You'll believe it just before you die...
Year of Release: 1982
Also Known As: The Witch
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 82 minutes (1:22)
Director: James W. Roberson
James Houghton ... Reverend David Thompson
Albert Salmi ... Inspector Sturgess
Lynn Carlin ... Melinda Leahy
Larry Pennell ... George Leahy
Jacquelyn Hyde ... Elvira Sharack
Stacy Keach Sr. ... Reverend Maier
Robert Symonds ... Pike
Heidi Bohay ... Ann Leahy
Maylo McCaslin ... Sheryl Leahy
Kim Marie ... Mary
Billy Jayne ... Justin Leahy
Carole Goldman ... Elondra
Something horrible is happening at the old house on Mill Road. A series of ghastly 'accidents' has occurred near the site where a witch was drowned centuries earlier. But when an alcoholic minister and his family move into the cursed residence, an idealistic young priest and a cynical police detective start their own investigation into the unexplained violence. Has the daughter of Satan returned for a rampage of vengeance? Will the laws of the Church be strong enough to cast out this blood-crazed demon? And if Evil has truly found a new home, is the entire neighborhood headed straight to Hell?
Superstition, the movie that reminds us that, while a judicial system is a useful thing to have in place, when somebody's face starts bubblin' like a cheese pizza as they cackle like Ozzy Osbourne it's probably best to work outside the rules as needed. There's just no sense in tryin' to talk to people when they get like that. Know who hates this one? What's that? Oh I see. You think nobody hates it cause it's obscure enough that nobody's even seen it an you wanna know why I haven't done some garbage like Scream yet cause it's the best EVAR. I'm kidding. Anybody that believes Scream is all that good was never thinking to begin with. It's fine though, I'll tell ya, even though you don't deserve it. Tough guys hate it. Let me explain what I mean by tough guys, cause there's different kinds of tough guys. I'm talkin' about the kinda tough guy that doesn't wear a helmet while he's doin' wheelies down the freeway at 93mph on his Harley down the center line between two 18 wheelers. You know the type, the guy that generally ends up in the emergency room cause he only had two cinder blocks to put under his 1982 Chevy Nova while he was installin' his new lift kit. The man that never uses the wrist strap while playin' the Nintendo Wii, yeah I think you're gettin' it now. He hates it. An he hates it not so much because of the scene where the blade offa the carpenter's guardless Skil Saw flies off an digs for buried treasure in Stacy Keach Sr.'s chest cavity (if that'd been him he'da just gotten up an walked it off) but rather because it's one thing to die showin' everybody what a big man you are, but it's something else entirely to die in prison from rectal hemorrhagin' after you're convicted of manslaughter. But don't worry guys, it's just a movie. You just keep on truckin' an we'll be right there to hold your beer when you get the itch for glory. Now I know, the supernatural haunted house, spooky-goins-on movie's been done to death an this probably ain't nothin' you haven't seen before. The crew knew you'd think that too, that's why they blow somebody's head up in a microwave in the first five minutes, just to slap that smug look right offa your face. So stand in attention an take some notes, cause you couldn't be more wrong. First, and I know this is kinda hard to believe but you'll just have to trust me. There is absolutely no reason to tell the family that just moved into a new house that your deputy drowned in their pond the day before an you haven't managed to retrieve his body yet. I mean, what're the odds that an arm's gonna latch onto one of their kids anyway? An even if it does, big deal. Trauma builds character.
