Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft XI: Sisters in Blood

Witness Cody overcome some character confusion to continue reporting on the Witchcraft franchise in this week's Witching Wednesday.


For the first time since it began, the Witchcraft franchise missed a year when they didn't get a movie out for 1999.

By now the Witchcraft franchise's main selling point is the sex, and this is obvious as soon as you start up the DVD. On the main menu is a minute long loop of two topless girls making out on a bed. This must've distracted the person putting the DVD together, because they didn't catch that there's a typo in the title on the menu.

Press Play and after the title sequence plays out, we join a man and woman waking up in bed. The woman has barely opened her eyes before she's rolling over and climbing on top of the guy. They have sex for a couple minutes. We don't recognize these people because they've been recast, but they are franchise hero Will Spanner and his longtime girlfriend Keli, now played by James Servais and Wendy Blair. Keli has been a character in the series since part 5, but this time her name is spelled Kelly.

After sex, Will gets up and brings Keli the morning mail delivery in bed. She has received an invitation to a performance of Macbeth, in which her younger sister is playing one of the witches. Little sis wants to borrow one of their grandmother's old dresses to wear in the play. Then we get a bit of information that confuses me - Will and Keli have been together for years and they live in the same city as the sister, yet Will has never met her. I start to wonder if maybe this girlfriend is supposed to be a new character. But she has the same name. But it's spelled differently... I'm going to start spelling it Kelly as well, just in case.

The actresses playing Macbeth's three witches rehearse in the basement of Saint John's Health Center, using a garbage can as their cauldron. Play director Arthur Ramsden isn't happy with the performances of two of the girls, Marie and Colleen (Kelly's sister), saying their lackluster acting makes this feel like a high school Halloween skit. But the third girl, Keri, she has grace and passion and power and makes him believe in the magic. Keri has always been interested in the black arts, she's studied it all her life. That's the difference. Ramsden says that the other girls need experience like Keri's. Keri is planning a ritual, maybe Colleen and Marie can help her with it.

Keri's ritual sounds nice and harmless - she intends to raise three sisters from the dead, Satanist witches who lived three hundred years ago. She's heard about them from "crazy old Sister Seraphina". They supposedly built a gateway to Hell through which the demon Abaddon, Satan's most trusted soldier, could enter the world. Story goes that Abaddon would come as the vanguard to Satan's army, creating a piece of Hell on Earth, an unholy estate for Satan to command from during the apocalypse. Before the sisters could open the gate, the church elders hunted them down and killed them. The sisters vowed to come back from the dead and finish opening the gate. Keri has a spell to resurrect dark spirits and just for fun she wants to try it out at the sisters' graves, which are right outside the churchyard in unsanctified ground. Ramsden thinks this a marvelous idea. It's nothing to Colleen, she doesn't believe in these things. The girls agree to meet up at midnight.

Later, Ramsden's best student Keri meets him in his office. He asks her if she's ready to bond with him and enter the hidden circle. "Yes, yes." They each slice a finger open and mingle their blood, then stick the bloody fingers in each other's mouths. Ramsden grabs Keri by the throat and makes her promise to bow to Satan as her Lord and master. She promises, then they have sex.

Colleen and her boyfriend Bruce are in bed. They discuss how the play is going and Colleen's acting aspirations. Bruce is willing to support her until she gets her big break. His thing is to give, so much so that he had a marriage that ended because his wife wouldn't let him support her. Colleen asks him to hit the snooze button if she ever wakes up from this dream.

At midnight, Keri, Colleen and Marie gather in a cemetery. The three witch sisters are buried at the edge of the cemetery, their grave marked only by one black stone. Colleen comments on how seriously Keri is about this stuff, Keri tells her to focus. Keri takes her shirt off, Colleen and Marie follow her example without question. The shadow of the boom mic can be seen on the cemetery wall behind them.

