Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft VIII: Salem's Ghost

The Witching Wednesdays keep on coming as Cody brings you the lowdown on the eighth film, which is a sequel in name only.


This movie was produced by Witchcraft producers Jerry and Michael Feifer, but has no story or character connections to the previous films. Witchcraft franchise hero William, last seen dead on a floor at the end of part 7, is not here to save the day again. It seems that this movie was developed and made as an original film just titled "Salem's Ghost", but when it came time for the video release "Witchcraft VIII" was added to help marketing.

There are some similarities to the first Witchcraft and the villain is an evil warlock, so it's not totally unreasonable that this was added to the franchise.

The movie begins in Salem Colony, 1692. Beefcake warlock Simon Renfro is marched through a woods by a torch and candle carrying group of robed villagers, led by a priest on an anti-magic rant. Renfro is shackled to a wooden structure and does some pro-Satan ranting back at the priest. The priest sentences "Simon Renfro, son of Satan" to be damned for eternity, then plunges a jeweled cross dagger into Renfro's chest. Renfro is then burned alive.

Renfro's skeleton falls into a wooden coffin and the priest urges his cohorts to seal the coffin in a crypt quickly, before the evil spills into their souls. The priest then slams the cross dagger against the door of Renfro's tomb, sending out a shockwave of power.

The priest and robed men file out of the crypt. There's a pentagram on the door. Dissolve to the door covered with dust and cobwebs.

300 Years Later

Married couple Sonny and Mary Ann Dunaway are moving into their new home, a giant old house that, judging by the interior of the front entrance, looks to be the same house used for Will's place in Witchcraft 5. Sonny is very enthusiastic about the place, they got it for a steal and "it's got everything". Mary Ann still isn't sure, it'll take months to fix the place up. Maybe they should've bought the condo instead. Sonny tells her that this a place where he can romance her in the middle of the night, sing ballads of love and "make babies." "I'm sold."

Sonny and Mary Ann move their boxes of stuff into the house. Putting something on a shelf in a closet, Sonny suddenly has a panic attack, imagining the walls closing in on him. He screams and Mary Ann pulls him out of the closet.

Mary Ann calls Sonny's psychiatrist on the phone, saying that Sonny's color was gone and his breathing was shallow, "just like last time". Sonny assures her that he's OK. Mary Ann finishes her call and informs him that the doctor says he'll be just fine if he stays out of small spaces. "I'm a nutcase, just say it." "Claustrophobia is hardly grounds to commit you." But she has a therapeutic suggestion - some kitchen sex, incorporating the contents of their refrigerator. It gets messy.

That night, Sonny and Mary Ann are woken up by strange creaking and thumping sounds. Sonny grabs a flashlight and goes to investigate. There is more smoke in this house than a location in a Tony Scott film, but Sonny takes no notice of this. Sonny ends up in the basement, finding a leaking pipe before Mary Ann comes up behind him and startles him.

The next day, Sonny teaches a college class about the history of witchcraft and the Salem Witch Hunts. After class, starry-eyed student Cathy Wilkins introduces herself and tells him that she thinks Sonny's class will be the best one all semester. She seems to have a crush. Cathy is played by Mai-Lis Holmes, who was Sally in part 7, but she looks much different with red hair instead of black.

Dean Simpson has a meeting with Sonny to tell him that he has high expectations for him and he could be eligible for tenure in two years. Aside from a "coed situation" at a previous school, Sonny has a good reputation. When the Dean learns that Sonny has moved into the Chestnut Hill area, his eyes go wide. He doesn't reveal what his problem is, though.

Arriving home, Sonny is greeted by a cake delivery from his overly-cheery, goofy neighbors the Bakers, who invite themselves in for a look around and to find out more about Sonny and Mary Ann. Mitch Baker is a plumber and offers to take a free look at the pipes. Sonny tells him of the leak he saw in the basement.

