Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil

Hold on tight to your souls and join Cody as the detailed journey through the Witchcraft franchise continues in this week's Witching Wednesday.


Witchcraft V begins with stock footage from part 1, the couple being burned at the stake in the 1687 prologue, mixed with new footage - a hooded man, who we'll come to find out is named Cain, hanging out at a campfire, throwing magic dust into the flames and seeming pleased with himself and/or what's going on.

Like Witchcraft III, this one separates the Witchcraft title and the subtitle in a TV show/episode kind of way. Witchcraft V gets the special logo and font, the subtitle comes up next in a single card with the same font as the rest of the credits, and this time there's the added bonus of "Dance with the Devil" being in quotations.

Jump to the film's present day setting, whenever that may be, and we see Marta, who seems to be a prostitute, leading an overweight, bald travelling salesman into a dingy hotel room. Marta says she likes doing real nasty things with men she doesn't know, the salesman compliments her breasts. Her pays her up front, a whopping $50. She takes off her top and invites the man to take her bra off for her. As soon as her breasts are bared, Marta's boyfriend Bill appears out of nowhere and whacks the man over the head with a baseball bat. Wiping the salesman's blood off her face, Marta asks Bill what took him so long.

A limo is riding along the city streets. Televangelist Reverend Meredith is in the back with his secretary, discussing his schedule and dedication to helping others. He's going to be speaking to the homeless somewhere soon. His secretary tells him, "You're the only one who seems to care. You really are a man of God."

In their hotel room, Marta and Bill are freaked out to find that the baseball bat hit killed the salesman. They've got to dump the body somewhere. Reverend Meredith does some sermonizing to his secretary, intercut with Marta and Bill's efforts to get the salesman's body out of the hotel and to Bill's car.

Marta and Bill are also now driving along the city streets, Marta ranting about Bill's incompetence while he continues to freak out over being an accidental murderer. He's so busy freaking out that he doesn't notice until it's too late that a homeless man has walked out into the street in front of him and knelt down to pick up a cigarette butt. As the homeless man attempts to light his newfound cigarette, Bill accidentally hits him. Marta and Bill speed away, but Reverend Meredith has witnessed the hit and run. His limo stops and he rushes to the homeless man's side. The homeless man is still alive, but badly injured. Meredith asks him if there's anything he can do. The homeless man responds by grabbing him by the throat, and I think he says "Give me your flesh!" Something like that. Reverend Meredith and the homeless man struggle for a while, then Meredith gets loose as a squiggly yellow animation flies out of the man's body and into Meredith's eyes.

The homeless man dies after this animated transaction and Meredith rushes back to his limo. He gets in and the vehicle immediately drives off. Riding along with his secretary, Meredith composes himself and, clearly acting differently, asks her for a cigarette. The secretary notes that this is an odd request, "Since when did you start smoking?" Meredith replies, "You're right, what am I saying? I haven't smoked in years." After seeing the homeless man grab Meredith by the throat, the secretary is obviously fine with just leaving him lying in the street, because she goes right back to going over Meredith's schedule.

Marta and Bill have made it out into the country now, Marta still berating Bill over his two accidental homicides. Bill tells her to get off his back, "It could've happened to anybody." He then starts to randomly go on about how they're "in a good car, good American car." It's just to make it amusingly ironic when the car breaks down immediately after this sentence. The car stops dead on a full tank of gas. Bill doesn't know how to fix cars, so they just abandon the car with the salesman's body still inside. I think they're going to get away with it!

Marta and Bill walk off through the woodsy countryside, continuing to bicker. Eventually they come across a small shack with a campfire burning in front of it. Hanging out at the campfire, throwing magic dust into it, is Cain.

Marta advises Bill to let her do the talking and they join Cain at the campfire. Cain welcomes them with coffee and asks what delayed them. He's been waiting for them for a while, their moment of accounting draws near. There's a price to pay for transgressions. Bill denies that they've done anything, Cain tells him their souls say otherwise. Marta assumes that Cain's a preacher. "I'm not a preacher. I'm a collector." A collector of debts. Marta now assumes that he's a bill collector, and when Cain goes to his shack to get more coffee, Marta lets Bill in on her plan to knock Cain out and steal the bill money from his shack.

