Witchboard 2 (1993)
Kevin S. Tenney, when he finally got down to making a sequel to his 1986 movie Witchboard, really didn't have to put that much effort into it if he didn't want to. It was a sequel to a movie that horror fans knew about but not one of the big ones that everyone loved. It had its moments, it had Tawny Kitaen at the height of her popularity and, unlike a lot of movies of its time, felt like a good old-fashioned horror story. It had its flaws, but it also had its moments of brilliance.
Tenney did a number of movies between the two films and, although the first one set up a sequel in rather cheesy fashion, the public wasn't exactly clamoring for another one. Still, since it had its fans, a sequel was produced in partnership with Republic Pictures in 1993. Originally called Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway, instead of a return of Malfador, the spirit that haunted both the board and residence in the first film, we get an entirely new ghost - even if the board is quite recognizable.
Paige (Ami Dolenz) moves into an artist loft in Los Angeles, both to get out of a troubled relationship with her cop boyfriend Mitch (Timothy Gibbs) and to finally explore her love of painting. The building she moves into is owned by Elaine (Laraine Newman), an eccentric woman who still thinks it's 1969. Elaine's husband Jonas (Christopher Michael Moore) is a lecherous handyman, and her brother Russell (John Gatins) is a photographer who also spends time fixing what Jonas breaks.
When Paige finds a Ouija board in her new home she is curious and, upon using it, appears to contact a spirit named Susan who claims to have lived in the same loft. Further research reveals that the details are correct - except for the fact that, as far as Russell knows, Susan is alive and well. Evidence starts pointing to that not being the case, and it also appears that Susan's spirit, or at least the spirit claiming to be her, has a vengeful streak. Its ultimate goal is to possess Paige, and both Mitch and Russell try to keep that from happening.
Although I don't believe this received widespread theatrical release in the U.S. it did benefit from a slightly larger budget than its predecessor. There is room for more special effects, including some decent ghost effects toward the end, and even a major stunt involving Mitch's runaway vehicle - although it looks like they may have lost a camera in the process. There is still a bit of an exposition dump in the middle of the film, but at least this time around it involves an occult bookstore owner (Marvin Kaplan) to add a bit of spice to it. I do think the possession part was handled better in the original, but quite a bit of the movie is an improvement, and it could have had a reputation as one of those horror sequels that outshine the original.
That is, if it didn't have Ami Dolenz. She is simply not a good actress, with a squeaky little girl's voice and no range at all. When she tries to be provocative it's like listening to Minnie Mouse try to be sexy. It is strange to say it, but Tawny Kitaen made a better heroine in the first one. It's sad that a movie sequel that had everything going for it is brought to a grinding halt every time its leading lady opens her mouth to deliver a line.
What's even sadder is that Republic probably put the least effort into promoting this, not because of Dolenz's lack of acting skills, but due to her non-nudity clause and Kevin Tenney's refusal to try to pressure her into doing nude scenes. He has never had a problem putting them in his films - Night of the Demons has Linnea Quigley in it, and Kitaen was fully nude in the original Witchboard - but he respected his lead actress's wishes. For that he got punished and had his series taken from him - which, in the end, really didn't do Republic any favors.
I still like the movie as it seems Tenney tried to make it different enough from the original as well as keep it creative, and it still has that combination of '70s horror and John Carpenter to recommend it. This really just needed someone else in the lead that didn't sound like a chipmunk when delivering her lines.
Witchboard 2 (1993)
Time: 98 minutes
Starring: Ami Dolenz, Timothy Gibbs, John Gatis, Laraine Newman
Director: Kevin S. Tenney