Witchboard (1986)

R | 98 mins | Horror | 31 December 1986

Director:

Kevin S. Tenney

Writer:

Kevin S. Tenney

Producer:

Gerald Geoffray

Cinematographer:

Roy H. Wagner

Production Designer:

Sarah Burdick

Production Company:

Paragon Arts International
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HISTORY

       According to the 17 Mar 1987 Milwaukee Journal, Witchboard was the first film released by Walter Josten’s production company, Paragon Arts International, of Irvine, CA. In 1983, Josten discovered a script, then titled Ouija, written by thirty-year-old University of Southern California film student Kevin S. Tenney. The film, renamed Witchboard, marked Tenney’s feature film screenwriting and directing debut. Josten financed the film’s $2 million budget through private investors.
       The 22 Oct 1986 Var reported the Samuel Goldwyn Co. acquired foreign distribution rights and the 24 Dec 1986 Var announced Cinema Group would handle domestic distribution for the film. Cinema Group planned a limited release on New Year’s Eve, 31 Dec 1986, prior to its national release. The 12 Mar 1987 HR noted the New Year’s opening was limited to fifteen screens in smaller markets, including Buffalo, NY; Columbus, OH; Anchorage, AK; and El Paso and Corpus Christi, TX. The film reportedly tested well in those markets and an advertisement in the 11 Feb 1987 DV announced the film’s five-week box-office gross was $416,336. Witchboard was released nationally on Friday, 13 Mar 1987.

      End credits include the following statements: “Special thanks to: Bill Alaniz, Max & Pat Beaty, Cleo Blumm, Brad G. & Barbara A. Bradford, Lu Ann Cadd, Mark Devich, Mathew Devich, Walt Dodge, Gary Fischer, Audrey Fosler, Delmar Fox, Sumifusa & Kiyo Fujimoto, Tod Gibbo, Jim T. Gibson, Thomas E.B. & Dorothea C. Halgrims, Thomas J. Hamilton, Peter & Joan Hangarter, David E. Hardy, David S. Hass, Phil Jay, Michael ... More Less

       According to the 17 Mar 1987 Milwaukee Journal, Witchboard was the first film released by Walter Josten’s production company, Paragon Arts International, of Irvine, CA. In 1983, Josten discovered a script, then titled Ouija, written by thirty-year-old University of Southern California film student Kevin S. Tenney. The film, renamed Witchboard, marked Tenney’s feature film screenwriting and directing debut. Josten financed the film’s $2 million budget through private investors.
       The 22 Oct 1986 Var reported the Samuel Goldwyn Co. acquired foreign distribution rights and the 24 Dec 1986 Var announced Cinema Group would handle domestic distribution for the film. Cinema Group planned a limited release on New Year’s Eve, 31 Dec 1986, prior to its national release. The 12 Mar 1987 HR noted the New Year’s opening was limited to fifteen screens in smaller markets, including Buffalo, NY; Columbus, OH; Anchorage, AK; and El Paso and Corpus Christi, TX. The film reportedly tested well in those markets and an advertisement in the 11 Feb 1987 DV announced the film’s five-week box-office gross was $416,336. Witchboard was released nationally on Friday, 13 Mar 1987.

