Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft XIV: Angel of Death

The release of unexpected Witchcraft sequels means that Cody has to bring back Witching Wednesdays.

In the early days of Life Between Frames, I devoted thirteen weeks to the "Witching Wednesdays" project, wherein I posted detailed breakdowns of every film in the erotic horror Witchcraft series - describing them scene-by-scene because I don't know that many people who have actually watched the Witchcraft movies. When I wrapped up the project with Witchcraft 13, I really didn't expect to be returning to the project, even though I did joke that I might quality to direct Witchcraft 14 after taking that journey through all thirteen films. I assumed the filmmakers had decided 13 was a good number to end on.

Even if a Witchcraft 14 was to be made, I never would have imagined that it would happen the way it did, five years after Witching Wednesdays was finished. Producer David S. Sterling and executive Jerry Feifer (the man responsible for all previous Witchcraft films) decided not only to make Witchcraft 14, but an entire trilogy of new Witchcraft films. A trilogy that I have heard was shot back-to-back-to-back over the course of a week and a half, on a total budget somewhere in the range of $8000 to $9000. That's a hell of a feat, and director David Palmieri was the one tasked to make it happen, in the process becoming the first director to helm three of these movies (Witchcraft 7 and 9 director Michael Paul Girard, who started his career with a film titled Over-sexed Rugsuckers from Mars, was the only one to direct two previously).

So now that three more Witchcraft exist and have been out for a little over a year, Witching Wednesdays is being brought back to gave them the same sort of coverage their predecessors received - although this time it will be a montly project rather than a weekly one.

Apparently struggling to reach an acceptable running time, the 81 minute long Witchcraft XIV: Angel of Death starts out with a title sequence that lasts for over 4 minutes. As in earlier films in the series, the title is presented with the Witchcraft logo with the number added to it, followed by the subtitle coming up as its own separate card. The credits are intercut with random footage shot around a city and shots of a young woman named Rose developing pictures in a dark room.

After developing her pictures, most of which feature her ex-boyfriend Thom, Rose goes to her bedroom to check her e-mail, we get mixed messages about what sort of character she might be when we see she has a black candle burning, a pentagram as the desktop wallpaper on her laptop, and a teddy bear sitting on her bed. She's obviously a witch, but is she a good witch or bad witch? We get a strong hint when she sees that she has received eight messages from someone named Jenny Brooks in the last twelve hours, bragging that Thom is with her now. Rose exclaims, "Damn you, Jenny Brooks! Damn you to Hell!", and while she does steam starts rising from below the screen and her voice gets demonic.

Thom and Jenny are having sex at the Sterling Motel when Jenny suddenly flashes purple, then red. She collapses on the bed, convulsing, blood running from her mouth.

The next scene sees the return of Witchcraft regulars, detectives Lutz and Garner, now played by Berna Roberts and Leroy Castanon. They're checking out the hotel room where Jenny died, and the first time we see him Garner is telling a space monkey joke while taking a leak in the toilet. Lutz is busy, and she's not amused.

Jenny died of massive blood loss from every orifice, although we only saw blood come out of her mouth. Lutz and Garner know this death be the cause of a virus, poison... or witchcraft. They would almost rather it be anything other than witchcraft, although Garner says there are some benefits to these witchcraft cases. Cue a flashback of black and white stock footage showing moments of nudity and sex from previous Witchcraft films.

From Jenny's phone, Lutz is able to deduce that Jenny stole her boyfriend Thom away from someone named Rose. Garner figures they've solved the case. "There's nothing more dangerous than a jealous woman."

Rose proves to be a good girl with bad powers when she reads about Jenny's death in the newspaper and confides in her mom Beth that she believes she was responsible for the death. This sort of thing has happened before; a girl who picked on her in fourth grade died in a car accident, a guy who spiked her drink was hit by a car. Beth tries to convince her that these things are just coincidence, and Thom might have killed Jenny. Then Beth plays with Rose's hair in an awkward, weird way.

Thom is pretty certain that Rose was responsible, and we see him intensely sending her a text message calling her the devil and saying he's going to kill her. It's a text she receives while removing his pictures from the dark room... and she gets so angry about it that steam rises from below the screen again.

