Witchboard (Kevin S. Tenney, 1986)

Carol J. Clover, by way of illustrating that the subtext of occult films is generally about men in crisis, has previously done dominating work deconstructing the relationship between the two male protagonists in this film. Yet what’s ironic is that the easily-deployed genre tropes (in this case, spooky doors slamming, liberal use of scary fog machine, shock false alarms, and a madcap medium) make this strangely understated–and even more strangely touching–narrative about two men reconnecting (one pretty blond, clean-living, brand-swaddled Yuppie asshole; one rugged brunette, hard-drinking, outdoorsy construction worker asshole) less fascinating. Indeed, when the woman for whom both men harbor feelings goes into full-on butch axe murderer mode–and when the ADR gets evil and the hatchets go a-flying–subtext goes AWOL, and we get another cruddy (albeit well-made) possession film.

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