Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh

A cliffhanger is resolved, a hero's fate revealed, as Cody takes in a viewing of the ninth Witchcraft movie for this week's Witching Wednesday.


Witchcraft 7 director Michael Paul Girard and story crafter/producer Jerry Feifer re-teamed to resolve the cliffhanger ending of that film, skipping over the events of part 8, which wasn't originally intended to be a Witchcraft entry anyway. As we know, the climax of part 7 involved franchise hero Will Spanner battling a vampire enemy, the fight ending with them staking each other. The last time we saw Will, Detectives Lutz and Garner were standing over his dead body.

David Byrnes played Will in 7 and reprises the role in 9, which begins right where 7 ended... Sort of. Despite so many key people returning to continue this story, continuity problems and editing still make the beginning of the movie confusing as hell.

It begins with the camera roaming through an art gallery, passing people admiring artwork, eventually entering a side room where the dead bodies of Will and another guy lie on the floor. A woman screams as the "Witchcraft IX" title appears.

As a female voice cries out for "Will!", Will's goateed spirit rises out of his body and then his physical body disappears... Problems here - Will did not have a goatee in part 7, and he was not killed in an art gallery.

Will's spirit wanders out of the building and down alleyways, intercut with flashbacks to the witch burning prologue of part 1 and the vampiric events of part 7. More than a minute after "Witchcraft IX" left the screen, the "Bitter Flesh" subtitle appears.

Also intercut with Will's wanderings is a scene where Detectives Lutz and Garner are brought in to the art gallery side room to check out the body that's still in there. The dead guy was a scumbag who worked security for the people who run the place. Garner is confused, he was told there were two bodies. Lutz says the people who called it in seem pretty drunk, maybe they're seeing double. Editing strangeness - although Will is walking down alleys, he's also standing behind Lutz and Garner, asking if they can hear him. They can't.

So far, this isn't matching up with 7 at all. Will's body was in a different location, Lutz and Garner don't seem to be involved with the situation and they didn't find or even see Will's body.

At home, Will's live-in girlfriend Keli is standing in the kitchen in her negligee. She answers a phone that never rings and asks her friend on the line if she's seen Will. Keli is worried, Will didn't come home last night and didn't call. She promises her friend, she'll kill Will if he's cheating on her. Will's spirit yells for her outside the kitchen window, but she doesn't hear him.

Spirit Will continues to wander through the city. A couple prostitutes are working a street corner. One of them, a girl named Sheila, is picked up. She works for $100, the john says he's taking her to a place called The Lacey. She's been there plenty of times. Will walks up to the remaining prostitute and tries to get her attention, but she doesn't react at all, not even when he sticks a hand between her thighs.

Sheila and her john walk up to the exterior of The Lacey, I think this shot is actually stock footage of Marta walking with her john/mugging victim at the beginning of part 5. Once inside the building, Sheila and john enter the lift. Going up. But soon after they begin their ascent, the john hits the stop button. He doesn't need a room, he's looking for some "love in an elevator" action. Kissing and groping ensues.

People start to gather to wait for the elevator while Sheila and john have sex within. Once they finish, they open the doors to let the others in. A woman comments, "I thought it was never gonna come."

Meanwhile, police get a call reporting a homicide. Lutz and Garner respond. A woman's dead body lies on an altar in a sacrificial chamber. The cops are disgusted to find that the woman's heart has been removed. Lutz says that she can't take this and hurries out of the room.

Lutz and Garner leave the building and stop to talk in an alley. Lutz says she's never seen anything like that. Garner agrees, "Not even close."

Sheila and john get off on the sixth floor and go to room 303, where the john has a bottle of champagne waiting. As drinks are poured, Sheila notes that 25 minutes of the john's hour has passed. "I suggest, unless you're looking for another slam-bammer like the one in the elevator, you put a little money down for a--" The editor cuts her off mid-sentence. Despite the jump cut, the guy knows what she's getting at and pays up for two more hours. He wants to see a return on his investment, so she takes her dress off and they start talking dirty. Porn-style dialogue goes on for quite a while, then more clothes come off.