Cain returns to the campfire and Marta asks him if he has any friends. "Few friends. Many followers." Bill excuses himself to "go play with Mother Nature". Marta makes some complimentary small talk, offers to make Cain feel real good for a few bucks. Then Bill whacks Cain over the head with a wooden board. "There's your transgression." Marta finally says something nice to Bill, "You're getting good at this."

Marta and Bill enter Cain's shack and look around. They open a door in the back and a blinding white light blasts out at them. Right inside the room beyond is an old sword with a jeweled handle. Marta picks it up and admires it. They're interrupted by Cain, who has taken off his hood and is now acting like a magical badass. With a flash in his eyes, he orders Marta to "Kill him now!" Marta has no control of her body as she impales Bill with the sword. That done, the sword flies out of Marta's hands and into the hand of Cain.

Cain advances toward Marta, telling her that she's going to help him in his holy cause. Cain has served Satan well and his moment of rebirth draws near. He grabs Marta and tells her that she will do anything he commands, speak only when spoken to, and will even die if he tells her to. If she serves him well, she may be chosen to serve Satan. "Now that we have an understanding, let us begin."

It's the next morning when we meet up with franchise hero William Spanner, now played by Marklen Kennedy. He's asleep in bed and is woken up by his buxom blonde girlfriend Keli, who's walking around the room in her underwear. Reverend Meredith is sermonizing on the bedroom TV. William isn't pleased to see this so early in the morning, "Do we have to be enlightened at 8 AM?" Keli says to get used to it, Meredith is her minister. Though she comments that he is acting differently this morning. William has to get to work, and Keli reminds him that he's promised to take her dancing at the Rock Palace tonight. William isn't happy about the date, he hates the Rock Palace and "all those freaks".

At the Rock Palace, a snazzily dressed Cain drags his black-painted fingernails down the bar and strikes up a conversation with the manager. Cain wants to be booked as a performer, he does magic, hypnosis. The manager turns him down, this is a dance club, they only book musical acts. Cain must do his show here. He grabs the manager by the throat and rants a bit, "This is the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year since I last appeared, no one can break the cycle!" He uses some magical powers of persuasion to make the manager another of his servants and gets his act booked.

That night, William and Keli arrive at the Rock Palace and get a seat. No one's dancing, the people there aren't the regular crowd, they've come to see the magic show. Keli isn't disappointed, she hasn't seen a magic show since she was little. William says, "There's no such thing as magic. You should know better." She tells him to stop being such a lawyer.

The crowd starts chanting for Cain. Smoke rises from the stage and Cain appears with his assistant, Marta. Cain welcomes the crowd and tells them, "I bring you greetings from our master, Lord Satan." Marta asks for volunteers and several members of the crowd eagerly raise their hands. Cain looks the crowd over and ends up at William's table. He invites William to join him on the stage to assist in a trick or two. William is reluctant, but Keli encourages him to do it. Cain points his fingers at William's eyes and says, "Please, do come up." William stands and follows him to the stage.

Once onstage, Cain notes that he senses "a strong power" in William, and comments, "It's always nice to run into a warlock. You never know when one can come in handy." The crowd laughs. William is clearly under Cain's hypnotic spell as the supernatural magician has him act like a duck and a chicken. Cain tells William that the next time he demonstrates his power through the warlock, no one will be laughing. He tells William to remain under his spell but appear normal, then sends him back to his seat.

Keli tells William that Cain made a fool out of him, but William has no memory of his stage antics. "Told you he wouldn't hypnotize me." He thinks he just stood there.

After the show, Cain stands before a group of select members of the audience. He tells them that they will all help him reach his destiny and the revolution of their master. Soon, Satan will liberate the Earth and open the gates of Hell. Theirs is the ultimate sacrifice. Cain throws his arms wide and a yellow power flows around him as the room fills with smoke and blinding light. The group drops dead as Cain absorbs their souls. He tells their corpses, "You had six years of earthly pleasure," now they're in Hell for eternity. He laments having to waste his time searching for these creatures, but he must fill his quota. Marta offers to find those that hide from him, but she has no power. Cain needs William to do it. He tells Marta to bring William to him. "How?" "You need only use lust."

William and Keli are asleep in bed when Marta enters their home. She crawls under the covers, and William and Marta proceed to have a two minute sex scene right next to the sleeping Keli.