Blood erupts from Thom's head as his face digitally morphs. He cries out that he's going to kill Rose, which she is able to hear from across the city. She replies, in her demon voice, "Not tonight, asshole." Or any other night, because Thom is a dead, bloody mess.

At the Silver Lake Yoga studio, owner/instructor Samuel is hit by a vision in the middle of a class and has to have his co-owner Sharon take over the class. After class, Samuel seductively informs one of the female students that this yoga studio doubles as a small coven of witches who only practice white magic.

When the student leaves, Samuel informs Sharon, "I have seen her. Her name is Rose." Sharon is shaken and shocked. Samuel saw a vision of a girl named Rose who tried to use her powers but is having problems controlling them. Sharon is confident Samuel can help her with that. He sends her on a mission: visit Rose and convince her to come back to the coven without revealing too much.

Even though Garner is sure Rose killed Jenny, Lutz has them on stakeout outside Thom's place, hoping to talk to him. Garner is intrigued by the fact that there weren't signs of a Satanic ritual in the hotel, and Lutz isn't ruling out poison just yet. Watching Garner deal with the coffee he spills on himself, Lutz says, "Jeez." Their scenes aren't great, but Roberts and Castanon do handle their interactions well.

Sharon shows up at Rose's door and tells her about the studio she has with yogi Samuel, where they have brought together a group of like-minded individuals who can, through yoga, unlock certain... she snaps her fingers three times while trying to think of the word... abilities within themselves. Rose is told that Samuel had a vision about her and can help her understand her abilities. Rose isn't buying what Sharon is selling and gets freaked out when the woman makes a move like she's going to enter the house. "Step back now!" Sharon just gives her a business card and leaves.

Over dinner, Rose again expresses concerns to Beth - she thinks she's a witch, and she thinks she caused Thom's death. Beth will not have this kind of talk in her house. She sends Rose to her room... And as soon as Rose is out of the room, Beth calls her friend Greta to tell her that Rose may be in trouble, she's beginning to know her powers.

Sharon returns to the yoga studio to tell Samuel that Rose wasn't receptive, but she could sense she is the one. When Rose got angry, her powers started to manifest. Anger must be her trigger. Sharon expects Rose to call because she has nowhere else to go, but Samuel still wants her to pay Rose another visit tomorrow. Keep the pressure on. Rose has to join them at any cost. In the meantime, Sharon and Samuel have sex on the couch in the yoga studio lobby. Just as they're getting started, before they even have their pants off, the the film cuts to the next scene - that's definitely not how it would have been done in most of the previous Witchcraft movies.

Still in their stakeout car, Lutz and Garner find out Thom has died from massive blood loss. Garner still thinks Rose is to blame, while Lutz wonders if she'll be the next victim.

Rose comes home to find that Beth is missing and a pentagram has been drawn on Beth's bedroom door in blood. Believing Beth has been kidnapped, Rose calls the police and mentions the "pentagram, you know, one of those Satanic things." You know, like she has as her desktop wallpaper. The police dispatcher tells Rose to wait for them at a neighbor's house, and as she leaves the house Sharon is walking up.

Sharon already knows Beth has been abducted, as yogi Samuel, an incredibly powerful warlock, saw everything in another vision. They also know about the deaths of Thom and Jenny, and if Rose doesn't accept their help more people are going to die. This is the first time Thom's death has been confirmed to Rose. Sharon tells Rose that Beth was taken by witch hunters who are probably trying to get to her. She wants to get Rose out of there before the cops arrive because they can't possibly understand the forces at play and will likely make things worse.

To protect Rose from the witch hunters and to help her get her powers under control, Sharon takes Rose to Silver Lake Yoga, calling ahead to let Samuel know they're on their way. Before they arrive, Samuel makes a call to someone with a raspy, evil voice to let them know "We've got the girl." The voice on the phone tells him to "proceed as planned." Samuel ends the call by saying, "Into the light, out of darkness, Aradia be praised."

Lutz and Garner arrive at Rose's house to find that franchise here Will Spanner is already there, taking a cell phone picture of the blood pentagam. If you look beside Will in this scene, you can get a glimpse of Beth and Rose's disorganized DVD collection, which includes such titles as Anaconda, The Lost Boys, Day of the Dead, and the Dawn of the Dead remake. If you look at Will, you'll see that he is yet again played by a different actor, now Ryan Cleary, and has taken to wearing guyliner.

