Produced by the late, great Joe D'Amato's Filmirage production company, the made for TV Witchery (also known as Witchcraft, Casa 4 and Ghosthouse 2) marked the directorial debut of Fabrizio Laurenti, who shortly followed up this rancid piece of dung with the might Troll 3 (better known Stateside as The Crawlers).
When the film begins, pregnant Jane (Linda Blair of The Exorcist), wakes up from a horrible nightmare in which she was chased by a mob wielding pitchforks. Shortly after that, her father, who is a big wig in the real estate world, takes her and the rest of the family off to an island where he is hoping to make a deal to purchase an old house. Also on the island are Gary (David Hasselhoff of Knight Rider) and Leslie (Leslie Cumming), a couple who are investigating the strange history of the island and the home there as Leslie makes her living writing about ghosts and demons and the occult.
Once they arrive, Jane starts having more visions and nightmares all of which seem to relate to a creepy old woman in a black dress (Hildegard Knef) who, by all accounts, is the witch who haunts the area. Of course, soon enough people start meeting their demise in typically grisly fashion and a horrible storm breaks out ensuring that there's no way any of them will be able to get off of the island any time soon. While the evil witch kill them all before they can escape? And why does she seem to fixated on Jane? Who cares!
Poorly paced, and poorly acted, Witchery is directed with little attention to detail or to building suspense. There are plot holes big enough that you could drive a truck through them and the witch's motivation is not only lacking, it's almost non-existent. First she needs Jane alive, but if that's the case, why was she trying to kill her? Moments like this leave you scratching your head and wondering just what the writers were thinking. Hasselhoff and Hickland don't accomplish much here, though Hasselhoff is amusing when he's whining about not being able to score and when he takes a bloody money shot to the face it's hard not to laugh. Leslie Cumming speaks like she's wasted on cheap gin and has a mouthful of marbles – which makes her a puzzling choice, but at least she's fun to look at. Linda Blair is given a bit more to work with than the rest of the cast but you know fairly early on that they're going to take her into Exorcist territory so it's not surprising when it eventually happens.
Once thing that the movie does do well is deliver on the gore and special effects scenes. There aren't enough of them to really make the film worthwhile, but there are a few icky stand out scenes that are at least somewhat memorable even if the rest of the film is not. A character gets their lips sewn together, Blair gets sucked down a bathtub drain into another dimension and sees some old men eating a dead baby, and then there's the aforementioned gore to Hasselhoff's face. These aren't done all that well and they're obviously fake but there's some heart behind them and they've got a certain sort of old school charm to them.
In the end, it's hard to figure out just where this all went wrong. There are some interesting cast members, D'Amato was involved, they've got a good, eerie setting and there are some stand out gore set pieces. Even with all that, the movie is, unfortunately, boring and quite the chore to sit through.
Aside from the fact that at 1.85.1 the movie is noticeable cropped (the opening credits look really tight and it's not uncommon to find yourself wondering why the tops of people's heads are missing), the anamorphic widescreen transfer isn't bad. There is some print damage throughout and the odd scratch here and there but it's never over powering. Color reproduction is decent and if there's some heavy grain in spots it's easy to look past that. Not reference quality by any stretch, but it's all perfectly watchable despite the aspect ratio goofiness.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is about on par, quality wise, with the video. It's not perfect as there are spots where you'll pick up on some hiss and there's a bit of distortion in some of the voice acting but other than that, things are alright. You won't have any problems following the dialogue and the score and sound effects are mixed in nicely alongside the performers.
Shriek Show has included their Joe D'Amato trailer reel which features promo spots for roughly a dozen of his movies, as well as trailers for a few other Shriek Show DVDs that are currently available, including one for the feature contained on this disc. A static menu screen is included as are chapter stops for the feature itself.
Even by B-movie standards, Witchery is an awful film. The story doesn't make any sense, it's poorly paced and poorly acted, the effects are bad and the direction and cinematography is dull. Media Blaster's hasn't done a particularly remarkable job on the presentation and there aren't enough extra features to compensate for the poor feature. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.