A club owner walks up to the bar in one of his clubs and the bartender/manager (played by Greg Grunberg, Heroes cast member and JJ Abrams regular) asks him how he does it, he has ten clubs and they're all making money. "What, did you sell your soul to the devil?" The owner tells him to shut up and do his job.

Marta leads a spellbound William into Cain's lair. Cain motions Marta away as William kneels in front of him. Cain talks to William, "You're the real thing, aren't you? A white witch. Yours is the power to hold another's soul." Cain has to collect hundreds of souls before he is reborn, and if he succeeds "Satan will break through the fire and chains of Hell and return triumphant". He sends William out on a soul gathering mission.

William walks through the club from the Grunberg scene and enters the club owner's office. The club owner spots him, "Yo, mummy man," and asks him what he wants. William chastises the club owner for living like he's invincible, with his fancy cars, women, and music. He tells the club owner that his friend wants his soul and the club owner starts to panic. It's not his time. "Tell your friend that you can't find me." The club owner throws a sharp-edged decorative object at William. William catches it and Cain's voice says, "Kill him." William does so, stabbing the club owner repeatedly.

William returns to Cain's lair and kneels before him. He holds his hand out to Cain and a pulsating blob of power appears in his palm. The club owner's soul. Cain throws his arms wide, blinding light and smoke fill the room, and the soul floats into the Cain's cloak. William kisses Cain's hand, Cain compliments him on a job well done, and William exits. Cain tells Marta, "The warlock is very impressive."

William wakes with a start the next morning, yelling, "I won't serve Satan!" Keli comforts him and finds that his hands are bloody, even though he's not cut. She asks him what he did last night. He has no memory of doing anything, he was just sleeping. He gets tired of Keli asking questions and when she says she's worried about him, he slaps her and climbs out of bed. When she stands, he picks her up by the throat and tosses her back onto the bed. He goes toward her to do some more, but she grabs something heavy off the bedside table and hits him over the head, knocking him out.

Keli calls Reverend Meredith to tell him what just happened. She called the doctor, but she doesn't think what's wrong with William is medical. He was talking about Satan, and it was like he had supernatural strength... She schedules a meeting.

A doctor checks William out in the bedroom. He's perfectly healthy and "his signs are negative". The doctor advises Keli to keep William away from his law office for a few days, then he should be fine.

William and Keli reconcile, William apologizing and saying he doesn't know what happened. Keli blames herself and the fact that she's moved into his parents' house with him... I don't know what parents' house this supposed to be, because it's nothing like the houses in 1 or 2. William assures her that it's not her fault. She suggests counseling, would he be willing to talk to Reverend Meredith? He doesn't appear to like that idea. That doesn't matter much, since we've already seen her set it up.

Keli is serving William tea later when the doorbell rings. She lets in Reverend Meredith and his friend/assistant Anastasia, who the characters just refer to as 'Astasia. Anastasia is a channel, or a vessel for higher powers. She can sense the presence of evil or negative forces. She's played by Ayesha Hauer, daughter of Rutger.

Anastasia immediately picks up bad vibrations. There's an evil in the city, something that has returned from the past, and it may be attracted to William. William says she's crazy. Anastasia checks the back of William's neck and finds that he's been marked. This is bad, he's under the spell. Reverend Meredith says, "I knew it, it's the sixth year." They take William to the bedroom, where he'll be much safer.

William lies down on the floor, where Anastasia sets out candles around him to repulse evil. They have to create a wholesome environment. Hopefully this will give them time to figure out how to break the spell. Reverend Meredith suddenly has to leave, but Anastasia stays behind to work some magic.

When William falls asleep, Anastasia joins Keli on a couch and looks through her books for an anti-spell. She's not sure she can do it, there's powerful magic at work. If she only knew where it came from... That's when Keli is reminded that she saw a magic show at a club last night. She can't remember what the magician  looked like, all she remembers is his weird eyes and a repeated line about the circle filling up and the gates opening. When pressed, Keli finally remembers that his name was Cain. Anastasia has heard of him. They're in big trouble. He's very old and very evil. Very evil. Anastasia has to find a strong spell. When asked if Cain can still get to William through the protection spell, Anastasia reminds her, "We're dealing with the occult, and anything can happen."

