Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Witching Wednesdays - Witchcraft XII: In the Lair of the Serpent

Cody talks about the serpentine shenanigans of the penultimate Witchcraft movie for this Witching Wednesday.


The twelfth Witchcraft movie comes to us from writer/director Brad Sykes, a man who has been pumping out extremely low budget, shot-on-video movies for over a decade now. He's probably best known for his Camp Blood slasher trilogy, which lifted its title from the Friday the 13th franchise and tells of a killer clown knocking off people in the woods.

Sykes' Witchcraft contribution begins with two young people, brother and sister Jeff and Cindy Lawton, walking through a parking lot during a night out on the town. It's 1:30 in the morning and Jeff is clearly drunk. Cindy asks if he's ready to call it a night, but he wants to stop for one more drink. He's buying.

The title sequence plays over the performances of strippers in a club.

The strip club is where Jeff has chosen to get his last drink of the night. He and Cindy clink glasses, Jeff making a toast "to growing old". He's 26, but he feels like an old man. His sister says he's an old dork. They discuss the fact that they rarely see each other anymore, Cindy is too busy with her new job at the college. Spotting a girl checking him out from nearby, Jeff stops listening to his sister and accidentally knocks over his drink with the small lamp on the table. He gets up to go get some paper towels.

Before Jeff can return with the towels, the girl who was watching him - Tisa - stops him in a hallway. She saw what happened, she hopes his girlfriend isn't too mad. He tells her that Cindy is his sister. He should get back to the table. "What's the rush?" Tisa grabs Jeff's hand and licks it. He asks, "Are you for real?" "Is this real enough for you?" She places his hand on her breast. They start making out.

Cindy gets up to look for Jeff and sees him continuing to kiss Tisa as they go out a back exit. Cindy follows them and calls out to Jeff as Tisa drives him away in her pickup truck, but they don't hear her.

Tisa takes Jeff back to her place, which is actually a warehouse. She needs a lot of space for her work. She's a sculptor, she works with metals. For example, she made the serpent necklace that she's wearing. She invites Jeff inside, where they proceed to have sex, during which she blindfolds him. When Jeff removes his blindfold, he sees that he's being straddled by a mask-wearing person in a black cloak. This person strangles Jeff while their eyes glow red.

Cindy is at home, mourning her brother and drinking wine while trying to keep sane, when she gets a phone call from her old friend and our hero Will Spanner. Will is in town for Jeff's funeral. He offers to take Cindy out to eat, she doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything. If Will comes to her place, she'll cook. When Will arrives, they greet each other with a hug.

At the Long Beach Police Department, Chief Burns is not happy with the paperwork Detective Tom Greaves has done on Jeff's murder. The murder looks like some kind of cult thing, Greaves has men researching "that symbol". Burns is sure there is going to be another murder. The killer is following some kind of ancient ritual that tells them how and when to kill. Burns wants Greaves to keep this out of the press and stop the killer before they kill again. Greaves assures him that he'll take care of it.

Jeff's funeral is held with only Will and Cindy at the graveside service. Afterward, they talk over dinner at Cindy's place and catch up. Will has a law practice in Seattle that is doing well, he's got a lot of new clients. Cindy can't believe that Jeff is gone, she keeps expecting him to come in the door and say it was all a joke. But it's not, he's gone and Cindy blames herself. She tells Will about seeing Jeff leave the club with a mystery woman. She told the police about the woman, but they said there wasn't much to go on. The detective in charge is Tom Greaves. Will and Greaves go way back. Cindy doesn't want Will to get involved with this. "I already am."

Outside a club, a man and woman stop fooling around so he can ask her what her name is again. "Kyra." "What's that short for?" "It's short for 'I wanna f--- your brains out'." The guy wants to have sex right where they're standing, but Kyra would rather take him back to her place.

Detective Greaves is drinking in his living room, sitting near his Chinatown poster, when Will visits to talk about Jeff. Greaves is curious why Will was at the funeral. Will and Jeff had been friends since high school. Will wants details on the murder, but Greaves is reluctant to give them. He doesn't want Will running around like a detective. Will guesses that the case involves something Greaves has never seen before. Something awful. Something that scares him.

At Kyra's place, she performs a striptease for her new guy, then they prepare to have sex. They're interrupted when the guy sees a door open and a cloaked figure peek in from the next room. The guy gets up and puts his clothes back on as Kyra denies that there's anyone else around and tries to get him back in the mood.

