Incredibly Bad Film Show: Witchcraft X, Mistress of the Craft


witchcraftx2Dir: Elisar Cabrera
Star: Wendy Cooper, Kerry Knowlton, Stephanie Beaton, Eileen Daly

It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these – more than 18 months – but when I re-watched this, as part of our exhaustive survey of the entire Witchcraft series, I knew there was no way I could truly do this justice in a couple of hundred words. The other entries in the series are a mix of light occult shenanigans and heavy petting, set in Los Angeles. But for the tenth entry, they shifted things to London, and apparently threw everything you knew out of the window on the flight there. The results are all an Incredibly Bad film should be: it contains laughable concepts, pathetic production values and some performances that would disgrace a school Nativity play. Yet, it’s certainly more memorable and, dammit, I’d say entertaining than any of the nine preceding installments.

The core here is a British government department, Bureau 17, who have been charged with investigating any paranormal shenanigans. Their tiny staff (I blame budget cut-backs: perhaps governmental, more likely by the film’s producers) have captured Hyde (Knowlton), a mass murderer with Satanic tendencies, and are holding them pending the arrival of Detective Lutz (Beaton) from Los Angeles, who’s going to extradite him back to the States. However, the vampire Raven (Daly) and her minions, break Hyde out, because she needs his help to translate a tome that will allow her to summon the demon Morshenka, who will give her unlimited power. It’s up to white Wiccan detective Celeste Sheridan (Cooper), Lutz and the other members of Bureau 19 to stop them.

If that sounds kinda cool to you, it does to me as well, actually, and with a respectable budget and some cast changes, it probably could have been. However, here? Well, I don’t use the words “woefully inadequate” often, but this film will probably provide my entire 2013 quota. It’s apparent almost from the start, where London is reduced to some quickly shot footage from Soho, and stock footage from a packed night-club, before cutting to the sparsely-populated (it’s those cutbacks, I tell you!) location where Raven’s conveniently-bisexual minions chow down on some poor guy. We then move to Bureau 17’s headquarters, which is even more the product of poverty-row film-making, with no effort spared made to make it look like a functioning building, except for lobbing a few unrelated photos on the wall.

That’s where Hyde is being interrogated, and let’s pause to discuss the acting here, because there is truly something for everyone. At the top of the pile is Cooper, who is genuinely good, despite having to handle dialog and her powder-blue PVC costume, which are constantly battling over the title of “Most Ridiculous Thing in This Movie.” I’m calling it a tie. In contrast so sharp you could slice your wrists with it (and will probably want to, at various points) is Knowlton, Apparently a pro-wrestler, I get a more emotive reading from the text-to-speech program on my Kindle; stunningly, his acting is not the least of his contributions to the movie, as we’ll see later.

In contrast, there’s Daly, who appears to have been the recipient of all the emotion which is completely missing from Knowlton’s performance, overacting ferociously for every line, enunciating each Syll-A-Ble like it was a newly discovered Shakespeare soliloquy. Is it appropriate? Hmm. The jury is still out on that. Is it entertaining as hell? F’sure. The best scenes are when she and Knowlton play opposite each other, it’s a contrast in styles of epic proportions:
Raven (chewing scenery like a crack-crazed Tasmanian Devil): “Have you ever heard of a ceremony of… Walpurgis?”
Hyde (reciting share prices): “Walpurgis? The stuff of myths. Walpurgis belongs in a story book about demons. I serve Satan, the only true master.”

witchcraftxThe rest of the cast fall somewhere between those extremes. Beaton is solid enough, but doesn’t have enough to do, except wander round with her shirt tied loosely under her voluminous cleavage, as shown on the left. Seems a bit informal for any supposed police detective on an international mission. There’s a bit where she gets scratched by one of the vampires, and initially, it seems this is going to go somewhere. My notes actually say, “somewhere interesting,” but even by this point, about 25 minutes in, I was doubtful that was going to happen. Although it does lead to her sitting in the bath, soaping her breasts with the enthusiasm and care usually found only in a vintage car-club owner, waxing the bodywork of his Jaguar.

That comes as part of a triple-dose of nudity, which suddenly pops up, as if the makers realized they were falling short of the statutory quota of breasts. So we simultaneously get Raven bonking Hyde (as in their dramatic scenes, she does all the work, while he just lies there), Celeste making love to her boyfriend, and Lutz in the bath. Of course, it was during this Nipplepalooza that our son wandered upstairs, though it’s a tribute to him being so inured to my viewing of crap, he was more concerned as to whether or not I was going to eat that other Hot Pocket. This question answered, I explained that she’s a witch, that one’s a vampire and the lady in the bath is an LA detective, to which he replied “It sounds like the best version of Being Human ever.”

“Best,” is entirely relative, I think we’ll find. Instead, there is so much “wrong” here. Even when Lutz and B17 Agent Dixon (Sean Harry, looking like a concussed Hugh Grant) are driving through London, they are shown in short order going East along Piccadilly, then North towards Piccadilly Circus, West through Trafalgar Square and finally North at the Houses of Parliament.  I speak for everyone familiar with central London when I say: “What?” The audio mix is even more incomprehensible, with dialogue which is often inaudible, and sound effects which should charitably be described as occupying the same postal-code as the actions they accompany. Still, it’s nice to see the disabled getting work, and I trust the deaf guy was appropriately grateful. [Actually, see here for some background on this aspect]

Remember I said above that Knowlton’s performance wasn’t the worst thing about his work on the film? He’s also credited as a “fight director”, alongside Frank Scantori. Scantori enjoys multiple credits on this, as an actor (playing the head of B17), co-producer, first assistant director, casting director and for transportation, so at least has the excuse of spreading himself a bit thin. On the other hand, Knowlton, being a pro-wrestler, would seem well suited to stage fake violence and make it look real, or at least credible. So you’d think, anyway. Counterpoint:

The above is just one of many moments which will have you cackling maniacally. My favourite was probably Raven bringing Hyde back to her lair, where the decor consists of a table-lamp and a badly-hung sheet.  He compliments her on having “exquisite taste,” which would be pure, undiluted sarcasm, except Knowlton does nothing to suggest he can reach such dramatic heights. Other moments include: the vampire minion trying to run away in stilettos, resulting in more of a stagger away; poor editing giving the impression of someone being decapitated with a stake; Hyde wandering round a field for no reason at all; Celeste having the ability to project her image astrally, then later using a pay-phone to call in; and vampires who, for some reason, walk like zombies. Maybe that’s also due to the stilettos.

This is truly a film which keeps on giving: even though there are many aspects that are tedious, there’s easily enough which are amusing, lunatic or simply baffling to keep you watching. Just when my enthusiasm for the series was running low, this completely reinvigorated it, and I’m ready for the final stretch.

B
[September 2013]

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witchcraftx3Left to right: Beaton, Daly, Knowlton, bisexual minions