In his limo, Reverend Meredith explains to his secretary why he bailed on William. If the power behind this evil is who he thinks it is, he's at risk. The secretary doesn't understand why Meredith has been so different since the accident, he never would've left William before. It's like he's hiding from someone. "Well, maybe I'm preparing to fight with an old enemy."

Marta enters William's bedroom, where he continues to sleep. She says "Sit up" and he does. She tells him of a rock musician who owes their Lord. He sold his soul to be successful and he's long overdue. "Satan let this man go for a while because he thought his music touched so many believers. Now, he's grown old and out of date."

Reverend Meredith is talking to his secretary about warlocks in low tones. She says, "You've never talked like this before." "I've changed." They kiss, embrace, get all touchy feely. "I never imagined it would come to this," she says.

Marta straddles William, pins his hands down with candles, and prepares to have sex with him again. She's interrupted when Anastasia enters the room and cries out, "Stop, in the name of Abraham! Don't dance with the devil!" Marta attacks Anastasia and a catfight ensues, out of the room and down a flight of stairs. The fight ends with Marta strangling Anastasia. Marta then goes back upstairs to William and they have a minute long sex scene.

The rock musician Marta spoke of earlier, Derrick, is practicing with his band, but practice quickly ends in an argument, his bandmates telling him that nobody wants to hear his stupid Satan B.S. anymore. The band members leave and William enters. William tells Derrick that a friend, someone who made Derrick's success possible, sent him there to collect a debt. His soul. William's eyes glow and Derrick begins to have chest pains. Derrick turns away from William, who punches him in the back, his hand coming out through Derrick's chest, dropping his heart to the floor.

William goes back to Cain's lair and they go through the steps of another soul transfer. When that's done, Cain says that they're now "in the second stage".

In the morning, Keli enters William's bedroom with cups of coffee, finding William asleep on the floor. William wakes up and says that he's feeling better. He asks where Anastasia is, Keli doesn't know. She was gone when she woke up. William asks if he can leave the circle of candles long enough to take a shower. Keli doesn't think it will hurt. He says this whole thing with Anastasia is getting him down, but Keli thinks it's working. Stick with it.

William and Keli enter the basement to find a pipe dripping. "Oh, there's why we don't have any water pressure in the shower right there." William tries to adjust the pipe, which just makes water pour down more. Laughs are had. How fun. Of course, them standing in pouring water in their night clothes quickly turns into a sex scene. Marklen Kennedy definitely likes to put his tongue to work in these scenes, any actress who kisses him is guaranteed to get Frenched. About two minutes into the sex scene, William starts getting rough. He throws Keli to the floor and pins her down, bites her nipple, then gets up and walks away.

Soon after, Keli finds William in the bedroom, sitting in his circle of candles and rocking. She asks, "Why the hell does this have to happen to us?" He apologizes, he just lost control. She tells him, "Don't even think about leaving this circle again." She wants to look for Anastasia, William wants her to stay with him. She's afraid, she feels like there's something William is hiding from her. He says he can't explain it, he's being torn apart, feels like he's losing control. She goes to look for Anastasia after all.

Keli comes back to the house later, with Reverend Meredith. William has widened his candle circle out into a pathway of candles that goes through the whole house. As soon as Reverend Meredith enters the house, William puts on a mean mug. Reverend Meredith doesn't know where Anastasia could've gone. William starts talking in a strange voice, informing Meredith that Anastasia is dead and saying he killed her. Meredith asks who is speaking through William, the voice asks, "Who are you, old one?" Reverend Meredith is strange and evil, the speaker must tell their master about him. "Who is your master?" The voice, now clearly Marta's, yells "Cain!" Reverend Meredith runs out. William returns to normal, afraid. He sends Keli after Reverend Meredith. "He has the answers."

In Cain's lair, Marta reports to him about the presence she sensed in Reverend Meredith. The priest's body is inhabited by Softra, an ancient evil spirit. Cain is very happy to hear this news, he's wanted Softra's soul for over two centuries. He's very special, a fallen angel, a score that's worth hundreds of souls. If they can get him, they will have reached their goal. Cain tells Marta to have William bring Softra to him alive. He assures Marta that her loyalty will be rewarded, he'll put in the good word with Satan once he gets to Earth.