      End credits include the following statements: “Special thanks to: Bill Alaniz, Max & Pat Beaty, Cleo Blumm, Brad G. & Barbara A. Bradford, Lu Ann Cadd, Mark Devich, Mathew Devich, Walt Dodge, Gary Fischer, Audrey Fosler, Delmar Fox, Sumifusa & Kiyo Fujimoto, Tod Gibbo, Jim T. Gibson, Thomas E.B. & Dorothea C. Halgrims, Thomas J. Hamilton, Peter & Joan Hangarter, David E. Hardy, David S. Hass, Phil Jay, Michael Gerard Josten, Howard Kingston, Susan Moses, Terry M. Moshenko, Esq., Jim Muprhy, Charles F. Overton, Dale Poniewaz, Harreson & Josanne Raynier, Jean Reagan, Greg Ross, Lisa Savage, Dr. Edward L. Shaw, Neil J. Silverstein, David H. Tedder, Rene Torres, Michael Vano, Richard Ollis, City of Big Bear Lake, The Grips from Hell, Redd Foxx Corporation, Robin Hood Inn, San Franciscan Hotel, The Sorcerer’s Shop, Western Medical Center (Anaheim), Wishing Well Motel” and “This film is Dedicated to the Memory of Christopher J. Tenney 1920-1985.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Feb 1987
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1987
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
16 Mar 1987
p. 8.
Milwaukee Journal
17 Mar 1987.
---
New York Times
15 Mar 1987
p. 61.
Variety
22 Oct 1986.
---
Variety
24 Dec 1986.
---
Variety
21 Jan 1987
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Kevin Tenney Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Supv prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Best boy grip
Grip
Gaffer, 2d unit Photog
Best boy elec
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
3d asst cam
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Swing man
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Props asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Cost fabrication
Wedding gowns by
MUSIC
Theme performed by
SOUND
Boom op
Sd eff ed
Foley ed
Dial ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Pyrotechnics consultant
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Make-up asst
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Accounting
Accounting
Extras provided by
Craft service
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation coord
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Courier
Courier
Crew pilot
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
MUSIC
Excerpts from “Bohor I” and “Orient-Occient III,” music composed by Iannis Xenakis, performed by Iannis Xenakis, courtesy of Erato Disque.
SONGS
“Bump In The Night,” recorded at Moon Recording Studios, Sacramento.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Ouija
Release Date:
31 December 1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 March 1987
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28047
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Linda and Jim host a party and invite Linda’s former boyfriend and Jim’s estranged friend, Brandon Sinclair. As the tension between the men builds, Jim becomes inebriated. Brandon has brought his Ouija board, explains it works best with two players, and asks Linda to join him. Brandon notes that spirits are prone to deception. However, it is safe to contact David, the spirit of a ten-year-old boy who died thirty years ago that Brandon has contacted several times in the past. Brandon and Linda place their hands on the Ouija planchette, summon David, and ask if the boy will return to life one day. David indicates “yes,” and reveals that he can choose his own parents. Jim makes fun of the game, upsetting the spirit. The Ouija board flies across the room and there is a loud sound as Brandon’s automobile tire pops outside. Brandon blames Jim for angering David and the two men almost come to blows, but Linda calms them. Later, she is angry that Jim wrecked the party. She insists Jim is the one she loves, and he apologizes. The next day, Linda’s doctor leaves a message asking her to call about pregnancy test results. Linda uses the board alone and contacts David. She says she is pregnant and asks if David will choose her as a parent. The answer is “no” because David does not like Jim. The planchette stops moving and she wonders where David went. Meanwhile, at a construction site, Jim cannot find his hammer and his co-worker Lloyd lends him a roofer’s hammer with a ... +


