Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft III: The Kiss of Death

Was the third Witchcraft charmed? Find out with Cody in the new Witching Wednesday.


Teal blue fog billows across the screen, candles burn, and we get a look at someone's collection of ceremonial masks as the title sequence begins to play out. The film's full title shows up in an odd way - the "Witchcraft III" part gets the screen to itself with a special font and pentagram logo background. Then it cuts to the interior of a nightclub, where the "The Kiss of Death" subtitle appears on its own, in the same font as the rest of the credits. It's like a TV show. "Witchcraft III" is the name of the show and "The Kiss of Death" is the episode.

The first scene is in the nightclub, where I'm not sure there's any music playing other than the movie's score. The place is packed and what is very present on the soundtrack is the familiar "public gathering" drone of many groups of people having separate conversations simultaneously. A horrible noise to my ears. There's a man on the prowl in the club. His eyes scan the crowd and find a woman sitting alone at the bar, smoking and looking interested in him. He's found his prey. He goes to her and steps in between her legs, rubbing her arms and kissing her neck before even asking her name. Her name is Marlena, and we'll eventually find out that his is Louis.

Louis leads Marlena out to the alley behind the club, unzips her top and they start making out. She doesn't appreciate some of his rough moves, but it gets worse - he pulls back, his eyes glow and he roars as goes back in for another kiss. The screen fills with red fog and strange light optical effects appear on the woman's throat as the man sucks the life out of her through her mouth. This must be the titular kiss of death. I get it!

Louis sticks Marlena's body in a nearby cardboard box and walks off to his convertible, where there's an unconscious blonde, Roxy, in the backseat. He kisses Roxy and, judging by the teal glow that appears on her head, transfers Marlena's lifeforce into her, awakening her. She feels "OK, I guess" after the transfer, but doesn't want to wait so long for the next one. She wants to stay with Louis forever, he assures her that she will. She has no choice. Roxy gets out of the car to walk around to get in the passenger seat, showing off her pants that on the outer part of her leg only have a few strips of material standing in for pant legs from her waist to her calves. It's time for Louis and Roxy to move on and she wants to go to a big city.

The title sequence finishes over shots of the big city. Producer Holly T. MacConkey has a great name. We join franchise hero William as he walks to work, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. We've again jumped several years ahead in William's life, he's now a pro bono defense attorney and he's changed his last name again. Three movies, three last names. Churchill, Adams, now Spanner. Charles Solomon returns from part 2 to play the character again.

William is meeting with his current client, a young man named Ruben Carter (hmm...) who's facing the death penalty for the murder of his next door neighbor, Gloria Simpson. Ruben's fingerprints were all over Gloria's house, which Ruben explains by saying he was over there a lot to do odd jobs for her. His fingerprints were also on a beer bottle that was under her bed, which he is less willing to explain. The meeting is soon joined by Reverend Jondular, whose church Ruben's mother works at. Wearing traditional African clothing and walking with a cane that has a fancy top featuring a crystal ball in a monster's mouth, Jondular shakes William's hand and seems to instantly know everything about him. Jondular advises Ruben to tell William the truth about his relationship with Gloria, but Ruben sticks to his odd jobs story.

The prosecuting attorney, Vivian Hill, calls William out into the hallway. She informs William that Ruben's semen was found on Gloria's body, clearly Gloria laughed off Ruben's advances so he raped and killed her. Hill gives William two hours to change Ruben's plea. Hill is in the running for Assistant D.A. and can make William's life pleasant or miserable depending on whether or not he complies.

When William updates Ruben on the situation, Ruben reveals that he was having an affair with Gloria. They were in love with each other, despite her being married and fifteen years older than him.

William meets with Hill afterward, maintaining Ruben's innocence and suggesting that Hill's political ambitions are clouding her judgment. She still demands that William change Ruben's plea. William has nine minutes to do so when it cuts away.

It's later in the day and William is at a bar, having an after work drink. His fashion designer girlfriend Charlotte walks in, spins to show off her floral print dress, then begins telling him the news that she's got a new buyer. William accurately guesses the details - psychic powers? - then comments that he has a "very talented girlfriend". Charlotte replies, "Whatever happened to being somebody's lover? Or fiancee? Or wife?" William grimaces and orders his "significant other" some champagne, but she has to split. She informs William that there's chicken in the fridge at home, then leaves. A girl sitting near William comments, "She has a nice way of breaking a date." She is Anna, and after some chitchat, William agrees to buy her a drink, "another lift". "Lift?" "Lift of the spirits." "Ooh, I like that."