Mitch looks at the leaky pipe. It's cracked, and a wall in the basement will have to come down so he can make sure it's not leaking more where they can't see. In the kitchen, Gayle Baker tells Mary Ann that the last people who lived in the house only stayed for two days. The Bakers thought there was something wrong with the place. Mary Ann says that they have heard noises, and she found it weird that they bought the house from the Protestant Church of England. Gayle thinks she's joking. She tells Mary Ann that she's cute and that she and Sonny make a perfect couple. Mary Ann says they've had rough times, they moved here to start over. Mitch and Gayle never fight. There's no reason to, he's such a wild bronco in bed. Gayle asks if the Dunaways have any children. They're waiting for Sonny to make tenure.

In the basement, Mitch knocks a hole in the wall. A reddish light blasts out through the hole. They figure that this section of the wall is actually hiding a door of some kind. There's a strange sound from within. Before Mitch can do any more damage, the wives bring their husbands down something to drink. Sonny gets Mitch to agree to wait until the Dunaways are settled in before he does any more work.

Sonny and Mary Ann do some fix-up work on the house, then take a break to dance. The next morning, Sonny's alarm wakes him up at 5:55. For some reason, he's invited his entire class over to his house. Not a good way to avoid another "coed situation", teach. Cathy has baked Sonny a batch of cookies. She is not pleased to meet Mary Ann.

Sonny has just begun to teach his in-home class when he's interrupted by a rhythmic pounding sound. The sound is Mitch knocking down the basement wall. As Mary Ann serves the class ham sandwiches, Sonny and Mitch examine the pentagram-marked door that the wall was hiding. They've just opened the door when Mary Ann calls Sonny back upstairs.

Mitch enters the room beyond the door, which is the crypt Simon Renfro's body was put in. Mitch pries the jeweled cross dagger off the door of Renfro's tomb. Red light pours out of the tomb, hurting Mitch's eyes.

A trio of girls from Sonny's class chitchat. Cathy isn't the only one who thinks Sonny is cute, but it's obvious to the other girls that Cathy has a crush. The red light from Renfro's tomb comes up through a vent and gathers around the girls' feet like a fog. A P.O.V. shot from the redness shows that it's looking up their skirts.

As the class leaves, Cathy tells Sonny that she's decided to take American Lit as a major and arranges a private meeting with him to discuss it. Mary Ann confronts Sonny over Cathy's obvious crush. Sonny assures her that there's no problem. He knows their marriage would be over "if that ever happened again". Mary Ann is the only woman for him.

Sonny returns to the basement as Mitch silently and awkwardly rushes out. Sonny enters the crypt and has another claustrophobia panic attack. He stumbles out and closes the door.

In the Baker house, Mitch admires the jeweled cross dagger that he took from the Dunaways. Gayle admonishes him for his thievery, especially after hearing he got it from a crypt/someone's grave. "You know all sorts of curses come from this stuff!" He distracts her by initiating some doctor/nurse sexual roleplay.

Sonny brings a book home from the library that night, one he's very excited about. It contains some information on their house and the fact that witch burnings occured in their neighborhood three hundred years ago. Mary Ann distracts him from the book by initiating sex.

Afterward, Sonny and Mary Ann are asleep in bed when that red light comes through a vent in their room. Sonny has a nightmare of himself painted white and screaming in a bathtub full of blood. He wakes up to see Simon Renfro float over his bed, then sees visions of Renfro seducing Mary Ann while he watches, shackled across the room. He gets loose, but Renfro and Mary Ann have disappeared. Then Renfro comes up behind him, grabs him and throws him out the open window. He lands in the front yard and Mary Ann rushes up to check on him.

The next morning, Sonny wakes up sore and late for work. His thumbs are bloody. He gets his clothes on and rushes out of the house. Slow-motion shot of him walking away from the front door.

Mary Ann takes out the trash. While she's outside, she notices curtains rustling.

At the college, Sonny has finished a class when Cathy struts her stuff up to him and asks if he has a few minutes. He does, inviting her to his office.

At home, Mary Ann pours herself some tomato juice in a glass and spills a bit on the table. She grabs a towel, and when she turns back to the table there's even more spilled tomato juice, some dripping down to the floor. As she tries to clean up the spill, an endless stream of tomato juice overflows from the glass, seeping across the table, pouring down to the floor. It's no longer tomato juice, now it's blood.