As the guy exits, the masked and cloaked killer blocks the hallway. The guy runs and shuts himself in a room, not bothering to lock or barricade the door. The guy stands in the room and listens as the killer's footsteps slowly approach the door. Reaching the room, the killer simply opens the door and grabs the guy by the throat. Some kind of red lightning power zaps out of the killer's eyes and into the guy's eyeballs, causing his skin to fry and blood to run out of his mouth.


Cindy has a nightmare about the last moments she spent with Jeff. Waking up, she hears a noise from somewhere in her house. She gets up and grabs a baseball bat. She looks through the house and finds it empty... Until Will grabs her shoulder from behind. She spins around and hits him in the arm.

After apologizing, Cindy sits Will down on the couch and ices his wounded shoulder. Will tells her that Greaves is holding something back. He doesn't know why, but he's going to find out. Cindy is sure the police are doing all they can. Will is sure they are too, but it's not enough. Will is going to stick around, he's not going to leave until he finds out what's going on.

Will is going to sleep on Cindy's couch. She brings him some blankets and sits back down beside him. She asks him if he ever thinks about how things used to be. "You think about me? About us? I do." She invites him to sleep in her bed with her. Will and Cindy have sex. I hope he's not cheating on Keli or Kelly here.

Greaves and a medical examiner check out the dead body of a man that's been found in an alley. The body is in the same condition as one found previously, same wounds, a symbol cut into the flesh postmortem. Cause of death: all of his vital fluids have been drained. Whoever's doing this, they have more on their minds than just murder.

Will goes to the alley behind the strip club, where Tisa drove off with Jeff, and pulls a purple pouch from his pocket. He takes a small bottle out of the pouch and takes a swig from it. He's using powers to aid in an investigation for once! He sees a flashback to Cindy yelling after Tisa's pickup truck, and is able to mind-zoom in on the license plate.

As Will exits the alley, he's approached by Greaves. Greaves thought Will was leaving town. Will says he's sticking around for a few extra days to support Cindy... and to do some investigating. He gives Greaves the new info of the pickup truck's license plate, saying Cindy suddenly remembered it last night. Greaves threatens to arrest Will if he catches him snooping around again.

Greaves calls in the license plate number and visits Will and Cindy that night to share the result. The truck belongs to Tisa Andrews, a prostitute who's been missing for months. Cindy is able to identify Tisa in a picture of her in a ceremonial robe. Greaves also shows them a drawing of the symbol that's been carved into the bodies. They've never seen this before. Will asks to help, Greaves says the Chief will never go for it.

When Greaves and Will go to the Chief Burns to ask, he says "No way, forget it." Burns doesn't want Will's kind of help and doesn't believe that he knows anything more about what's going on than half the city knows from newspapers. Burns doesn't trust Will's involvement with black magic, which got him kicked out of the DA's office, and accuses him of being psychotic. Burns is interrupted when an officer steps into his office to inform him that another body has been found in Smith Grove. A Halloween reference of sorts. Suddenly Burns has a change of heart and allows Greaves and Will to partner up on the case.

Greaves questions Will about Burns' black magic comments. Will says Burns doesn't understand. He just did a lot of research on different religions when he was in college.

Cindy is out exercising, running at top speed right down the middle of the street. When she stops in front of her house, she spots a hooded figure watching her from nearby. The figure then disappears. Unnerved, Cindy enters her home.

While Cindy showers, someone's P.O.V. walks through the house. After showering, Cindy exits the bathroom. Someone steps into frame, startling her. It's just Will. She's spooked, she thought she saw someone watching her. But "it was probably just the neighbor". Will tells her that he and Greaves are going back out to check out the clubs tonight. Cindy wants to come along, but Will doesn't want to take that risk. Tisa knows what she looks like. Cindy makes Will promise that he'll find the killer(s). He will. For her. And for Jeff.

Cindy and Will go into the bathroom for a lengthy session of shower kissing and cuddling, followed by some shower sex. The music during this scene is very reminiscent of '80s porn music.

The shower sex eventually starts to get intercut with some beefcake dude having sex with a cultist girl in the warehouse lair. Post-sex, beefcake dude tells cultist girl that she's amazing and asks if she's ready to go again. She tells him to take it easy and stands up. Beefcake asks when he can see her again, cultist girl just laughs at him. She walks to the room's door, opens it and lets the killer in. She laughs some more as the killer approaches beefcake.