Reverend Meredith, wearing a silk robe, walks his secretary into his den. He kisses her, lets her hair down, and disrobes her. The film's fourth sex scene lasts for over a minute and is capped off with Reverend Meredith saying, "Praise the Lord."

Meredith and the secretary cuddle afterward, she confessing that she's been fantasizing about the Reverend for years, but she never dreamed they would get together like this. He tells her, "I'm not who you think I am." He's done a lot of bad things in his life, he's been like a man on the run. "You're talking like a man condemned to die." "I know. I don't think I'm going to be escaping this time."

Keli walks in and is shocked to find Reverend Meredith and the secretary kissing and playing around. Meredith tells the secretary that she should leave, then tells Keli that he's changed. "Some ways for the better and others for the worst." After tonight, it's not going to matter. They can't stop Cain, they're all finished. He and Cain are "old friends", he's done a lot of bad things for him. They can't fight him, they can't win. Keli's not having that. "I'll fight him, I'll win." She reminds Meredith that he used to talk about the power of prayer and faith. They should pray together. Reverend Meredith chuckles, "This old soul hasn't prayed in over two hundred years." But he does join her, both kneeling in prayer.

Cain has gathered another group of people in his lair, and a naked woman willingly volunteers to be sacrificed on an altar. Cain does some Satanic sermonizing, the audience occasionally calling out their "Hail"s.

Reverend Meredith interrupts prayer to tell Keli that Cain does have one weakness - his sword. Kill him with it and it ends. That's why he keeps the sword close to him. Even if an enemy does get ahold of the sword, they have to have the power to wield it.

Meanwhile, Cain is plunging said sword into his sacrifice.

Later that night, Reverend Meredith is home alone when a door blows open and he starts hearing strange sounds. He grabs a fireplace poker and calls out to whoever is in his home. "Come out and fight, coward! You hear me, coward?" Meredith is gut punched by an invisible force. Meredith drops to his knees and begs for mercy. "I'm a changed man." William appears and tells him he has no pity. They disappear together.

Keli is caught snooping around Cain's nightclub lair by Marta. "Come here to save your little Will?" Keli demands to know where Will is, Marta tells her, "It's too late. He belongs to me now." Another catfight ensues. Keli holds her own, but Marta eventually overpowers her and kicks her into submission. Cain walks up and asks, "Who is that whore?"

Cain has Marta strap Keli down on his altar. "We will sacrifice her in preparation for my glorious return to Satan. What a wonderful day." Marta says she hates Keli. Cain knows why. "You've come to love that warlock, haven't you?" He warns Marta, "Love is a destroyer." Love gets in the way of greatness. Hate is the motivator. Hate Keli, but don't love the warlock. Just have lust for him.

Cain tells Marta to kill Keli. As he says this, William appears, carrying Reverend Meredith. Cain gives Marta his sword, giving her the power to wield it. As William watches, Marta prepares to stab Keli...

William finally steps up and the final battle follows. A swordfight occurs, featuring occasionally sparkling swords and hilarious taunts. "You're no better than me." "I am!" "You're not." The final line of the film is barely out of the speaker's mouth when the credits start to roll. At the end of the credits, a voice cries out, "Damn! What the hell was that?"

This is probably my least favorite of the Witchcraft movies so far. William was a disappointment this time around. I was looking forward to him using his powers more back at the ending of part 3, but that still hasn't happened, and in this one he was a hypnotized flunkie most of the time. There were some bright spots, like the frequent nudity. I especially appreciated it when Nicole Sassaman (Marta) was nude. I knew that Witchcraft would enter softcore territory at some point, and I think V is the first one that's really there, with four extended (ahem) sex scenes.

The "Praise the Lord" line is memorable, particularly for Oh-the-Horror's Brett H. I enjoyed Ayesha Hauer's performance as Anastasia, and David Huffman was very entertainingly over-the-top as Cain. For an example, you can see his scene with the nightclub manager on YouTube.

The characters of William and Keli return in the next film, but actors Marklen Kennedy and Carolyn Taye-Loren do not. Kennedy will stick his tongue in no more mouths in this franchise, we'll see if his replacement does in next week's Witching Wednesday.

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