After their sex scene, Sheila argues with her pimp over the phone. She's already done twenty guys that night, but the pimp wants her to keep working. Soon enough, she's getting into the elevator with another john. Spirit Will joins them and tries to get their attention by waving his hands around. Like everyone else, they can't see Will. The john isn't sure if he should go through with this, he has a wife and kids at home, but Sheila talks him into continuing.

Watching Sheila and john fool around on the roof, Will starts laughing... And Sheila reacts to the sound. Not hearing the laughter, the john accuses Sheila of being a cop and hurries off after demanding a 50% refund. Having finally found someone who can hear him, Will tries to convince Sheila to help him. She's not cooperative at first, but Will is persistant and follows her home to her rather large studio apartment.

Sheila finally starts to accept the situation. Her fortune telling friend told her that she was going to meet someone like Will. She was in a motorcycle accident a while back and was in a coma for a couple days. Since then, she's had special powers. She can predict things, she has premonitions. Her friend told her that her astrological chart was moving into a time when she'd have greater powers and she'd be able to communicate with someone from a past life or another world. Will acknowledges, "That's amazing." Sheila is now willing to help, she has a good feeling about this. First off, they need to find Will's girlfriend.

Before they get to that, Sheila settles in to have a drink. She's had a bad day. Will's had a worse day, he died. She asks him how it is being dead. "To tell you the truth, it sucks." Sheila says life sucks too sometimes. Will assures her, it sucks worse being dead. They talk about Will's girlfriend, who he really loves. Sheila likes that. Most men don't know how to treat women. Sheila needs to get some sleep, but won't be able to with a ghost in her home. Will agrees to go haunt some vacant place for the night and meet up with her in the morning.

In the middle of the night, Sheila wakes up to find her pimp Jack standing in her apartment. Jack is high, tired and broke. He grabs the cash she made working the streets and drops it on the floor. "A good night, huh? You got room for me, She-She?" "I'm not in the mood, Jack." "I don't give a damn about that! Now come on, baby!" He starts groping her, pulling her nightie down, slapping her ass. He rapes her for 5 seconds, then gets up and walks away.

Sheila is lying on the floor, crying, when Will crawls up beside her and comforts her. He came back because he sensed something was wrong. She invites him to spend the rest of the night with her. Will promises to scare Jack away if he comes back. He tells Sheila to go to sleep and be thankful she's still living.

Lutz and Garner are called in to another murder scene. A woman's body found on a table in an old meat locker, a symbol drawn on the wall of an eye above a pyramid. "Same thing you see on the back of a dollar bill." Lutz suggests the killer has something against the IRS, Garner figures he's just a weirdo.

Lutz and Garner go to a local college to talk to Professor Shannon, who teaches Egyptian Paleontology. When Lutz introduces herself to Shannon, the camera checks out her cleavage. In the next scene, Lutz pulls crime scene photographs out of her bra to show to Shannon. When Shannon takes the pictures, the camera takes a look at her chest as well. Shannon finds the symbols drawn to be very interesting and tells the detectives that she'll look them over.

Sheila and Will are on their way to find Keli. Sheila isn't sure that Keli will believe her story, but Will assures her that she will. Sheila has been having a recurring vision since her accident, and last night she saw Keli's face in it. She saw Keli in a very dark place with a lot of candles, and there's a man wearing a hood...

Sheila and Will reach the place he shares with Keli. Will had a nice big home in the last few Witchcraft movies, now it appears that he lives in an apartment building. Sheila enters the building, but doesn't notice that Will is unable to. Some kind of force field blocks him from stepping through the doorway. Sheila knocks on an apartment door. Keli doesn't answer, but the door is open... Sheila enters the rooms beyond and looks around. Keli doesn't seem to be home.