Three drunk college goofballs are also in the cemetery. One reads the dates on a headstone of someone who died young and mocks the dead person for not living as long as him. They spot the topless girls holding hands in a circle and chanting.

Keri orders the witch sisters to arise, "Finish your dark task. In the name of Abaddon, we welcome your evil power." One of the drunk guys jokingly calls out from the dark, "You will all be damned." Marie gets spooked and runs away. One of the drunk guys is sent after her. Colleen and Keri pull their shirts back on, Colleen running after Marie and Keri going to confront the remaining drunks. One tells the other that he's getting rigor mortis in his pants thinking about what he just saw.

Elsewhere in the cemetery, Marie is hearing the voices of actual spirits calling out to her. She asks them where they are and they lure her back to the grave of the sisters. They tell her that they're "Down here, in the grave." Marie sees a shadowy figure standing nearby. As the figure approaches, she faints. The drunk who was following her comes running up. Seeing that she's unconscious, he starts to get touchy-feely.

Marie opens her eyes and sees a rotting corpse crawl toward her, then lunge at her. A change seems to come over. She rolls over to look up at the drunk guy, grabs him and starts kissing him. They start to have sex right there on the grave, then in his P.O.V. there's flashes between Marie's face and the face of the rotting corpse. One of the corpse's eyes glows red, then this redness flies out of the eye and into the drunk's chest. He dies instantly, which amuses Marie.

Keri has chased off the other drunks when Colleen catches up with her. Marie groggily walks up to them. She doesn't know where she's been. Colleen gives her her shirt back and they walk her back to the dorm.

Detective Lutz is riding in a car being driven by her partner Detective Garner. In the role of Lutz is Stephanie Beaton, who also played the character in parts 9 and 10. Mikul Robins is back in the role of Garner, having played the character in part 9. Garner is driving too fast, causing Lutz to spill her coffee on herself. Lutz gets a call on her cell phone - a body has been found in the cemetery at Saint Sebastian. Garner steps on the gas and Lutz spills her coffee again.

The two surviving drunk kids are waiting for Lutz and Garner in the cemetery. They tell the story of what happened last night. They saw three chicks dancing around naked, doing some kind of ritual. The guys got scattered, when the two others came back they found their friend dead. They figured he got too excited, they didn't know he had a weak heart. Garner says that according to medical records, he didn't. The guys have seen the naked chicks around before, they can get their names.

Colleen approaches Marie in a hall to talk about the play, but they're interrupted by a nun who tells them that detectives are waiting for them in the lounge.

Old Sister Seraphina is standing out on the front steps with her walker, begging the sisters to leave her alone. Presumably the resurrected witch sisters, not the nun sisters. A couple nun sisters come out and take her back inside.

Lutz and Garner talk to the three girls. The girls tell them that they didn't mean any harm, they were just getting in touch with their inner witches for the play. The boy's death was a heart attack, an accident. Garner agrees that both the girls and the boys used poor judgment, but he doesn't see anything criminal yet. The detectives let the girls leave. There's something about this situation that Lutz doesn't like. Garner suggests that maybe her bra's on too tight. Lutz says she's unnerved by the black magic angle, then threatens to charge Garner with harassment if he keeps up the sexist comments. Garner says he has a bad feeling too. "Nah, just my hemorrhoids."

Lutz and Garner find Will and Kelly checking on the black stone marker of the witch grave. Will's presence makes Lutz feel even stranger about the black magic angle. Will introduces the detectives to his fiancee Kelly. This moment is another point in favor of Kelly being a different character than Keli, because I'm sure the detectives knew Keli. Lutz asks Will if the news of death and graveyard rituals is what brought him there. Will didn't know about that, they're just there to visit Colleen. He doesn't sense any supernatural forces at work.