Second, detectives can just knock down the wall of your basement anytime they feel like it. People gripe incessantly about the NSA invadin' their privacy, but anybody that's watched Superstition knows that authority figures've been doin' whatever they want to whomever they want for decades. So let that be a lesson to ya: never, EVER let authority figures in your house under any circumstances. If they've got no warrant, make 'em get one. If they've got a warrant, barricade the door with the sofa. Or if you really wanna feel secure, just dig an underground bunker an install cement walls. You laugh, but I stay cool in the summer in this thing. An third, in the church, it's considered compassionate to drown someone rather than settin' 'em on fire an havin' a weenie roast. The guillotine on the other hand, well, that's a little too humane. I mean, we don't want 'em to think what they did was okay, right? It's a fine line, that compassion thing. You don't wanna make people think you're soft, but at the same time, you don't wanna have to look at what you've done to 'em either. That's good stuff right there, go ahead an repeat those to your friends. They'll think you're both learned and worldly for checkin' out socially relevant cinema. But now, for something really important. If you remember the Friday the 13th Part 2 review, we discussed the proper way to store your severed heads for future dining. I thought I'd left that topic clear an sewn up seamlessly, but after watching Superstition it became clear that the cooking preparations for said head were never discussed, and that anyone who hasn't yet seen this one could make a catastrophic mistake with their cheek vittles. It kinda came to me when the guy's head exploded in the microwave. Think I may have broken my nose from that facepalm, but I'll get it looked at later cause this is important. NEVER EVER microwave your severed head. Realistically, you shouldn't microwave anything. Ever had a microwave cheeseburger? Is that what you want your severed head to taste like? Just beside the obvious here, namely, that the thing's gonna explode like guys named Saeed on the steps of the U.S. embassy, there's countless other problems this creates. First thing you wanna do is use a turkey bag an stick the meat thermometer right in the tongue so you know when it's done, it also keeps the eyeballs from explodin' all over the inside of your oven. That shit NEVER comes off an you feel like you're bein' watched every time you open it up afterwards. An I realize this may seem obvious to people with a lick of sense but leave the teeth in til it's cooked, the meat softens right up an that way you won't hit yourself in the face with the pliers while you're tryin' to extract 'em. An lastly, shave the head. If you wanna target skinheads that works too but do keep in mind that the ink from the swastika tattoos is gonna foul the meat. Glad we got that straightened out, yeesh. I apologize for my carelessness I'll try to be more careful in the future.
The movie begins with a couple teenagers neckin' in their car outside the old haunted house on the edge of town on account of no guy in cinematic history ever figurin' out that by the time they're able to unbolt their terrified girlfriends' knees with sweet talk it's past curfew an they've gotta get home before their Dads sit 'em down an give 'em the "I may never trust you again" talk. So just when the guy's finally assured her that he's capable of purpetratin' serious badassery on anyone that might harm her, a Wal-Mart Halloween prop flies out at their car an he forgets about sex quicker'n a female newlywed an peels outta there. About that time some backwoods prankster comes crawlin' outta the bushes gigglin' cause he knows the guy's date just hosed down his Wranglers like a wildfire in an old growth forest. Meanwhile, his buddy inside the nearby house spends the next ten minutes wanderin' around lookin' for 'im til he comes across a haunted microwave that opens up an blows 'im across the room like Tara Reid walkin' in front of a box fan. Eventually his tool shed of a buddy finally comes in the house an finds his severed head in the haunted microwave an pretty quick it explodes like Hiroshima an the prankster gets to see how it feels to run around in soaked shorts. After determining that the doors in the house, much like the doorways to success, are closed to him, he tries squeezin' outta the top of the second story window til an unseen force tries desperately to raise it up an let the microwave stink out an ends up severin' the tool shed in half an sendin' 'im plummeting into the ground like Anthony Weiner's political career. The next morning, a couple priests (David and Maier) are havin' a budget meetin' to discuss raisin' the price on salvation when the fuzz shows up an tells 'em that more kids've gotten killed out on that property they never do anything with an that if they don't start makin' it presentable they're gonna tell the home owners association. The place is a hazard, an the detective (Sturgess) will be damned if he's gonna place the blame on the trespassers where it belongs. So David an Maier head out to the property an Maier explains that Eartha Kitt lives out here an they let her stay rent free cause she kinda scares 'em. But almost immediately upon entering the house they run into Arlen (Eartha's son) who's holdin' out his hand like he's either puttin' a voodoo curse on 'em or expectin' his allowance, only once he realizes they ain't Eartha he runs down to the dock an looks in the water to see if the zit he popped that morning ever healed up. About that time, Sturgess an his flunkie, who apparently lead real excitin' lives an who've been stakin' out the house, spot Arlen, an Sturgess sends the flunkie after 'em cause he forgot to wear his sports bra that morning an doesn't wanna get nipple rub.