Linda and Jim host a party and invite Linda’s former boyfriend and Jim’s estranged friend, Brandon Sinclair. As the tension between the men builds, Jim becomes inebriated. Brandon has brought his Ouija board, explains it works best with two players, and asks Linda to join him. Brandon notes that spirits are prone to deception. However, it is safe to contact David, the spirit of a ten-year-old boy who died thirty years ago that Brandon has contacted several times in the past. Brandon and Linda place their hands on the Ouija planchette, summon David, and ask if the boy will return to life one day. David indicates “yes,” and reveals that he can choose his own parents. Jim makes fun of the game, upsetting the spirit. The Ouija board flies across the room and there is a loud sound as Brandon’s automobile tire pops outside. Brandon blames Jim for angering David and the two men almost come to blows, but Linda calms them. Later, she is angry that Jim wrecked the party. She insists Jim is the one she loves, and he apologizes. The next day, Linda’s doctor leaves a message asking her to call about pregnancy test results. Linda uses the board alone and contacts David. She says she is pregnant and asks if David will choose her as a parent. The answer is “no” because David does not like Jim. The planchette stops moving and she wonders where David went. Meanwhile, at a construction site, Jim cannot find his hammer and his co-worker Lloyd lends him a roofer’s hammer with a hatchet on one side. The two men eat lunch at the site and Jim reveals he and Brandon were once best friends, but Brandon thinks Jim stole Linda from him. However, Jim insists he met Linda after leaving medical school, and she had already left Brandon. As Jim stands to return to work, a load of Sheetrock crashes onto Lloyd, killing him. Back at the apartment, the spirit returns to the Ouija board and informs Linda her missing diamond ring is in the bathroom sink drain. Jim is angry that she contacted David again, but she assumes he is overreacting due to Lloyd’s death. After the funeral, Lieutenant Dewhurst approaches and reveals he is investigating Lloyd’s death as a homicide. The ropes securing the sheet rock were cut with a hatchet and Dewhurst questions Jim about his missing hammer/hatchet. Later, Brandon calls Linda about retrieving his Ouija board. She admits to using it alone, and the line goes dead as Brandon warns her that is dangerous. That night, Linda has a nightmare about the Ouija board atop a casket. In the morning, she picks up the board and tells David she is returning it to Brandon. A kitchen knife flies onto the floor and Linda runs for the door, but it is locked and she cannot escape. Brandon visits Jim at the construction site and asks if Linda is behaving strangely. He insists it a result of using the Ouija board alone, and explains the spirit will lure Linda to use it repeatedly. Next, the spirit will terrify her and use “progressive entrapment” to break Linda’s resistance until the spirit can possess her. Brandon believes an evil spirit is involved and wants to bring a medium to exorcise the demon. Jim laughs, insisting Linda’s erratic behavior is caused by her pregnancy. They are interrupted by a telephone call from Linda. She is afraid of David’s spirit, and Jim tells Brandon to get the medium. That evening, Brandon arrives with Zarabeth, aka Sarah Crawford, who feels the presence of a strong evil spirit. During the ensuing séance, Zarabeth is possessed by the spirit and Brandon tells David that he is taking the board home because Linda is frightened. David’s spirit apologizes and leaves. Brandon takes the box containing the board, and drives Zarabeth home. She asks if he knows the word “Malfeitor” and Brandon says it is Portuguese for someone evil. Zarabeth feels something is strange about the spirit they summoned and plans to investigate further. As she searches her books, the evil spirit appears. It chases Zarabeth, slits her throat with a hatchet and pushes her out the window. When Brandon learns of Zarabeth’s murder, he opens the box to discover the Ouija board is missing. Brandon rushes to Linda and Jim’s building and asks Jim to meet him in the lobby. Brandon insists Linda has become the portal and the spirit will soon possess her. Brandon is going to Big Bear, California, to investigate David’s story about his death. They cannot fight the spirit until they know the truth about it. Jim is skeptical, but wishes Brandon luck. As Brandon drives away, Jim notices Dewhurst’s car parked outside. Inside, as Linda plays with the board, the planchette moves on its own. Jim hears her scream and enters the apartment as an unseen force tosses Linda in the air and knocks her unconscious against the wall. At the hospital, Dewhurst waits with Jim and reveals Zarabeth’s throat was slit with the same hatchet that caused the construction site accident. The doctor interrupts them to report Linda has a mild concussion and is still unconscious. When Jim asks about the baby, the doctor says Linda did not call for her test results and is not pregnant. Jim joins Brandon on the trip to Big Bear. They find a newspaper article confirming David’s death, and want to question David’s parents, but there is no telephone listing for them. Jim and Brandon go to the cemetery to check records, but it is closed for the evening. The men climb the fence and at David’s grave, they find a headstone for his parents who died within the past two weeks. Later, at a motel, the two men reconcile. Brandon still loves Linda, but realizes she loves Jim. At the hospital, Linda awakens after a nightmare, and checks herself out. In Big Bear, Brandon purchases another Ouija board, insisting David cannot hurt them because Linda is the portal and she is unconscious. They summon David at the lake where the boy drowned. David insists he is not terrorizing Linda, and it is an evil spirit named Malfeitor that is doing so. David’s spirit disappears as Malfeitor’s spirit arrives. Several barrels fall onto the men, knocking Jim unconscious, and the evil spirit splits Brandon’s forehead with an axe. Jim regains consciousness and discovers Brandon’s body. He returns to the store where Brandon purchased the Ouija board and learns from the proprietor that Carlos Malfeitor was a notorious mass murderer killed by police in 1930. A photo reveals that Jim’s apartment is in Malfeitor’s former home. Meanwhile, Linda is possessed by Malfeitor’s spirit and when Jim returns home, Linda/Malfeitor attacks him with an axe. Jim gets a knife, but cannot hurt Linda. She reaches for him, but the spirit takes over again and Jim stabs her arm. Dewhurst bursts into the apartment and assumes Jim is attacking Linda. When Dewhurst reaches for Linda, the spirit knocks his gun aside. As Jim grabs the fallen weapon, Malfeitor laughs that Jim has not realized the truth yet. Jim is the portal and Malfeitor has terrorized him by attacking Linda and killing his friends. The only way Jim can stop Malfeitor is to shoot himself. However, Jim shoots the Ouija board instead. Before Malfeitor disappears, he pushes Jim out the window. Later, Linda and Jim, wearing a neck brace, get married. Their landlady finds the bullet-riddled Ouija board and tosses it in the trash. She wonders if it still works, and the planchette moves itself to the answer “Yes.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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