Witching, The (1993)

Directed by Eric Black aka Matthew Jason Walsh, Todd Sheets
Video Outlaw VHS

Saxophones are the worst. They sound less like musical instruments and more like a sixteen-year-old vacuum cleaner that’s struggling to pick up the shedded hair from a wet dog. Everything about saxophones is annoying, ugly, and embarrassing. That’s why I get bummed out when they show up in songs.

For instance, the female-fronted punk band Anorexia has a song called “Rapist In The Park” from 1980. The song starts with a distorted bass guitar that plays a fast and simple riff. Trashy staccato barre chords join in. The drummer keeps time on the hi-hat. Anticipation builds. I wait for the song to explode in a crusty mess.

Instead, a saxophone kicks in.

The Witching is a saxophone kicking in for sixty-four minutes straight.

Christian goremonger Todd Sheets is best known for pushing the limits of no-fi brutality within an innocent, sexless context. Movies like Goblin and Zombie Bloodbath are camcorder adventures that focus on entrails being pulled out of people’s holes while other people walk around the exterior of a house. The entertainment level of these movies varies, but Sheets’s sincerity is undeniable. He’s a determined and prolific filmmaker, and he does it all for Jesus. For three decades, Sheets has churned out a legacy that would take most backyard maniacs four lifetimes to match. With The Witching, producer Sheets and writer-director Matthew Walsh shifted gears. They made a PG-13 styled horror comedy that should have landed somewhere between TerrorVision and Woodchipper Massacre — a homemade celebration of rubber monsters and charmingly stupid jokes. Instead, we get a ‘Nam vet who watches topless mud wrestling on TV and says, “I haven’t seen that much breast action since I was a grade school teacher!”

We’re Sheets outta luck.

Stewart’s pissed. His parents are going to a “rock concert,” but he can’t go. Because Stewart has to look after his grandma for the evening. Along for the ride is Stewart’s friend, Morris, a chubby guy with a ponytail who makes references to The Amityville Horror and Star Wars. While arguing in the basement, Stewart and Morris follow a green glow that leads to the discovery of Stewart’s grandfather’s diary. Stewart’s grandfather was a witch hunter. Stewart reads from the diary. He reads some more. He keeps reading. It goes on for almost five minutes.

Stewart’s reading unleashes a banished witch known as Morganna, as well as her monster minions, who wear rubber masks and Ramones jackets. Stewart and Morris, along with the help of their survivalist neighbor, a pizza delivery lady, grandma, and Morganna’s witchy niece, visit Morganna’s domain via a hallway in the refrigerator. The rest of the movie follows the gang of witch hunters as they battle Morganna for the fate of the universe. This includes a fight where Stewart uses a blow-up doll as a weapon.

The Witching isn’t lacking in ideas. A ghoul lady who looks like a refugee from G.L.O.W. emerges from a TV and strangles Morris. Morganna has a lil’ buddy monster that appears to be a stuffed animal puppet with a werewolf mask for a head. There’s an impressive zombie with a face that looks like melting coffee grounds. Morris transforms into a frog-man with the help of some early CGI morphing. The problem is that these ideas are wasted on the wrong movie. The Witching was intended to be a comedy. When we’re dealing with a group of friends making a shot-on-video horror-comedy over a few weekends in 1993, that statement can be dangerous. With this movie, the danger is real. From painful inside jokes that are impossible for us to understand to painful outside jokes about boogers and tits, the humor level of The Witching falls way below The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Small Wonder, or “The Diarrea Song,” which every ten-year-old knows by heart. It doesn’t help that there’s barely any music in the movie — the soundtrack consists of the hum of appliances and mumbled asides from actors. I commend Sheets and his pals for trying something different. But I don’t commend The Witching for creating a new niche of non-entertainment.

On a positive note, there’s only one fart joke in this movie.