The Greta person Beth called is a powerful white witch based out of L.A. who helps young witches harness and control their power. Greta contacted Will and asked him to check up on Beth and Rose. When told about the murders, Will realizes this situation could get pretty sticky and volunteers his services. Lutz and Garner agree to let him help them. Again.

Rose meets Samuel at the yoga studio and he tells her that if the witch hunters have her mom, they'll probably want to trade Beth for Rose. If Rose were to be taught, nurtured, and focused on killing witches, then the witch hunters would have a powerful weapon. Samuel will help her find Beth, and if she joins the coven her powers will flourish through their communal love.

Whatever else happens between Rose and Samuel is just a blur when Rose leaves their meeting, and we don't have any knowledge of it because the film cuts to the next scene, in which Rose and Sharon are joined by another member of the coven, a girl from Cleveland named Tara. Tara was being chased by witch hunters, so Sharon arranged safe houses for her across the country so she could flee to Silver Lake. Tara believes she lost the witch hunters in Tuscon. Rose agrees to let Tara stay with her until she finds her own place, even though it isn't explained how Rose is still staying at her own house after she ditched the police.

Sharon lights candles and performs a protection spell to get the witch hunters off their trail. When the candles are blown out, it's time for Tara to take a shower while the camera lingers on her body, especially interested in the back tattoo that continues down into her buttcrack.

Rose brings groceries back to the house she now shares with Tara and the girls talk over glasses of water. Tara was raised as a witch, her mom was a practicing witch her whole life and Tara started showing signs of powers when she was six, so her mom worked with her to help grown and nurture those powers. If Beth has any powers, she never showed them to Rose. Being in the coven is the first time Rose has ever felt like she belonged. Tara knows how it is to feel lost, she has felt that way since the witch hunters murdered her mom. Rose hasn't heard from the witch hunters about her mom and Samuel has been telling her to be patient. She's afraid they'll just murder Beth. What then? Tara shrugs.

Lutz and Garner are still hanging out in their car, Garner complaining that he's eating an apple instead of a steak "with all the trimmins". When this is all over, Lutz will get him that steak. In the meantime, they're going to go past Rose's house again. Garner ends the scene by grumbling, "Goddamn witches."

Samuel has another phone conversation with that creepy voice, and Samuel is told that he needs to keep Rose safe because "she is one of the seven". "She is the key." Rose is safe and suspects nothing. With guidance and training, she will become a powerful weapon. The prophecy is on their side, Kali will rise. 37 minutes into the movie, I'm getting really tired of hearing about Rose's powers needing to be nurtured.

A girl named Sasha is brought in to talk to Samuel about the fact that she has been giving away too much information about their coven during her recruitment efforts. Sasha says she was just trying to help. Samuel appears to forgive her - then sinks a knife into her stomach. He's not mad at her, he's furious. Is anyone surprised by the confirmation that Rose has fallen in with the wrong crowd?

Lutz and Garner find Rose at home and want to know why she wasn't around when they responded to the missing persons call. They ask her about Thom and Jenny while they're there, too. Rose doesn't do a good job of answering questions. When asked if she can account for her whereabouts when Thom and Jenny died, she says she was with her mom. In other words, as Garner points out, she has no alibi. Garner is ready to arrest her right here, but then Lutz says they'll check on her alibi. Which is impossible, since Beth isn't around.

For once, Lutz and Garner aren't in their car in the next scene. This time we get a shot of the exterior of the police department, then find the detectives sitting in a very cramped little room inside. Garner is eating, of course, breaking his diet, which required him to eat too many vegetables. He's not a rabbit.

Will enters the scene with the amusing line "Hey! Did I miss anything?" Will has managed to confirm that some sort of witchcraft is involved in this case, but he can't tell if it's the work of one witch or a coven. Suddenly a woman is in the room, suggesting she can help. This is Greta, a dear old friend.

The witch community has suspected for a long time that there were witch hunters in the area, but there is a greater, more evil presence at work here. Something ancient, from before time itself. Greta suggests that the coven is based out of the yoga studio. Lutz has been going through old cases and has found out about the two other people Rose caused the deaths of in her past. Will figures that Rose's powers are triggered by anger. She might not even know she's doing these things.

