Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft Part II: The Temptress

Cody's detailed journey through the Witchcraft franchise continues in the second installment of Witching Wednesdays.


The previous film had a good deal of action under its main title sequence, this time we mostly just get white text on black background. But at least Mirium Cutler's score is rockin'. It's strange how even text can look cheap... The Original Screenplay credit isn't misspelled this time. Success for James R. Hanson and Sal Manna. But returning cast member Mary Shelley is now credited as Mary Shelly. The titular temptress earns an "And" credit:

After the Executive Producers, we start to get some action intercut with the credits. A witch is concocting a potion with a massive ingredients list: eye of newt, toe of frog, tongue of dog, scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, etc. It's actually lifted straight out of Macbeth. The witch's speech patterns sound pretty cool as she goes on.

There's an unconscious blonde lying on a table in the witch's lair. The witch is Elizabeth from the first movie, as played by Mary Shelley/Shelly, and Shelly's entire role in this one (other than flashbacks to part 1 footage) is to make a potion, take a swig, and turn into Delia Sheppard as The Temptress, a sexed-up version of the blonde. And that seems to be the end of her movie career.

Before we get too far into Witchcraft II details, I should make a Witchcraft SPOILER note: it was revealed at the end of the previous film that Elizabeth was not really William's grandmother, she's not related to him at all. So don't be too disturbed that she's trying to seduce him as The Temptress in this one.

The story of this film has one of the biggest time jumps I've ever seen a sequel made one year later take. Friday the 13th Part 2 and Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 were both set five years after their predecessor, Witchcraft Part II is set eighteen years after the first movie. If the first movie was set in 1989, that would put this one in 2007, but it's clearly still '89/'90.

They grow up so fast. William, who we watched being born in the previous film, is now 18 years old, and when we meet him he's making out with his girlfriend Michelle in his bed, trying to get her to go all the way. She's resistant, crossing her legs. Frustrated, William jumps out of bed and starts jamming out on his air guitar. It's an effective tactic, as it leads to Michelle tackling him to the floor and lying on top of him. William will soon be leaving for a college that's thirty minutes away. Michelle wants him to promise to come home every weekend, and William tells her "I'll try." "I need more than that." "So do I." William, you cad... But it works. After looking out the window and a moment of consideration, Michelle begins to disrobe. William is close to getting what he's been pressuring her for when they're interrupted by the doorbell.

As Michelle hurries out the back, William finds that the front door bell-ringer is The Temptress. He tells her that "you look different", so the audience has to figure out for themselves that, before the movie began, he knew the character who The Temptress is posing as, Delores Jones, when she was the average woman we saw on the witch's table. The Temptress asks William if he's seen her cat and leaves when he tells her that he hasn't, but she leaves behind a package on the front step. There's a note with it: "The curse of death on all but thee. Eternal life's your destiny." William assumes he's being pranked by his friend Boomer.

William's adoptive parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adams, arrive home later. They're clearly upper class because Mr. Adams is wearing a sweater like a scarf. Mrs. Adams is upset that William will soon be leaving home, but her husband reminds her that they knew this day would come when they took him in, and reassures her that they've raised him to be a good man. (Mr. Adams is played by Jay Richardson, who went on to be in a movie called Sorceress II: The Temptress in 1999.)

At 3:13 AM, the package The Temptress left begins to pulse and leak blood. Images from the previous film - including the faces of the Cackling Women from the 1687 prologue - fly out of it as William has nightmare flashbacks to moments from the first movie. He even sees the image of Elizabeth drooling blood from his mother's nightmare. He wakes up, briefly sees a pentagram on his chest before it fades away, then opens the package to find a wooden box inside. Inside the box is what he thinks is an ashtray.

When Mr. and Mrs. Adams find the wooden box in the morning, they know that something bad's going down. This is just the first of three packages, William will get a new one three nights in a row, and then "he'll know everything". They ask William what was inside the box and when he goes to show them the ashtray, he finds that it has disappeared. Mr. Adams comments that William has "always been such a good kid", but William's not having that: "I'm not a kid anymore, I'm a man now."