Then the flunkie starts dickin' around on the dock instead of followin' Arlen an pretty quick his money starts burnin' a hole in his pocket til it spills out all over the dock. When you consider what cops made in the 80s back before they could shoot somebody 257 times an get put on paid administrative leave, you can't blame 'em for bendin' down to pickup his change. Unfortunately when he does, the necrotic arm of Fritz Von Erich reaches up outta the pond an puts the iron claw on 'im an drags 'im down. Shortly thereafter, the cops drag the pond for the deputy, an even though Fritz's probably sittin' on the bottom with the camel clutch cinched in on the guy, they still can't seem to find 'im. So David suggests they drain the pond, at which point Arlen (who by this point has been captured) freaks out, then hulks out an busts the nose of everybody within reach an escapes. Then David an Maier go talk to Eartha an tell her the collection plate's been a little skimpy lately so they're gonna move their new priest into the house to save some scratch an they'd appreciate it if she'll keep Arlen from skinnin' the guy an wearin' 'im like an Ed Gein tuxedo. She says she'd like to but Alren don't listen to her anymore cause he's goin' through those rebellious 40s where you just can't do anything with a kid. Then David heads back inside to do some paintin' like a common contractor an a little female Hitler youth sneaks up on 'im an scares the bejezus outta him. Once he grabs the bejezus an puts it back in, the little girl (Mary) tells 'im she used to live here an she's just visitin'. Then David goes into the livin' room an asks Maier if they've captured Arlen yet an pretty quick the contractor's table saw blade flies off an finds a comfortable spot on Maier's sternum to sit an spin til he looks like Marlon Brando at a spaghetti feed. David's barely got the viscera cleaned off the floor by the time the new tenants arrive, an Sturgess tells 'im he's real sorry about Father Maier but not nearly sorry enough to bend down an soak up some blood with a paper towel or help out in any other capacity. Meanwhile, in the basement, a repairman's workin' on gettin' the elevator goin' til he gets sucked into the shaft quicker'n a buncha middle aged beer guts when a hot 20-something passes by an pretty quick his neck gets roped up tighter'n a blue ribbon bull an he chokes harder'n Colin Kaepernick in Super Bowl XLVII. Elsewhere, the family (sans the Father) enjoys the new swimmin' pond til The Severed Arm makes a cameo an latches onto daughter Ann's leg an refuses to let go til it gets some positive exposure. It's essentially the same thing Joey Bishop used to do with the rat pack, only less pathetic. So once she gets dragged outta the pond Mom puts her in bed so she an Dad can sit around arguin' about whose idea it was to move into this accursed place just so the papacy can save a couple bucks.
Dad (George) can see he's not gonna win this one, or really anything, at any point in his life, so he heads for the basement to consult with the reverends Daniels and Beam til his obnoxious snot nosed son (Justin) comes down an says he'll have what Dad's havin' only he needs a beer chaser. Then they head upstairs an the bottle tips over. This is one fickle spirit I'll tell ya what, hasn't the man suffered enough bein' attached to this family? Meanwhile, Ann wakes up an starts seein' Mary flashin' in among all the scenes the MPAA threatened to cut outta the movie an starts screamin' like Paul Ryan everytime the GOP comes up short tryin' to repeal Obamacare. Meanwhile, David an Sturgess go talk to Eartha some more an she tells 'em to go check out the church archives an to quit buggin' her while she's tryin' to watch All My Children. Then Justin goes into the basement lookin' for a refill on his Rum & Coke only Dad's not workin' the bar an when he can't find 'em he heads over to the elevator shaft an Fritz's gangrenous arm reaches out an kills 'im off screen so the censors won't take the film canisters out back an light 'em on fire. Elsewhere, Eartha tells David he's gotta finish the ritual an to make sure he uses fire this time, cause the last time the priest half-assed it an now the evil spirit can still run around on a part time basis. Then David looks at her like she's gettin' too far ahead in the plot cause he hasn't had a chance to go to the archive yet so any of this'll make any sense an goes to play catch up. While he's doin' that, Sturgess an George go into the basement lookin' for Justin an find his blood all over the floor an worse still, the overturned liquor bottle. Meanwhile, another priest is thumbin' through all the sealed records from the church's child molestation case files lookin' for the book David wants regardin' the incident out at Chateau Eastwick. Eventually he finds it an David starts mullin' it over til he's interrupted by a flashback of angry villagers dressed like the wait staff at Medieval Times wantin' to burn the local witch bitch for makin' their cream sour overnight an makin' their horses sweat in the morning. The witch bitch is havin' a great time, she's just stretched out on the rack laughin' like the opening to Bob Berryhill's "Wipeout." At least until the priest (Pike) pronounces her guilty of crimes against humanity an for turnin' people into toads without a permit an sentences her to death by cement shoes. She tells 'em they'd better not or her Dad's gonna get real mad an roast 'em all like pigs on a spit, all the while her face is bubblin' up like a jacuzzi an her voice starts soundin' like Judge Judy's when she gets interrupted. Finally, Pike orders her dunked, but before he can congratulate everyone on a job well done, the Christian church goes up like... well like a Christian Church in Syria.