Rose visits with Samuel to ask if there has been any progress on finding her mom. Samuel says he has a lead, but it's nothing concrete and he doesn't even want to say anything about it yet. He does let Rose know that Beth is a very powerful witch, he has heard about her through the witches and warlocks community. Without any more information, Samuel sends Rose away and makes a call to the creepy voice person. Rose is growing impatient, they need to get these plans in motion. The creepy voice tells his "Commander" that time stops for no one. If their ceremony is going to go the way they hope, Rose has to give herself freely.

Sharon ends a class by telling her students that the more centered they are inside, the more focused their powers will be outside. If someone based a drinking game on the use of the word "power" in this movie, they probably wouldn't survive. Sharon is joined by Rose, who is hesitant to participate in any yoga classes, and Tara, who tells Sharon "that perv" is there again.

There's a guy who likes to ogle the girls in the yoga classes. Focusing on the perv, Sharon joins hands with Rose and Tara and performs a spell, cursing him with three days of pain. Light flashes through the guy's body accompanied by an electricity sound effect and he is struck by a pain that sends him running out of the room. "What's happening? This pain! This headache!" Sharon has given him a migraine. Somehow she thinks a headache will make him decide to stay away from the studio.

Sharon and Tara suggest that Rose demonstrate some of her power on an innocent student. Rose goes along with it, concentrating on the woman... Rose's hands glow and the woman's body is covered by a flash of black dots outlined in white - at first I thought this was an animal print covering her body. When the dots disappear, the woman starts to have a terrible nosebleed. She runs out of the room, hopefully not going to bleed to death like Thom and Jenny did.

Samuel senses this use of power and it makes him realize that Rose is ready for the ceremony. He makes a phone call.

Rose takes Tara home and shows her a picture of Beth. Tara asks if Beth knows Rose is a witch. Rose tried to tell her, but it just didn't work. Tara wishes she had power like Rose, but Rose isn't too pleased with her power just yet. It doesn't work all the time yet, she doesn't know how to turn it on, it just happens sometimes. Samuel will help her with that. But didn't we just see her purposely turn it on?

Tara says they're in a race against the witch hunters, who are trying to end the bloodlines of witches, who they see as an abomination. Their tactic is to destroy witches before they've figured out how to use their powers. Rose is impressed by how much Tara knows, but Tara only knows enough to survive. She wouldn't be there if it weren't for Sharon, and she wants to repay her.

Uh-oh, the heroes are closing in. Lutz, Garner, and Will show up at Samuel's yoga studio office to ask him some questions about Rose. Samuel pretends not to know much about this new member, but does suspect the police presence has something to do with those two recent murders. Not getting much from Samuel, Lutz and Garner decide to leave. Will follows, but only after making sure to shake Samuel's hand and then giving him a suspicious look.

I was hoping Will was able to see into Samuel's mind while he was shaking the guy's hand, using some witchcraft powers that he too rarely uses in this series. That wasn't the case. Will was only able to feel that Samuel is a warlock. He's just not sure what's going on with him.

The handshake also enabled Samuel to sense that Will is a warlock. He tells Sharon they need to keep an eye on him. They're concerned that Rose might have actually been involved with those two murders, control is a big issue for her. Samuel suspects Will might want Rose for something. They need to protect Rose and make sure nothing happens to her mother.

Samuel sends Sharon away to have Rose brought in by Tara at midnight. He calls his creepy voiced buddy to share the plan and to inform him that the "warlock of light" Will Spanner is in the mix - and if another warlock is there, that bitch Greta probably is as well. Creepy voice will handle Greta.

At the police department, Lutz and Garner are clearly confused as hell about the case they're working. They get some help from an "unknown caller" who sends Lutz a text telling them to be at the yoga studio at midnight.

It's bedtime for Greta, who has a pentagram desktop wallpaper on her computer just like Rose. As soon as Greta gets in bed, a prowler dressed in back is revealed to be in her apartment. He grabs a pillow and smothers her with it. Very quickly. It only takes Greta about 15 seconds to die after the pillow is put on her face.