After Greaves drives around the city block that the strip club is on, Will exits his car and enters the establishment. Greaves parks in an alley. Inside, Will spots Tisa talking to some unwitting guy.

Tisa and the guy exit the strip club and do some kissing. Tisa invites him back to her place. Will interrupts them and Tisa runs off. Pushing the guy aside and telling him that he just saved his life, Will chases Tisa. Will and Greaves manage to trap her, Greaves pulling a gun. She grabs a club-like piece of wood off the ground and weakly waves it around at them. She won't drop it, so Greaves shoots her.

Keeping his gun on her, Greaves bends down to check on Tisa. She appears lifeless... Then suddenly grabs Greaves's gun and shoves it into her mouth, and he fires it for some reason. So that's the end of her, and Greaves is satisfied. "It's over, Will. Thank God it's over." Will takes notice of her serpent necklace, which matches the symbol drawing he was shown earlier.

At Cindy's house, Cindy watches Will as he packs his bag. Cindy is glad Tisa's dead. Will just hopes they got the right person. Who else could have been Jeff's killer? Will says it could be anybody. Cindy is confident that Tisa did it. Will wishes he didn't have to leave. He promises Cindy that he will come back to visit, but he doesn't know when. He'll call her when he gets back to Seattle. The phone rings. It's Greaves calling for Will. They've found another body.

Will and Greaves are in Chief Burns's office as Burn assures the Mayor over the phone that they're doing everything they can to find this killer. After hanging up, Burns chews out the investigators. They haven't turned up anything, and Burns isn't impressed by the death of Tisa. She's no help to them now, and for all Burns knows she was just some poor dumb hustler. Burns says he's taking Will and Greaves off the case and replacing them with a couple other detectives, maybe they'll come up with something substantial instead of wasting civilians. Will reveals a bit of information that Greaves doesn't even know: they know who's behind the killings and they know where to find them. The killers will be out tonight and that's when they'll take them. Burns gives them one more night on the case and if they fail Greaves will be suspended and Will will be sent back to Seattle.

Cindy unpacks Will's bag, giving one of his shirts a pleased sniff. She finds a book among his things and leafs through it. There are drawings throughout of rituals, demons, various supernatural things... and the serpent symbol. The phone rings and when Cindy answers the man on the line warns her that she's being watched, if her friend doesn't give up the investigation they'll both end up like her brother.

Will and Greaves look at a map of the city, marking the locations where the murder victims' bodies have been found. Will connects the dots, revealing that the bodies have been left in the pattern of the serpent symbol. There will be at least two more murders to complete the symbol and the ritual. They have to go out to the clubs tonight.

Will returns to Cindy's, where she confronts him with his book. It's a spell book, what the hell is he doing with it? It's witchcraft, it's black magic! Will corrects her, "It's not black magic." He's been practicing magic since college, it was kind of a secret. For all Cindy knows, he's been involved with the murders. Will tries to talk sense into her. If it wasn't for that book and its spells, they wouldn't have made as much progress on finding the killers as they have. What about the serpent symbol being pictured in the book? It's a symbol of the Order of Shades, a society of magicians in the 1600s who committed human sacrifice in hopes of gaining supernatural powers. Will didn't tell Cindy and Greaves he knew what the symbol was because he wasn't sure, didn't want to upset Cindy, and knew they wouldn't believe him. But now he's sure that the murders and the Order of Shades are connected. Cindy is scared. She tells Will about the phone call. Will is going to go out and stop the killers before they complete the ritual. Cindy refuses to be left at home this time.

Will meets up with Greaves that night. He's late, he says it's because Cindy wanted to come and he had to put a spell on her to get her to stay home. Greaves laughs off the spell talk. He gives Will a small microphone to wear. Greaves asks Will if he and Cindy have something going on. "Yeah." Greaves gives them his blessing: "She seems like a pretty nice girl. I'd bang her."

Will goes into the strip club, Greaves parks in an alley. Soon, a woman named Rana joins Will at his table. Spotting her serpent necklace, Will knows she's what he's there for and steps away for a moment to let Greaves know through the mic strapped to his chest. Will brings a drink back to Rana and they toast "to chance encounters". They make small talk, then Rana invites Will to come with her to a little out-of-the-way place where they can get to know each other. They drive off in the same pickup truck that Tisa was driving earlier. Greaves follows them.