The pleasantness is interrupted when Anna's angry ex-boyfriend Carl barges in and confronts her about being back to picking up guys in bars. He calls her names and grabs her, intending to drag her back to his place. William attempts to intercede and Carl pushes him to the ground with the warning, "You stay the f--- out of it or I'll f--- up your face." Carl and Anna are continuing to struggle when Louis grabs Carl by the wrist and says, "Don't do that." Louis's eyes turn into cat's eyes, so Carl informs him and William, "You're an asshole. You're both a couple of assholes," then leaves.

Louis helps William up, then they both have drinks with Anna while the men discuss their careers. Louis claims to make his money through real estate and betting on baseball. When they leave, Louis offers to walk Anna home. She accepts. After all, she's "over 21".

Soon, Anna and Louis are climbing onto the roof of her apartment where, with no set-up, she lets him know that "there is no boogeyman". Goofy acting ensues before Louis lays a kiss of death on her. Ugly yellow fog fills the screen this time. Roxy is watching from nearby.

While walking home, William is startled by Reverend Jondular. Jondular tells him that Ruben is innocent. The truth will emerge, the key lies with Gloria's husband. Jondular wants William's word that he will pursue this man. William gives his word. Jondular tells him, "I sense an inner force about you. You are more than you seem," and warns, "There are those around you who would do you harm."

William goes to his bedroom to find Charlotte waiting for him with candles burning and champagne poured. The new buyer bought out her whole line. William and Charlotte lay back on bed, making out. A saxophone starts playing on the soundtrack. It's sexy time. Then William sees that Charlotte is wearing his mother's star necklace, which she got out of his trunk in the attic, and he freaks out, pulling the necklace off of her. He doesn't ever want her looking through his things again. "Some things are personal." She loves him and wants to have his child, they've been living together for four years, they shouldn't have secrets from each other. William doesn't like her pressuring him about marriage. Charlotte wants him to tell her about his family. "I can't."

William goes to sleep and dreams flashbacks to images from the first two movies. Do we get to see the image of Elizabeth drooling blood in part 1 again? Of course.

The next day, Charlotte is working at a photo shoot when Louis arrives wearing his tasseled leather jacket, looking for William, who he refers to as "Billy Boy". William apparently left his wallet at the bar and Louis wants to return it. He gives the wallet to Charlotte, then talks his way into observing the photo shoot with some compliments and the claim that he used to be a fashion photographer. After the shoot, Louis and Charlotte are left alone. Louis admires a dress and since he's such a helpful, friendly gentleman, Charlotte tells him that he can have it for free. She then says that he can keep her company while she makes lunch. We don't get to see any of that.

At City Hall, William and Hill discuss the Ruben Carter case while strolling down a hallway. William has heard that Gloria's husband had an extensive history of domestic violence, but can't confirm. Hill tells him that the husband isn't a suspect, he was out of town when the murder was committed. She mocks William and tells him to stop wasting time, let justice be served, let her lock Ruben up so he can't kill again.

At the bar he picked Anna up in yesterday, Louis gives Roxy the Charlotte-designed dress as a gift. Roxy wants to "pay this babe a visit", they can do it now that she's let Louis into her house. Louis says it's not time for Charlotte yet. Roxy is starting to feel bad, she "needs some". William arrives and when the scene first cuts to him, it's one of those awkward "actor starts moving from a dead stop" moments that you sometimes see in low budget movies, giving the impression that William had been standing across the room just staring at Louis for a while, thumbs in his belt. He thanks Louis for returning his wallet and intends to leave, but Roxy tells him that he's too handsome to go home yet, so Louis invites him to join them for a drink.

Louis and Roxy notice William's demeanor change when he spots Hill at another table. They start asking questions, and by the time they're finishing off a bottle of wine, Louis is giving William advice on how to handle Hill. String her up by her toes and give her fifty lashes, or in other words, tell her exactly what he thinks of her, get it off his chest. Hill leaves and William follows her out, leaving his keys on the table.