Kelly confirms herself as a new character when she asks Will what his conversation with the detectives was all about. There's another side of his life that she doesn't know anything about, he has certain sensitivities. He has to level with her - he does feel a dark presence and that Colleen may be caught up in it, she could be in grave danger. The cops don't trust him enough to believe in him entirely, they would only interfere. Kelly trusts him. Will has to figure out what's going on before he knows what to do, but at least they can warn Colleen. Kelly tells him that Colleen won't believe him. They were raised by religious fanatics and both rebelled against them in their own ways. Kelly looked into comparative religions and became a spiritual person, Colleen rejected it all and became an atheist. "Well, some of my best friends are atheists. We'll just have to get through to her somehow."

In her dorm room, a possessed Marie lights candles in a pentagram and talks to her sister spirits. She needs to find them the right vessels to take over. Someone young, comely, and well connected...

Marie catches up to Colleen outside the school and asks her to help her with something back in her room. Colleen agrees to, but they're interrupted when Will and Kelly approach. When Will looks at Marie, he sees a rotting corpse staring back at him. He tells her, "You can't hide from me." She replies, "I was wondering when you'd arrive." Marie tells Colleen they'll discuss what she needs later, then walks away.

Kelly delivers their grandmother's dress to Colleen, then introduces her sister to her fiance Will. Kelly tells Colleen that they need to talk to her, but Colleen needs to get to class. She tells them to meet her at rehearsal in an hour, they can watch.

Marie finds Keri in the school and excitedly pulls her back to her dorm room. Keri thinks the pentagram and candles are cool. Marie informs her that the ritual was a success and she's not Marie anymore. Now she needs a vessel for her sister. Keri says that Marie needs her to help keep her hidden, Marie disagrees. "I need nothing from you but your body." Keri gets knocked out with a candlestick.

Marie says some words, and when Keri rises we see flashes between her and a rotting corpse standing in her place. Now they need to find a vessel for the master Abaddon, then he will guide them. They give each other some unsisterly kisses, getting onto the bed and taking their tops off.

The girls rehearse Macbeth. The possessed ones are really into it, when Colleen flubs her line the girls say she sucks, she's gonna stink up the show and make them all look bad. Ramsden tells the girls to stop and asks Colleen if she didn't learn anything or get a sense of magic from her experience last night. Colleen says she was just overwhelmed by the other girls' performances. Marie and Keri suggest that they go out tonight and perform the ritual again. Ramsden thinks this is a good idea. Colleen thinks it sucks. A boy died, there was a police investigation. She comments on how much the other girs have changed. Ramsden needs them to stop taking shots at each other and work closely together. Colleen quits the play. She doesn't feel comfortable here anymore.

Will and Kelly have been watching. They tell Colleen that she did the right thing and they're proud of her. Will tells Ramsden that he doesn't approve of his methods. The girls leave Will and Ramsden alone. Will tells Ramsden that allowing the girls to perform the ritual was dangerously reckless. Ramsden didn't "allow" anyone, they're free agents. Even if Ramsden encouraged it, the boy's death was just an accident. Will knows that something more is going on here. Something not quite natural. Something rotten. He's going to find out what it is.

Outside, Colleen tells Kelly that she's upset and needs to be alone. Kelly needs to talk to her. Colleen gives her an address to come to later that night, there's someone she wants Kelly to meet.

Ramsden has a photo shoot with Marie and Keri, who are wearing black cloaks and have fake blood at the corners of their mouths. They end up having a threesome on the floor. Postcoitus, Marie informs Ramsden that Abaddon requires a vessel. Ramsden doesn't know what she means, Abaddon can't cross over into this world until the gateway is opened. Marie says it's correct that Abaddon needs the gateway to walk the Earth in his true form, but his spirit just needs a suitable vessel. Keri holds Ramsden's head in place as Marie pokes both of his eyes out with a pen. The girls say some words to Abaddon, then tells Ramsden to open his eyes. "You have new ones now." Ramsden/Abaddon opens his new eyes and stands. Now they need to find a vessel for the third sister. Then, with their combined powers they'll be able to resurrect the gateway they built so long ago. But that will mean nothing without the Stone Key. It's been hidden all these years, a custodian must be keeping it safe. They need to find it.

