Have you ever played with a ouija board? You know what it is, even if you can’t pronounce it (and I’ve met many people and have heard many pronunciations). It’s that ‘evil’ game mass produced by Parker Brothers and was sitting next to Candyland, The Game of Life and Hungry Hungry Hippos. And it’s a wonderful tool for horror films to use when they want to get a bit of ghost/demonic action going on and need a simple gateway to get there. Recent films like the apt titled Ouija series and the underrated Spanish horror film Veronica use the board to get the film’s plot going and it’s a universally known prop to the masses that lower budgeted horror films can grab one for $20 and have a cool looking doorway to the unknown.
Which takes us to today’s double feature. Funny enough, both of these films not only have the ouija board in common but also that I luckily got to view both on the big screen in 35mm at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Brooklyn. Both play with possession in cool ways and both are low budget in the best way for any horror lover. Also, both are the purest of films to watch at a party, while you’re drinking and playing with your own ouija board. So get to it and let’s make this double feature happen.
Witchboard is a 1986 horror film from writer/director Kevin Tenney, in his directorial debut. He actually dropped out of film school to make this film (learned from my friend Heather Buckley who presented the film a few days ago at The Drafthouse). Starring Tawny Kitaen (in all her big hair beauty), Todd Allen and Stephen Nichols, it’s a simple story of a young couple who have a party, douche ex-boyfriend brings over a ouija board, has relationship with dead boy within the board itself, tries to show off his skills with it with girl he used to go out with, shit goes down, leaves board behind and ex-girlfriend starts to become obsessed with talking to the little boy David who died at the age of 10. Of course something else more sinister is going on and what makes this film better than a lot of similar horror films of that era is the writing and characters you actually like and have story arcs, especially the three main leads. It’s a fun one that deserves to be watched with a group of friends and it’s out on Blu-ray, which is a great thing.
Don’t Panic is a 1987 doozy of a film that is one of those films that on the surface seems to be a ripoff of A Nightmare on Elm Street mixed with a bit of Witchboard. Both of those films were hits, in theaters and on home video, so it would make sense a company would try to replicate it. But this is a Mexican film company who decided to do so and it twists those two films and makes a concoction that is purely original. It’s a film with possession, but when you’re possessed you have a strange distorted voice, as well as strange effects of a face coming out a of a TV set. But the kicker is that the main kid Michael, who is having a party for his seventeenth birthday, plays with this ouija board like most of these films begin in this era. That’s not the kicker part. It’s somewhere halfway through the movie where he starts to freak out, flinging his body around his room and tearing down a poster, all while wearing full size dinosaur pajamas that I want to own so I can dress up as him for a Halloween party. As the demon says to the camera at one point, “Do you believe in Satan?!” If he created this film, I believe and worship Satan now.