Hill gets into her car and William gets into the passenger seat, telling her to drive. She drives out of the parking lot and presumably William spends a while telling her off, as when we join them again she's pulling to the side of the road and telling him that she's heard enough. But William isn't finished telling her what's what - she doesn't care about Ruben, all she cares about is her career, her entire case is based on circumstantial evidence and that isn't fair, so William is going to request a stay until he's satisfied that every piece of evidence has been investigated. She tells him that his compassion can't cover up his incompetence. He accuses of her of just trying to rack up points, convicting people whether they're innocent or guilty. Hill is so upset that she gets out of her own car, just in time to get hit by William's car, driven by Louis.

Louis and Roxy get out of the car, Roxy saying that they didn't see Hill, she just stepped right out in front of them. Hill is badly injured, but alive. Louis consoles William, "This is what you wanted anyway, isn't it?" William asks him if he's crazy. Louis and Roxy convince William to leave, he had nothing to do with the accident, he doesn't need to get caught up in this mess, it would hurt his career. They'll take Hill to the hospital and keep William's name out of it. William drives off in the car that hit Hill. As soon as William's gone, Louis kneels beside Hill and gives her a kiss of death.

In his candle-filled church, Jondular senses that something bad is happening.

William arrives home to a lot of questions from Charlotte about his day and his strange attitude. He tells her he had a long day and lost a case. William goes up to bed and Charlotte viciously stabs a pin cushion.

At City Hall the following day, William finds Ruben, Ruben's mother Mrs. Carter, and Reverend Jondular waiting for him in a hallway. Jondular tells him the day's court session has been postponed because Hill hasn't shown up and her office hasn't heard from her. Sensing that William is troubled by this news, Jondular tells him to come speak to him anytime. Perhaps he can help. William rushes off.

Charlotte enters her house to find Louis waiting on the couch, reading a magazine and acting all smooth. She goes upstairs, leaving Louis to make her a "cool drink". She's getting undressed in the bedroom, stripped down to undergarments, when Louis walks in, holding two glasses of wine. He apologizes for walking in, but isn't quick to leave the room, buttering Charlotte up a bit and asking her to model one of her dresses for him.

William goes to their favorite bar to look for Louis and Roxy, asking the bartender if he's seen them around. The bartender doesn't know who he's talking about, William says that Louis told him he knew the bartender from the Navy. "I was never in the Navy." That guy Louis is full of it, man.

Wearing the dress Louis asked her to put on, Charlotte wanders around the house looking for him. She quickly gives up and goes back upstairs to take a bath. She's in her undies again when Louis walks into the bathroom. She tells him that she thought he left. He says, "Never," then quickly follows that with, "I shouldn't say that." She says, "It was nice to hear." Yes, it's nice to hear that he'll never leave the house she shares with William...

Louis plays with her hair and the strap of her camisole. She's tempted to kiss him, leaning forward but then pulling back. Eventually, he does give her a kiss. Not a kiss of death, a regular kiss. It's during this kiss that William walks in on them. William throws Louis out. "Calm down, Billy Boy, it was just a little kiss."

After shoving Louis outside, William asks him where Hill is. Louis tells him, "She didn't make it." She died on the way to the hospital. Louis didn't go to the police, even though Roxy wanted to. They just buried Hill to keep everyone out of trouble. "Remember, don't forget to wash the blood off your car." Louis leaves.

Charlotte packs her bags while arguing with William about her attraction to Louis. It wouldn't have happened if things were right between them, she doesn't want a relationship with Louis, it's just that he made her feel good, wanted, adored. William tells her that Louis is dangerous. Charlotte tells him, "You've just gone from cold to crazy." William sits down and spills the beans about the death of Hill and his feeling that it wasn't an accident, it was murder.

The conversation moves down to the kitchen, where Charlotte makes William a large sandwich while advising him to go to the police. William says he can't, there's no body and Louis and Roxy would try to frame him. He wants to work out their relationship problems, but he can't until he clears up this Hill/Louis mess. He tells Charlotte she should leave, go somewhere Louis can't find her.

William rushes into City Hall the next day to deliver news to Ruben, Mrs. Carter, and Jondular: Gloria's husband has been arrested and his alibis didn't check out. After an escape attempt, the husband confessed to the murder. Ruben has been completely exonerated. On her way out, Ruben's mother notes that William looks troubled and tells him that he should talk with Jondular.