Rose's dark room time is interrupted when Tara shows up to take her to the yoga studio, completely clueless as to why she's supposed to take her there at midnight. Maybe a coven initiation ritual? As soon as that idea is brought up, Rose is hit with a headache. She needs some water and Aspirin to deal with this. At least it's not as severe as the perv's migraine.

Lutz and Garner left their tiny, sad looking office after receiving that text message, but when we get back to the police department Garner is just sitting in that room and Lutz enters to notify him about a suspicious death they need to check out. He isn't surprised to hear the dead person is Greta, and he's not interested in checking it out. He looks over the notes Lutz took about the report, saying she has the worst handwriting he's ever seen.

Garner figures Greta's heart just gave out because she was excited to see Will, saying the woman "almost keeled over" right in front of them earlier. Something that did not happen in the earlier scene. Greta seemed perfectly fine when she was interacting with the detectives.

The detectives leave their office again, and before they get out of the police department, Lutz stops to give Will a call and deliver the bad news about Greta. The high-pitched "No!" and feigned almost-crying the news is met with turns the scene into a comedy.

Will knows Greta must have been murdered. When Lutz suggests it could have just been her time to go, "These things happen", Will reacts by knocking some books off his table. He can't bring himself to see her body, but he will accompany Lutz and Garner to the yoga studio at midnight. He thinks he knows what's going to be happening there.

Rose still isn't feeling well as she and Tara sit in Tara's car outside the yoga studio. Tara offers to take her right back home, Sharon doesn't need to know they were there, but Rose pushes forward. Rather than wait for Rose and Tara to get out of the vehicle, Sharon climbs into the vehicle to talk to them - and to send Tara away. She's not ready for this, her time will come soon enough. She doesn't even want Tara to wait outside the studio, she wants her to go home. Rose is going to be receiving the great honor of getting to meet The Great One.

When Rose is taken inside to participate in the ritual, she finds that Samuel and two other members of the coven have Beth tied up under some pentagram wall art. The other members of the coven play their roles in an over-the-top, goofy as hell, comedic way. Before they can get started doing anything, Samuel reveals that he was known by a different name long ago - Sammael, the angel of death. 67 minutes into the film, we have an explanation for the subtitle Angel of Death. Samuel's true self is trapped in Hell and he has been cursed to wander Earth as a human.

Not sure what they'll find inside the yoga studio, Lutz and Garner wait for Will to show up before they enter the place. When Will does arrive, he again makes sure he didn't miss anything, then delivers some information: a planetary alignment will occur at midnight, and with the right ceremony such an alignment will act as an amplifier for a witch's magic.

On this special night, Samuel is going to use Rose's amplified powers to free his true self. If she doesn't help, he will bleed Beth dry. She needs to give herself to him freely, to transfer her powers to him... and this transfer will be done through sexual energy.

Will, Lutz, and Garner enter the yoga studio and set out to stop this sexually transmitted apocalypse from taking place. Do they manage to run block on Samuel and thwart his plans, or does the angel of death actually escape from Hell? Is that why they had to make a trilogy, to tell some kind of epic story? I skip the endings in these Witchcraft write-ups, but the ending will be obvious when Witching Wednesdays returns for Witchcraft 15 next month.

Taken on its own merits as a standalone film, Witchcraft XIV: Angel of Death gives the viewer pretty much no reason to be watching it, as there is nothing interesting or exciting about the story it's telling. There are no standout events to be worth seeing, it mostly consists of scenes of people talking about the same things over and over. Some of the acting is entertaining to watch; some of it being entertaining because it's humorously bad. There were some interesting choices made in that department.

As a Witchcraft sequel, though, it's pretty much on par with most of the series. If you've seen other entries in this franchise, you know what to expect from this one, it's just more of the same.

The only surprising thing about Angel of Death is the shockingly low amount of nudity and sex. I figured that the one thing they could find time to do in this quickly made trilogy would be to shoot some lengthy sex scenes to pad out the running times with. But that wasn't the case for this one. There is still nudity and sex, sure, but not as much as there used to be.

Instead, the padding here comes from the credit sequences. That 4 minute opening, and almost 4 minutes of end credits. There's only about 73 minutes of actual movie sandwiched in between.

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