At home, Colleen and her giver boyfriend Bruce have sex. As soon as they're finished, there's a knock at the door.

Colleen serves coffee to Bruce, Will, and Kelly in the living room. Will and Kelly are finally able to deliver the warning that they've been trying to give Colleen all day. Will says there's a devastating evil at work. Colleen isn't sure what she can do, she can't leave school with finals coming up. Kelly is skeptical too, but they have to be safe. Colleen refuses to be sheltered anymore, she's a grown up now. She doesn't believe in Will's spiritual crap. Then why does she go to a Catholic school? It has a good drama department. Colleen doesn't want to leave Bruce over this mumbo jumbo, but Bruce backs up Will and Kelly. They seem genuinely concerned, maybe she should go somewhere safe. Bruce will wait for her. Colleen wants to get through her finals before she does anything.

Marie and Keri sneak into the church in the middle of the night and find Father Trista. Sitting him down on a pew, the girls get touchy-feely with him. They tell him they're looking for something and if he tells them where it is, they'll give him the night of a lifetime. Trista doesn't like this at all, sticking with his vow of celibacy. The girls ask him about the Stone Key and the custodian, but he has no idea what they're talking about. With the questioning going nowhere, Marie rapes the priest. As he cries afterwards, Keri again asks him about the Stone Key and its guardian. It's clear that he doesn't know anything, so Marie grabs a large crucifix off the wall and bludgeons Father Trista with it.

The next day, Will and Kelly arrive at the school. The church doors are blocked with yellow Caution tape. Garner is talking to a nun nearby and informs Will that a priest was murdered. Will and Kelly enter the building to find Lutz examining black magic markings on the large crucifix. Will says it looks like the markings were just copied out of a book to make it look like a cult did this, unrelated rituals are all jumbled together. Lutz isn't buying that there isn't something more going on. She feels a weird energy, like a dampness. Will suggests the damp feel is because the building is old, Lutz is letting her imagination get the better of her. Lutz thinks Will knows more than he's telling.
When Lutz exits, Will tells Kelly that the markings are actually an invocation, a request for the demon Abaddon to accept a sacrifice. There's also mention of the witch sisters. Will needs to do research on them.

Will searches through the college's records online, but can find no mention of the witch sisters. He calls the Saint Sebastian Library to ask why this is, the librarian says he's been listening to too many of Sister Seraphina's stories. Whose stories? Sister Seraphina, bedridden now and stricken with Alzheimers, but she still goes on about witches and demons and whatnot.

Will returns to Saint Sebastian's and sneaks into the personal quarters for the nuns and the Mother Superior. He finds Sister Seraphina sitting in her room. She's glad to see him. "You have come to kill them. You must kill them!" "I'll do my best, I'm only a man." Seraphina tells Will about the witches plan to open a gateway to Hell. Will must find Abaddon's host body and look in his eyes, where his power lies, the eyes that have seen fire and Hell. In them Will will find power and weakness. Will promises Seraphina that he will do his best.

Lutz and Garner visit Monsignor Layton. Layton has the authority to make all ultimate decisions about the school and he doesn't get along with the detectives, showing little interest in discussing the murders. The police want Layton to shut down the school during the investigation. Layton does not like this idea. Closing the school a week before finals would cost them a fortune in make-up sessions. He refuses to do it. The detectives leave to get an official order, telling Layton that he's only delaying the closure a short time.

Layton gets freaked out while walking through the nun dormitory building that night, making his way through hallways and stairways with strangely colored and flashing lights. Someone is following him. He ends up cornered on a balcony by Marie and Keri. They're looking for something, the Stone Key. He says he doesn't know what they're talking about. Marie bites one of his cheeks off. They ask why he's in the dormitory. He was just going to visit a frail old nun and bring her God's love. Layton finally admits that he knows where the Stone Key is and he's the only one who does know. To keep this secret, he jumps off the balcony and falls to his death.

