I'm a great fan of the sort of horror that takes me to new worlds, down strange and winding paths, expands my mind. But sometimes I just want a film as easy and comfortable as a cup of tea and some choccy biccies in my favourite dressing gown (it's dark red to hide bloodstains) and slippers, and when I want that late 80's trash is my go to. Late 80's Italian trash is all the better, and late 80's Italian trash made in Florida, well, how can it fail? Witch Story certainly doesn't. Curiously, something of a sequel/rip off of 1982 film Superstition which I've not seen. I didn't know that Superstition was a great hit or especially groundbreaking, and since Witch Story also has parallels with the more contemporary Night of the Demons I'm surprised they went for the older reference. But then, questions like these are probably why I'll never be an awesome Italian trash producer.
Anyhoos, Witch Story starts more or less as it means to go on. A semi creepy scene of a young girl being pledged to evil, then a torches and pitchforks witch pursuit. Unfortunately the chase takes place around dusk, still perfectly visible out, and torches, unlike shades or gloves, don't look cool when used necessarily, just silly. It's amusing though. Just like when events get going in the present and the luckless teens who inherited the witches house meet a priest on the bus who issues dire warning, bleeds from the eyes and then disappears. It may not surprise to know that this hardly fazes them, nor are they concerned much later when they meet a lone young girl playing with a ball outside the house, who also vanishes. Plus later on it seems like the house is very well soundproofed because when the sh!t really hits the fan, no one really seems to catch on until it splatters on them. And it's not like the murderous demons here are subtle, when they kill they really go for it. Still, who actually needs to be able to take this stuff seriously? Fun is all, fun is all.
The film also brings up its one notable flaw early. There's a pitchforking but the contact is just out of frame, there's a brief semi gore shot after but that's of a wheel going over a limb. The witch burns up nicely, but it feels like things could have gone a bit more graphic. Much like in the rest of the killing, the sort of full on latex slashing, melon smooshing graphic lunacy that could have made this a classic is lacking.
But the whole thing works anyway. The characters are all stock ordinary, stock odd or stock irritant, but the ordinary isn't dull, the odd isn't irritating and the irritating isn't hateful (still irritating though). Once the action locks in its pretty compelling stuff, a good amount of blood slung around and satisfying savagery (why stab someone once when you could do it a half dozen times or more?). There are a few flashes of amusing nuttiness, and in the final block veteran Scot character actor Ian Bannen even brings some real gravitas and creepy atmosphere.
All in all, this is well worth a look for trash fans. Pretty much all others can avoid but if you are into this sort of thing and you've already combed the rest of the overlooked fun of the time, say Ritual of Death and the like, it's pretty much guaranteed Friday/Saturday night fun. Go ahead!