Walking through a park, observed by The Temptress, William finds that the ashtray has reappeared in his shirt pocket, then gets startled by his buddy Boomer. Boomer is wearing a sleeveless button-front shirt with vertical stripes and a colorful hat while double fisting Twinkies. This guy is zany!

William goes to the library to recruit his friend Audrey to translate the Latin inscription on the ashtray. Audrey is the cinema cliche of a very attractive girl made geek by putting big glasses on her and tying her hair up. Plus she uses the word "auspicious". Audrey agrees to help William if he'll set her up on a date with Boomer. Why would she want that?

William walks by Delores Jones' house to see The Temptress on a ladder in high heels and sheer lace pants, cleaning out the house's gutters with a broom and dustpan. She tries to seduce him, but he runs off... To Michelle's house, where he hallucinates that he walks in on Michelle having sweaty sex with Boomer. The first bare breasts in the franchise, provided by Mia Ruiz. (I note this because apparently there's a lot more of them on the way in this series.)

By the time that William really enters Michelle's house, greeted by her and her Reverend father, Audrey has already partially translated the ashtray inscriptions, thanks to an old manuscript on witchcraft. She tells him part of the translation over the phone, but wants to meet in person to tell him the rest.

At William's home, The Temptress confronts Mrs. Adams over William needing to fulfill his destiny and "ascend the throne". Mrs. Adams plunges a knife into The Temptress's stomach, but it doesn't do much. It's much more effective when The Temptress returns the favor.

William is walking back home when Boomer rides up on a bicycle. William runs a hand down Boomer's arm to confirm, "you are sweating like a pig." Ugh. William gets Boomer to agree to go out with Audrey by promising him two tickets to an Ozzy Osbourne concert.

Audrey arrives at William's home and follows strange noises and voices upstairs to his bedroom. I have to say, I like her skirt and Converse style. She's looking out a window next to his Darryl Strawberry poster when an evilized Mrs. Adams appears behind her. Audrey gets tossed out the window, landing on the sidewalk right in front of William and Boomer. William finds a paper on Audrey's body.

The paper talks of witches' ability to induce visions and hallucinations, as William reads that night as he sits in his bedroom, the window Audrey went out now covered with cardboard. Mr. Adams enters and comforts William about his friend's death, then fully translates the ashtray and spills the beans: William wasn't really adopted, the Adams took him from his parents, the Churchills. William's parents were practicing witchcraft, as were the Adams, and raising him to be their supreme warlock, so powerful that no one could stop them from spreading their darkness over the Earth... Clearly Grace was not as victorious as she seemed to be at the end of the first movie, because there's no way she's the one who was doing this. Mr. and Mrs. Adams loved the child and couldn't let the coven turn him into something so evil, so they stole him. Now someone from the coven has caught up to them, but Mr. Adams doesn't know who it could be - a warlock can take over any male identity, a witch can take over any female identity.

The Temptress shows up at the front door. When Mr. Adams opens the door, she throws some glitter on him to put him under her spell. She sends him off to look for his wife at church, saying she'll keep William company. The Temptress is almost immediately all over William, trying to get him to take her to his bedroom. She'll give him what Michelle won't, what he wants, what he needs. She licks his face several times before he yells "No!" repeatedly and runs off.

Michelle is in her bedroom, looking through a yearbook while sitting below her Madonna poster, when William arrives at her house and is let in by her father the Reverend. The Reverend seems to take William straight back to his study to have a conversation with him, but when The Temptress (as Mrs. Adams) calls looking for him, Michelle knows that he's downstairs talking to her dad. Michelle is then thrashed and thrown around her room in her underwear by an invisible entity. When she escapes, William runs up to her room to find a second package for him, another trinket inside a box. William's premonition of having a pentagram appear on his chest comes true, and one appears on Michelle's chest as well.