Sonny and Cathy chat in Sonny's office. Sonny wants to talk to Cathy about her choosing a major, but thinks there might be something going on between the lines. Cathy gets touchy-feely with him, but excuses herself when Sonny reminds her that he's happily married. She asks if they can talk later, then kisses him on the cheek and leaves.

Mary Ann prepares a bath and gives herself some sensual looks in the mirror as red light shines under the bathroom door. She gets touchy-feely with herself. A bathtub masturbation session is interrupted when the shadow of a man appears on the wall... But there's nobody in the room with her. Mary exits the bathroom and sees some cardboard boxes throwing themselves down a flight of stairs. She follows them downstairs to investigate. Furniture begins to vibrate, slide across floors, levitate. Mary Ann is almost smashed by a flying table. Chairs chase her to the front door.

Mary Ann reaches the front door just as Sonny enters, and he gets to see the flying furniture for himself. A picture explodes. The refrigerator waddles toward Sonny. Its contents were used to spice up the Dunaways' sex life earlier, now it might be Sonny's undoing.

A taxi pulls up in front of the Dunaway home. Smoke billows across the screen. A man in a suit and hat exits the taxi and approaches the house. As the man enters the house, the furniture stops moving just as the refrigerator is about to crush Sonny. Sonny gets up and the man introduces himself - Clarence McArthur, from the Protestant Church of England. He's come to tell them a few things about their house.

In the Baker house, Mitch is acting jittery and weird in front of the jeweled dagger. He has locked Gayle out of the room and won't let her in. When she says that their friend Fred is there, Mitch opens the door, pulls Fred into the room, and shuts the door in Gayle's face. Fred is played by John E. Holiday, who was the original Detective Garner in Witchcraft 6. He's there to appraise the dagger. How old it is, how much it might be worth. He wants to take it to his shop to check it out some more, but Mitch won't let him.

McArthur investigates the crypt in the Dunaway basement and hears weird sounds. He goes upstairs and spills all of the details he knows about Simon Renfro to Sonny and Mary Ann. They shouldn't have opened the crypt or taken Salem's Cross, there could be terrible ramifications for the Dunaways, the house, the entire world of Christianity. The house is now inhabited by the ghost of a warlock, which is able to travel and shapeshift at will. Sonny says, "Fascinating!" McArthur tells the Dunaways they should leave, but Sonny refuses to. They own this place, he's not afraid of some ghost. The moving furniture could've been caused by an earthquake, McArthur could be a con man. Sonny picks up the phone to contact the church, but the line is dead. McArthur tells him, "The process has begun. He will sever all ties with the outside world and keep those he chooses at his mercy." Sonny figures that if a cross was removed, it must've been done by their neighbor.

Fred is continuing to appraise the cross dagger at the Bakers, while Mitch anxiously paces around him. He guesses that it might be worth around $80,000. When asked where he got it from, Mitch says he dug it up in his back yard.

McArthur and Sonny set up a perimeter of wooden crosses in the ground around the Dunaway house. This is done to trap Renfro's spirit inside the house, so they can deal with him there and keep him from escaping into the world. McArthur is a witch hunter, the man who killed Renfro in 1692 was an ancestor. He asks Sonny what he's afraid of, as Renfro will try to use it against him. Sonny isn't afraid of anything that he can think of. "What are ya, Superman?"

That night, Sonny has a nightmare a lot like the one he had earlier. Bathtub of blood, being forced to watch Renfro and Mary Ann fool around, etc. After Renfro and Mary Ann do some hard dry humping, Renfro decapitates her with a sword and sticks her head in Sonny's face. Sonny wakes up standing in his bedroom and sees Mary Ann staring out the window. He informs her that Renfro was having sex with her, then rushes out of the room.

Sonny wakes McArthur up and tells him that Renfro is in the attic. They go up to the attic to find a bunch of stuffed toy-looking animal corpses strung up and bleeding, a pentagram on the floor.

