ouija board, Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway invoked strong character development. Now remember—this was the early 90s. Much of this type of storytelling had yet to be told. Yes, you had passive women turning into strong women, but the reasons behind those transformations usually traced back to heartbreak over a man or the loss of a loved one. Not in Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway. No, ma’am. Here, our character’s transformation comes through a Ouija board, left by a murdered woman who wants to kill the bastards who did her wrong. Take that for motivation.

And since we are here, lets dig deeper into this level of unpredictability. Above, I discussed that real changes in character are usually brought on by something unexpected. Paige tried to force this change by leaping at a new place and new lifestyle. Still, this wasn’t enough to fully transform her. That mission is usually trickier to tackle, leaving most people to rely on something or someone to aid them through. Let’s call this something or someone a crutch. Often times, we don’t even realize what this crutch is until it is too late. But think for a second, what if the crutch knew that it was a crutch. It had a mind. And it had its own need. Actually, it needed you. So, it manipulates you, first by giving you your desires, your strength, your courage. And since you are now blinded by experiencing the successes you’ve always longed for, when the crutch is ready to collect; you find yourself far from the person you once were, and even worse, you have no idea how to get back. Ladies and gents, I am happy to remind you that this scenario is Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway. And what does the crutch want? First, you have to kill someone. Second, you have to give it your body. Nineties unpredictability anyone?

My last argument for Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway’s unpredictability can be found in the camerawork. We often experience the evil spirit from her viewpoint. The camera soars around, quickly approaching victims or soaring above possible prey. Now, while many (including myself) can argue that this is reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead camerawork, it is hard not to argue that Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway occasionally took on more of an action tone than a horror tone. High energy scenes could end with a car plunging through a motorboat or a woman plummeting from a high-rise apartment building. At times, I felt like I was gawking at scenes from The Fast and the Furious franchise, not a horror.

Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway remains one of my favorite films for the way it surprises me, as well as others I show. When someone tells me they don’t like horror movies, I show them this movie. When someone tells me they do like horror movies, I show them this movie. Therefore, I am telling you to watch this movie if you haven’t. It is one of the best horrors from the ’90s. Point blank. Period.

Post a Comment