Back home, Sturgess's interior decoratin' sensibilities have been deeply offended by the use of a single wooden wall in the house's basement, so he heads out back an starts diggin' on the far side of said wall and sure enough, he finds a secret trap door leadin' into the single bedroom apartment of a pathetic, middle aged man. So then they go back into the basement an make like Gorbachev an tear down that wall til they get into the room. Meanwhile, another flashback takes over David's narration an we see Pike again, some years after orderin' the witch to sleep with the fishes checkin' out the sacrificial wine cellar til Ozzy Osbourne starts laughin' in the background again an pretty quick he's besieged by an unrelenting volley of corks. Then a door cracks open an Pike's too dim to realize he's bein' herded an pretty quick he gets blown backwards onto the breaking wheel an cracked like a walnut. Nobody was ever able to figure out how he got himself into the device but back then people just kinda shrugged this sorta thing off. Then David's book catches on fire an he gets this look on his face like he just wrecked his Dad's car an tries to put it back like nothin' happened before he sneaks out. Elsewhere, Sturgess has busted into the secret room, an inside is a twin bed with a corpse takin' a little siesta, an while Sturgess an his flunkies start lookin' for the outside entrance Arlen emerges from the closet an takes Sturgess down til his flunkies are able to club 'em into submission a la Rodney King. Then Eartha has to sit an watch the cops haul her boy off to prison. That's a hard thing for a mother to watch, but maybe while he's there he can get the help he needs an start worshippin' a more respectable witch, like Melissa Joan Hart. By that time, Sturgess is finally startin' to feel safe, so he starts rootin' around inside Arlen's bachelor pad til Fritz's arm emerges yet again an drags 'im off by his nostrils. By now, Mom's gettin' pretty sick of waitin' on Sturgess to find her little boy or to bring her somebody that'll nullify her dead end marriage, so she heads for the basement while George tries to build up enough courage to follow her, which is tough sometimes when you've got none in liquid form. Then the lights go out an Mom runs into Justin... well, Justin runs into her when she opens up a door an he does the standard Friday the 13th flop from the ceilin' an leaks bloody snot all over her best blouse an she runs off into the kitchen squalin' like an alley cat that just got the hose. Unfortunately, by the time George finally grows a set, Mom's gettin' hurled across the kitchen like a shot put, but fear not; for David hath returneth, an he's about to kick ass for the Lord.
Alrighty, so this is another one of those buried gems that nobody born after 1974 ever heard about until the advent of the internet. It's a fairly standard "old dark house" movie, without much in the way of innovation. Fortunately, that's not all that important. For a movie that was kinda buried and left by the wayside, it's pretty decent. Most movies that drift away like this one did, until people had a forum large enough to discuss it and get it out into the public awareness, tend to be below average or outright poor. And while Superstition isn't particularly great, it's decent. What separates it from most haunted house movies is the abundance of blood in it. I think a lot of people really overhype the volume, but it's got a pretty respectable quantity, and probably more important, it's got some pretty memorable death sequences. The short running time, fast pacing, and abundance of characters leaves us with another horror movie in which none of the characters are particularly important to us, which kills any mainstream appeal it could conceivably have and costs it some points. That's particularly disappointing, because this one could have been improved quite a bit with some character development. What's more, there's plenty of room to do it, because the director keeps the action moving plenty fast enough that it wouldn't drag all that much if some backstory or character development had been included. Even if he'd added upwards of 7 minutes worth, the movie would have come in under 90 minutes. What little story the movie does have, they try to cram in as quickly as they can during inappropriate moments and some of those points are so short and quick that one is reminded of the disclaimers read at 200mph at the end of a radio ad for an investment firm. I could see excluding it if the movie were pushing an hour forty five, but it's not and it would have rounded the movie out nicely. Ifs an buts, I suppose it's not important. It does hold a rating of 5.6 on the IMDB out of only 1000 ratings, which is genuinely impressive and gives a pretty accurate picture. By that, I refer to the fact that anyone whose seen it probably never had the opportunity to catch it just flipping through the channels, as I doubt it ever made air on TV, and thus, read a review, or heard about it from a friend who'd have to be fairly well versed in the genre. Movies like this are obscure enough that an IMDB rating can actually be fairly accurate as the people who just finished rating Scary Movie 5 have been filtered out naturally. I think that rating's a little low, but it's not off by too much. Thank goodness for Anchor Bay, Code Red, Blue Underground, and Shout Factory and all the other lesser known distributors for releasing movies like these, in spite of the fact that they're probably not making much money on the releases.