Will goes around the side of the building and looks through a window, into the bedroom. Keli is in there, doing a striptease for a man sitting in a chair. There is what appears to be a mobile of animal bones hanging above the bed, Keli plays with that a bit.

Sheila continues looking around the building. She finds an open door with a 4 on it and enters the room. Symbols are drawn all over the walls and there's an altar with candles burning on it.

Will watches as Keli starts to have sex with the man in his bedroom, and we see that the man is... Will. How can this be?! Eventually, spirit Will leaves.

Sheila has to duck back out of the symbol-covered apartment to avoid being seen by a man wearing a hood. The man kneels at the altar and calls on Kofu, master of evil, descendant of Satan. The man wants to help Kofu usher in a new reign of darkness and death, hatred and fear. He offers as a gift two hearts that he has plucked from the young. "Let this bitter flesh revive your lust and hatred of all things human." Sheila runs off.

Professor Shannon confirms to Lutz and Garner that the symbols at the crime scenes are Egyptian hieroglyphics, but she can't translate them. She then says a bunch of stuff that Lutz and Garner surely already know, like the fact that these symbols are what make these murders stand out from others.

Shannon then gives a history lesson - Egyptians started building tombs in 1500 BC to bury their kings and pharaohs. An elite class were trained to embalm the kings, making a lot of money and amassing power. They would remove all vital organs so the bodies would be preserved longer. Their knowledge was passed down through generations. As Egypt's power and influence grew, so did the tombs, into pyramids. Eventually, there was a massacre when the embalmers went on a rampage of rape and murder. Some say they were driven crazy by carbon dioxide in the pyramids, others think it was a political uprising. The only thing certain is that the Egyptians stopped building pyramids soon after and began their decline from greatness.

Professor Shannon continues: Around that time, a small religious cult was formed, made up of the former embalmers. They believed that the Egyptians had angered the gods and the pyramids represented man's ego, vanity, and pride. The embalmers used their skills to kill and disembowel members of the upper strata of society, believing that they were appeasing the gods. The authorities quickly gathered them up and executed them, but it's believed that many of them escaped to Rome and Spain and this cult grew for another 200 years, not dying out until Christ's birth. Actually, many scholars believe that it never died out. Shannon's friend at Yale believes that there are members of this cult still around today. Yes, in Los Angeles in 1996. The killer has specialized skills and knowledge, he can cut with the precision of a surgeon and write hieroglyphics with the knowledge of a scholar. Probably only fifty or sixty people in the whole world would know what these hieroglyphics mean. Shannon can give the detectives some names. The detectives thank her and she goes on her way.

Kudos to Kathryn Hudson, the actress playing Professor Shannon, who took over this movie and carried it on her back through five minutes of expository dialogue.

Lutz and Garner chat about the case, Garner disregarding Shannon's Egypt talk and figuring the killer is some Norman Bates type. Their Captain stops by the desk for an update on the case. Their Captain was named Vontana, I think he was a white guy in part 6 and a black guy in part 7, now he's back to being white and changed his name to Fontana.

Spirit Will wanders around the city. At his home, fake Will is feeling tired. Keli asks him what's wrong, one minute he's a dynamo and the next he looks like he has one foot in the grave. She suggests he go to a doctor. He says "F--- the doctors." She says he's really changed, maybe he should see a psychiatrist. He says "Go f--- yourself, bitch" and walks out. Keli is scared.

Sheila walks in to the police department and talks to Lutz and Garner. Will Spanner told her to contact them, his girlfriend Keli is in trouble. Garner says he doesn't have time for Will Spanner, he's not a bodyguard, and the last time Will helped them on a case it didn't turn out so hot. Lutz is more receptive to what Sheila has to say. Will told her that the curse had been broken and it was more powerful and stronger than ever. Sheila tells Lutz what she saw at Keli's house, the man in the basement, and that she overheard the name Kofu. When Sheila finally gets around to mentioning that the guy was holding a human heart, Lutz and Garner decide they should do something.