Rana takes Will back to the cult's warehouse apartment. Acting like he thinks she's a prostitute, Will offers to pay her. She doesn't do this for the money, she does this for the thrill, the danger. When Will asks if she can turn on some brighter light, Rana just lights a single candle. She takes her top off, removes his jacket, it's his turn to take his shirt off... Will has to go to the bathroom. Rana gives him the candle to take on his walk to the toilet.

Instead of going to the bathroom, Will goes into another room and tries to talk to Greaves through his chest mic. Greaves hears nothing but static. Rana enters the room, tired of waiting. She wants him now. She shoves Will down on a couch. Clothes are removed and they do some heavy making out and hard dry humping. He's cheating on Cindy!

Greaves is also tired of waiting. He pulls his gun and tries to enter the warehouse, but has a hard time finding an unlocked or unblocked entrance.


By the time Greaves gets into the building, Will and Rana are having a post-climax relax on the couch. Will says he has to go, puts his clothes back on, and exits the room. As Will walks down a hallway, he's blocked by the masked killer. Will and the killer have a brief battle with their colorful magic hand lightning. This is the kind of stuff I've wanted Will to do this whole franchise! But since he's waited until 12 movies in, he's not very good at it and the killer's red hand lightning quickly overpowers Will's purple powers. Greaves steps into the hallway and stops the killer with a bullet. The killer falls to the floor, but soon sits back up with eyes glowing. The killer stands and advances on Will and Greaves, the next bullet that Greaves fires not having as much effect.

The killer summons up a super blast of red hand lightning, blowing Will backwards through an exit. Will gets back up and tries to get back inside the building, but the door has locked. The killer grabs Greaves by the throat and shoots the red bolts into his eyes, frying him like the guy who was killed this way earlier in the movie. The cult girl pickup drives off, narrowly missing Will on the way.

Will calls Chief Burns the next day to tell him that Greaves is dead and the police need to raid the warehouse on 5th and River. When the police arrive at the warehouse, the place has been emptied out. Will tells Burns what happened last night and that the girls aren't the killers, they're just slaves to the killer. It's some kind of cult thing.

Will returns to Cindy's house to find that she's not happy with him. She refuses to let him in, but he forces his way through the door. She calls him a bastard for putting a sleeping spell on her. Will tells her that Greaves is dead. The situation is worse than he thought. The Order of Shades is real and the killer isn't even human. The police won't help them, nobody will, Will and Cindy have to stop the killer themselves. They can't stay at Cindy's because the cult knows everything about them.

Will is about to gather some things when his plans are ruined by a police officer pounding on the front door and demanding to be let in. Cindy wants to let the officer in, so Will abandons her, escapes through a window and speeds off in his car.

Later, Cindy examines Will's purple magic pouch and the bottle within, then reads about the Order of Shade's sacrifices in his book. Will calls her. She doesn't trust him and even asks if he killed Greaves. The police found his body and think Will is the killer. Will says it's all a set-up. He needs to stop by Cindy's tonight to get some of his magic stuff. Will tells Cindy that he loves her. She does not respond.

When Will gets to Cindy's he finds that she's missing and there are signs of struggle. He gets a call on his cell phone from a man telling him that they have Cindy. If Will values her life, he'll come to them. Alone. They'll know if he tries anything. Will agrees to come to them. "Look forward to seeing you, Will."

Will returns to the warehouse to confront the modern day Order of Shades. He's led into a sacrificial chamber, where the cultist girls and the killer have Cindy tied up. The killer needs Will to complete the ritual. He will be the final sacrifice...

Either this is one of the better sequels in the franchise, or I'm just overly appreciative that Will put his powers to better use and used them more often. Maybe both. Will has always been a very lazy warlock and this time he was stepping it up a bit more. His backstory is a bit oversimplified when it comes up and his relationship status in the last couple movies has been odd, but why should I concern myself with that? The story is decent, very simple, there's plenty of gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, and there's colorful hand lightning! Works for me.

The Witchcraft series was slowing down at this point. There was no new movie in 1999, they missed 2001. But that's nothing compared to the wait between Witchcraft XII and its follow-up. Six Witchcraft-less years passed before part 13 hit video store shelves.

2008's Witchcraft 13 appears to be the end of the series... or at least it is so far... and so the Witching Wednesdays feature will also be coming to an end when the 13th installment is covered here next week.

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