William goes to Jondular's church later. He tells Jondular about Louis, and Jondular already knows all about what Louis really is. There are not many forces on this earth capable of stopping a creature like him, but Jondular believes that William can. William has to stop avoiding his past and fight back with the power that he hides. With the aid of Jondular's cane, William gets a glimpse into Louis's mind and is freaked out. "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Who is he? What is he?" Jondular tells him the African name for what Louis is, every culture has its own name. It's a romantic creature, it enslaves its prey by releasing its poisonous inhuman blood into their bodies. But they soon grow tired of their companions and take another. Now the creature wants William's woman. William can stop Louis with the powers handed down to him by his father. William refuses to consider this and runs out.

William goes home and calls Charlotte's parents to check on her, but Charlotte has gone out. After relaxing on the couch for a moment, William goes upstairs to the bathroom. There he finds Louis and Charlotte in the shower together, hands all over each other. Big breasts are on display. Charlotte tells William, "He promised me a child."

William awakes from this nightmare on the couch, Louis sitting nearby. "Bad dreams, Billy Boy?" William stands up to confront him, but Louis sits him back down with a boot to the stomach. Roxy comes prancing in, carrying a bunch of Charlotte's dresses. Words are exchanged and Roxy comments that William sounds angry. Louis assures her, "He's not angry, he's our friend." William's not going along with that: "I'm not your friend!" Roxy disses Charlotte's designing skills and William orders them out of his house and his life. He rushes at Louis and gets thrown against the wall.

The ringing phone brings William back to consciousness several hours later. It's Charlotte returning his call. He tells her she's always been right, he needs to stop running from his past and fight back. She wants to come home, but he tells her not to. William has a lot to tell her, but there are things he has to do first.

William goes to Jondular's church to find the Reverend dead on the floor. He steps outside and Ruben's mother walks out of the shadows. She tells him that Jondular knew of his destiny and wasn't afraid, he wouldn't want William to be afraid either. Jondular left his cane for William. William tells Mrs. Carter that Jondular was going to help him, show him how to stop Louis. She tells William, "Come help me and I will help you."

Charlotte has returned home against William's wishes and wanders around the empty house.

Mrs. Carter tells William that Jondular always listened to what was in his heart and said that was the key to spiritual powers, the heart. Cherish a good man's heart but destroy an evil man's. "Look into your heart." ... "Let Jondular's spirit guide you and don't be afraid." William uses Jondular's cane again, this time to look into Louis's soul.

Charlotte takes a cup of tea up to the bedroom, where she finds Louis and Roxy having sex in her bed. Louis says, "Welcome."

William knows what's going on. He rushes out of Jondular's church and speeds off for home as Charlotte keeps watching Louis and Roxy have sex.

Eventually, Louis gets out of bed and pulls his pants on, walking toward Charlotte. Roxy wants to finish, he tells her to shut up and shoves her away. He talks to Charlotte, assuring her that he's a wonderful lover. Roxy asks Louis what's going on, "She can't love you like I can." Louis goes back to the bed and embraces Roxy. She reiterates, "I want to be with you forever." He gives her the kiss of death.

As William continues to drive home, Louis has Charlotte trapped in the bedroom and lets her know some of what he's thinking. "I want everything you have." "You're the perfect woman for me." "Together, we'll share eternity." He throws her on the bed, pulls her top down, and starts kissing her on the neck and chest.

William finally arrives at the house and goes up to the bedroom to find Charlotte unconscious in bed, a hickey over her heart with a pulsing light in the center of it. Louis stands in the bedroom doorway, smugly informing William, "I made her mine." William starts beating the hell out of Louis with Jondular's cane, and the final battle has begun.

IMDb has a bit of trivia for Witchcraft III - Director Rachel Feldman (credited as R.L. Tillmans) was paid $1500 for her six+ months of work on the movie, which included less than ten days of filming. I'd take that at this point.

Going back to the beginning, the TV episode style presentation of the title and subtitle is kind of appropriate, because a lot of this film plays out like a twisted Halloween episode of a show created by David E. Kelley. It's heavy on relationship drama and court case discussion.

It's not exceptionally interesting, but there is still some cheeseball entertainment to it, and the douchebaggery of Louis was kind of fun. I expected more from the Jondular side of things going in, a plot summary had led me to imagine an epic voodoo vs. witchcraft vs. death kisser magic fight. Oh well. Jondular's wisdom did help William out anyway.

William no longer has the fear that his strength comes from evil, he took a look into his heart and knows that there's nothing but goodness in it. Will he use his powers more in future installments? We shall see.

A sequel followed one year later, of course. Part IV features a Penthouse Pet and a porn star, and we'll find out all about it in the next Witching Wednesday.

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