Spirit Will continues wandering around the city.

Fake Will stumbles into the altar room and grabs a bowl with a human heart in it. He sips some of the juice the heart is marinating in and appears to be reinvigorated.

Jack is waiting for Sheila when she gets back to her apartment. A friend saw Sheila at the police department, Jack saw her car downtown, they suspect Sheila might have been narcing on him. Jack starts strangling Sheila at the same moment that Will appears in the apartment. Sheila calls out for Will's help. Jack stands up and starts unbuckling his belt so he can get rapey again. Sheila is replaced in her position by Will for a quick flash, then Sheila stands up and starts kicking Jack's ass.

Sheila stumbles off to the side and thanks Will for his help, "Now, if you don't mind, I'd kinda like you to get out of my body." Will talks back to her, Sheila's mouth now moving as Will's voice comes out. Will needs to stay in Sheila's body for a while longer so he can get through the force field around his apartment building. Spirit Will's voice flubs a line.

Fake Will is lying in bed. Keli enters the room and crawls onto the bed with him. Clearly having forgiven him for his earlier outburst, she says "Hey, baby. You don't look so good. Maybe I can make you feel better." They start to have sex again. Mid-coitus, fake Will starts to strangle Keli. It's a regular thing for this character to have sex scenes go wrong with Will. It happened in 5 and 6, and they had bedroom altercations in 7 as well. Fake Will chokes her unconscious, then carries her out of the room.

Keli is taken downstairs and placed on the sacrificial altar. Fake Will kneels and prays, "In the name of Kofu, come forward and begin the transmogrification." The hooded man appears and tells him that he's already been transmogrified. True, but the body he's in is weak. He wants a new one. This one, Keli's. The hooded man tells him, "This one has been sullied by your seed." "But at least it is strong. It is better to be in the body of a whore than to be trapped in the body of a wounded, dying man." Keli wakes up and asks who the hooded man is. Fake Will and the hooded man tell her what's going on, Will's dead and someone else is using his body. Before Will died, his warlock power went to Keli. Now the hooded man wants it for his own.

Lutz, Garner, and Will-in-Sheila's-body converge on the apartment building as the hooded man and fake Will prepare to do something horrible to Keli. As Lutz and Garner enter, we're given an explanation for why Will lives in an apartment building now - he lost his big house because as a lawyer he's always losing his cases. But Will still had a big house at the end of part 7, so it's still a continuity problem.

With all of the characters in the same place, we get on to the final battle.

This was the easiest Witchcraft to write this kind of article for, because almost nothing happens in this movie. I mean, I've said that nothing much happened in some of the previous sequels, but it's especially true this time... And I can't bring myself to say anything bad about something that was so simple and easy to watch, even if it was quite a mess.

Landon Hall plays Sheila and is really good in the role.  She carries the film while often showing quite a lot of skin. If her breasts aren't bared in a scene, they're either threatening to fall out of her dress or poking through a shirt. She's entertaining to watch, whether she's playing prostitute (and that stretch of movie with her first john was totally gratuitous and overlong, it went nowhere), doing dramatic scenes, or acting like Will's inhabiting her body.

Will's spirit is able to re-enter his own body in the end, returning our hero to proper life, but he still sits out the next sequel. Stephanie Beaton took over the role of Detective Lutz in part 9, and part 10 follows her character off on her own solo adventure. We'll find out what that's like in next week's Witching Wednesday.


  1. I thought Keli was quite good. Seriously, this was the one that made me quit acting...I thought this is as good as it gets? Good movie for Mystery Science Theater. Sincerely, Keli IX

    1. Thanks for the comment! The movie is fun for what it is. Sorry to hear it turned you away from acting, I can understand that working on something like this wouldn't be what you had in mind when you started.

      - Cody