Sister Seraphina is sitting in her room when Marie and Keri enter. They introduce themselves as the goodwill committee, but Seraphina knows something's off because of how cold they are. Marie can smell the Stone Key on her, they know she's the custodian. Seraphina tells them that they will never have it. The evil sisters are tired of messing around, so Marie just breaks Sister Seraphina's neck. The witches find the Stone Key hidden behind a smudge mark on the wall.

Marie and Keri find Ramsden in his office, looking at tarot cards. He tells them he was visited by the police. While he finds it amusing that the girls have been turning the school into a charnel house, perhaps they could be less conspicuous at times. This subject is forgotten when the girls reveal that they've brought him the Stone Key. They still need another body for the third sister to inhabit. Of course, the choice is Colleen. They will be with her tonight. That will also bring Will Spanner running, sugar to lure the fly. To celebrate the fact that their plans are going so well, the trio disrobe and lie down on the floor for some more sex.

Colleen is packing in her dorm room. After the murder of Monsignor Layton, the school is being closed down and everyone evacuated. She tells someone on the phone that she needs a ride and a place to stay.

Outside, Lutz and Garner tell Will and Kelly about the closure and evacuation. This has turned into a major killing spree, all of the experts are being called in. Now that Colleen is safe, Kelly thinks Will should tell the detectives everything. They need all the help they can get now. Will agrees to tell what he's been holding back, giving all the details on Abaddon and the gateway.

Colleen is heading for the exit when a panicked Marie grabs her and asks her to come with her. They go into Marie's cold dorm room, where Keri knocks Colleen out with a thick book. Colleen's right index finger is sliced open, a spell is cast, and she rises as the third sister.

As Will is confirming to Lutz that the eyes of Abaddon's host will have to be shot out, Garner spots the three sisters walking off into the woods. The heroes give chase.

The deeper the heroic quartet gets into the woods, the stranger things get. A thick fog causes them to get separated. An invisible force knocks Lutz to the ground, pulls her top up and rapes her. A topless Keri walks up to Garner and instantly seduces him. Garner has a passionate quickie with Keri, but as he orgasms he realizes he's on top of Lutz. The detectives quickly brush off this disturbing event by saying "It was just an illusion."

Will and Kelly are confronted by Ramsden, who tells them that Satan will spare all the others if Will returns his allegiance to him, where it belongs. If Will submits, his powers will be returned. Will refuses. But if he gives in, Colleen will be spared a Hellish fate. Will can't let her die...

Ramsden and the witches prepare to open the gateway to Hell. Once again, Will has to figure out how to save the world without losing his own soul in the process.

The basic idea for this one is decent. I saw one review that suggested it could've made for a pretty good Fulci/Italian horror movie, which may be. As it is, the low production value and especially the preoccupation with gratuitous sex scenes does detract a bit from the storytelling. Still, it wasn't a bad entry in the series.

Stephanie Beaton ends her three film run as Detective Lutz here. In fact, looking at the credits on IMDb it appears that this is the end of the line for the characters of Lutz and Garner. We're losing some regulars, they've been with us since part 6 (missing out on 8 like everyone else).

The most notable actor in this film is the woman who played Sister Seraphina, Anita Page. Page was a big star in the late '20s - '30s, during the transition from silent films to talkies. According to her IMDb bio, she received record amounts of fan mail at that time, second only to Greta Garbo. She retired from acting in 1936 at the age of 26, supposedly because she was tired of having to turn down the sexual advances of studio heads. She only had one credit, playing a nun in 1961's The Runaway, between 1936 and her official return to acting in 1996. Witchcraft XI was her second film after her return. Her brief second run as an actress consisted primarily of low budget horror movies, most from Witchcraft XI writer/director Ron Ford. She passed away in 2008.

We're now just two movies away from the end of the Witchcraft series. The subtitle tells me we'll be following Will into the lair of the serpent for next week's Witching Wednesday.

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