Mitch Baker is still spazzing in front of the Salem's Cross dagger while Gayle pleads for him to come out of the room.

Sonny wants Mary Ann to leave the house, but she doesn't want to leave him there alone. (McArthur doesn't count.) McArthur sprinkles some anti-warlock powder around and sets up some crosses. After some questioning from Sonny, McArthur admits that, although he's been training his whole life, this is his first real witch exorcism.

Cathy shows up at the house that evening, dressed to seduce. She heard Sonny was sick, so she brought him some homemade soup. Sonny invites her in and within a few steps is touching her, pulling her dress down. Cathy asks him what he's doing. He says, "You want it as bad as I do, why else did you come here?" They kiss, clothes come off, they have sex up against the stair railing. Or, he rails her against the railing. Mid-coitus, Sonny's face morphs into Simon Renfro's, then continues morphing into a demonic Renfro before settling back down into Sonny. Cathy screams, pulls her dress back up, and rushes out of the house just as Sonny and McArthur are coming back in with more exorcism supplies. Cathy is out of the movie now. Strange that her subplot was just building up to some shapeshifter sex.

McArthur cooks up some kind of slime, then he and the Dunaways sit on the floor around some pyramid shapes to perform a seance. Renfro appears in the triangle between them, announcing himself with "I am the Dark Lord." Renfro mocks the trio a bit and disses the witch hunter. McArthur tells him he's not wanted in this house and tosses his magic slime on him. Renfro is hurt by the slime, dissolving into the red light, which then appears to be trapped in a spinning pyramid. Cut to Renfro standing on the roof of the house, clutching the weather vane and howling. We watch him up there for almost a minute.

McArthur is sawing up some more wood for crosses when Sonny asks him about the book that he has. It's a witch hunter's guide, bound in the flesh of a witch. It has information on the Salem's Cross dagger, which they need to use against Renfro. They have to get close to him without being caught by his eyes and plunge the blade into his heart, incapacitating his spirit so that his soul can be condemned. McArthur wears a small Salem's Cross replica on a necklace to protect himself, but Sonny doesn't think it will do squat.

Noise is coming from the basement again, so Sonny and McArthur go down to check it out. Mitch rushes from the crypt and attacks, knocking Sonny and McArthur around a bit before running out of the house. McArthur goes into the crypt to find that Mitch has knocked a rotten corpse out of its tomb. He doesn't notice that his cross necklace falls off as he exits the crypt.

Police have shown up at the Baker residence to arrest Mitch. Gayle cries to Mary Ann that Mitch has changed ever since he found that cross. As two officers take a kicking and spazzing Mitch to their squad car, a detective walks out of his house carrying the Salem's Cross and takes it to Sonny. McArthur confirms that that's the cross they need. He tries to pull it away from the detective, but the cop tells him that he's messing with state's evidence and takes it away.

Mitch gets loose from the police and knocks the two officers out before they can get him in their car. He punches the detective, causing him to drop the cross, then runs off, kicking down one of the wooden crosses in the Dunaway yard as he goes. McArthur takes his chance to pick up Salem's Cross. Mitch goes into the Dunaway house, saying "Yes, Master" repeatedly. He walks down into the crypt.

Running back to the Dunaway house, McArthur spots Renfro standing on the roof again. Then Renfro disappears and lightning strikes the weather vane. The weather vane flies through the air and impales McArthur. Sonny runs up and McArthur spends his last words telling him to "stop the beast", thrust Salem's Cross into Renfro's heart.

Sonny takes the cross dagger, tells Mary Ann "I'll be back in time for dinner", then walks into his house to take care of this warlock ghost problem once and for all.

And that's Salem's Ghost, the movie that's both an original film and the eighth Witchcraft. To be honest, I was not digging this movie at all during the first half, but it got more interesting and entertaining from the midway point on. I suppose it's decent enough overall, as far as this type of movie goes.

Now that this interlude is over, we can return to the story of our hero Will Spanner. We'll find out just how Will comes back from the dead in next week's Witching Wednesday.

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