William runs home to find evil Mrs. Adams in the kitchen. Judging by the widening of her eyes and the licking of her lips, she's pleased to see the pentagram on William's chest. She takes him up to the attic to tell him "the truth". She pulls his baby blanket and birth certificate out of a trunk and tells him the story of the first movie, with flashbacks. (We get to see Elizabeth drool blood yet again.) At the end, she tacks on new information: Grace killed herself after the events of the first film. Why? I don't know, and it allowed William to fall back into the hands of ne'er-do-wells. Topol would not approve... Since Mrs. Adams is laughing about it all, William realizes that this isn't really the woman who raised him.

William grabs the fake Mrs. Adams and demands to know what she's done with his mother. The angrier he gets, the happier she gets. He starts to strangle her. Mr. Adams arrives and tries to stop William, but William shoves him away. Mr. Adams falls, hitting his head on an old bed frame. Fake Mrs. Adams turns into The Temptress and reveals the body of real Mrs. Adams under a nearby blanket. With a roar, William punches The Temptress. She likes his violent rage, urging him to "cross over". Then he beats her down with a baseball bat. He crawls over to check on Mr. Adams and finds that he's dead. With a flash of light, The Temptress is back on her feet. She tells William, "Tomorrow night, you will be mine." Then she's gone.

Michelle tries to call William, but he ignores the phone as he sits in front of the fireplace and thinks about his predicament. Meanwhile, The Temptress is randomly writhing around in her lair. William tosses a blanket (his baby blanket?) into the fire and grabs a shotgun. He has the gun to his forehead when Michelle rushes in and stops him. William catches her up to speed and she convinces him that he has a choice, he can be good. Honor the memory of Grace and fight back.

Michelle calls her father to come to William's house and together they make preparations to defend the place against The Temptress. They have a whole lot of holy water, though the Reverend isn't sure if he correctly sanctified it. He's a Methodist, the Catholics are better at this sort of thing. He's working off of a text on exorcism by Father Merrin. That reference just put the Witchcraft series in the same world as The Exorcist.

The Reverend nails a cross to the front door to keep The Temptress out. William thought that was just for vampires, but the Reverend thinks it works on witches too. The Reverend goes back to his home to get two more boxes of supplies. Before he can return to William's, the Reverend is attacked by animated flames.

William and Michelle have fallen asleep while waiting for the Reverend when someone starts beating on the front door. Michelle opens the door and William throws a bucketful of holy water all over... Boomer. William apologizes and tells Boomer that he should leave. As soon as Michelle closes the door, the third package for William appears on a table.

Outside, The Temptress lures Boomer over to a parked car. It doesn't take much, just her looks and a beckoning finger. She pulls him through the open car window and breaks his neck.

William opens the third package to find what looks like a metal bowl inside. He sets the bowl on a table with the other things he's received and the three items assemble themselves into a chalice. What he thought was an ashtray was the base of the chalice, the second item was the stem, the bowl is the cup. The chalice then fills with blood. The house shakes and fills with blinding light as the front door falls off its hinges and The Temptress enters.

After incapacitating Michelle, holding her down on a table with an invisible force, The Temptress reveals her plan: get impregnated by William and give birth to an evil child who will rule the world. The Temptress chastises Michelle for not giving up her virginity to William, taking William's virginity in the process. If she had, William and Michelle wouldn't have this problem, apparently William would be no good to The Temptress if he weren't a virgin. Temptress breasts are bared and the final confrontation ensues.

While Witchcraft was a decent low-grade Rosemary's Baby knockoff, it didn't set the bar very high. Witchcraft II is still several steps below its predecessor. The Temptress isn't a very good movie... and yet, it was still totally enjoyable. Doing this write up probably helped in my ability to enjoy it, but its goofy badness was fun. Some of that is intentional, some scenes are very silly, so I don't think the filmmakers would object to that reaction.

The movie was obviously successful, as the franchise is far from over. Witchcraft III hit video stores one year and ten days after this one. Find out what it's all about in next week's Witching Wednesday.

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