Okay, lets pull all the mirror shards outta this thing an see how many holes there are in its face. The plot is standard fare, neither interesting nor boring. It's got little that you've not seen before, but on that same note, doesn't try anything stupid to screw up the formula. Haunted house, evil shrew, wants to buy vengeance. Not a favorite theme of mine but it's adequate for its purpose. The acting is really pretty decent. There're a couple characters, who're on screen for so little time that they're of little importance, who aren't very good, but there aren't any characters that induce eye rolls. Although I don't suppose you'd say any of the characters are all that interesting. Albert Salmi as the surly detective is entertaining, and Jacquelyn Hyde as Elvira (I referred to her as Eartha Kitt) is probably at the top of the heap as far as enjoyable characters. Carole Goldman, who played the witch in the flashback sequences was pretty good as well. Here's who matters and why: Albert Salmi (Empire of the Ants, Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Lynn Carlin (Deathdream), Larry Pennell (Bubba Ho-Tep, The Fear: Resurrection, The Borrower, Helter Skelter 1976, City Beneath the Sea), Jacquelyn Hyde (The Dark 1979, House of Terror), Robert Symonds (Mandroid, C.H.U.D. II, Rumplestiltskin, The Ice Pirates, "Demon, Demon", The Exorcist), Stacy Keach Sr. (Saturday the 14th, Ants), Billy Jayne (Dr. Alien, Demonwarp, Nightmares, Cujo, Hospital Massacre, Bloody Birthday), Bennett Liss (Evilspeak), John Alderman (New Years Evil, The Alpha Incident, Drive In Massacre, "Hannah, Queen of the Vampires", The Screaming Woman, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Love Camp 7), Michael Cornelison (Husk), Casey King (Dracula: Dead and Loving It).
The special effects are the high point, as is usually the case. Right outta the shoot we've got an exploding head in a microwave, which I'll give extra points for because they at least tried to jazz up their lame prosthetic head by having a sequence right before where the actor's actual head is jutting up through a hollowed out box meant to resemble the microwave (and does). Then only moments later, a guy is severed in half by a window an plummets to the ground, it's decent as well. Beyond that, you've got a severed arm, the gangrene monster arm with the clawed fingers, the witch's bubbling face, glass shard barrage into a guy's face, and the truant Skil saw blade that burrows into the priest's gut bucket. The Skil saw at least is a first, as far as my memory goes, as is the head in the microwave. Heads have exploded many times, but not as result of a microwave, well done. So by and large, the special effects are pretty good. Blood's a little vibrant some of the time, but nothing terrible. The shooting location is a pretty good one. That's almost always one thing you can be assured of with the old dark house movie. It'll have a creepy setting, if nothing else, and Superstition is no exception. A good looking, spacious old house with a scummy pond next door. Not much variety, but then, there isn't supposed to be. The soundtrack is just okay. It's pretty repetitive, but uses the same tonality that a lot of horror movies from the late 70s and early 80s had. By and large, you'd say that it works well enough, but the redundancy of the tracks often causes them to be more noticeable, which isn't actually a good thing when the goal is to create atmosphere. You become distracted from what's happening in the shot, so it's very slightly problematic. Probably not bad to listen to without the movie, but then, not many people do that. Overall, Superstition is pretty decent, and like Baby Blood, is another horror movie good enough that I shouldn't have had to come across it by reading about it in John Stanley's Creature Features Movie Guide. But it would appear that I owe Mr. Stanley another debt of gratitude. Check it out if you're looking for something that maybe you haven't seen before.