Obscure SOV Weirdness: “The Witching” (1993)

Directed By
Matthew Jason Walsh as Eric Black

Version Reviewed

Total Runtime
~1 hour, 3 minutes, 24 seconds

A mom and dad are on their way out the door to an off-Broadway one-woman show. The mom starts verbally checking off last-minute preparations in typical worried mom fashion. One of them is reminding her son Stewart (Auggie Alvarez, Zombie Bloodbath) to take good care of his grandmother. This includes applying ointment to her corns and keeping her pacemaker away from the microwave. Stewart’s mom talks to him like he’s ten even though he looks thirty and listens to heavy metal music. In fact, he’s pretty miffed that he won’t be able to see the band “Black Tooth” performing nearby.

Another thirty-year-old who actually acts ten named Morris (Mike Hellman, Goblin) rides up on a bicycle, excitedly honking his horn whilst waving around a copy of the board game Parcheesi. “Hi, Stewart! Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Goodman! I decided to come over since you couldn’t go to that concert.” His front wheel hits the curb and he falls over. He dusts himself off and says “Wow!” in amazement at nothing. He’s wearing a white button-down shirt tucked into white pants. His long black hair is pulled back in a ponytail. I get the impression his look is a tribute to Reggie from Phantasm.

I feel like Stewart and Morris’ names should be switched. Between the Mad TV character and a kid I went to school with who had a high-pitched voice and wore equally high heels on our third grade field trip to a nature preserve, I tend to associate the name “Stewart” with effeminate man-children more than I do “Morris”.

The family’s Vietnam War veteran conspiracy theorist neighbor Mr. Flopchek greets them from atop his roof. He’s sitting in a makeshift deer stand/guard booth, holding a rifle, prepared to gun down the extraterrestrials who he claims abducted his nonexistent wife, should they ever return.

Stewart’s mom and dad threaten to ship him off to military school if anything goes awry. They finally depart in a fabulous wood panel station wagon.

Inside, Morris is watching TV with the grandma, named “Gramma”, who’s apparently so senile she hasn’t realized her dog Chewy is dead and mistakes an erotic movie titled “Sweaty Babes From Hell” for an episode of Jeopardy. Her sole purpose is providing wacky misunderstandings that are more cringey than funny. One of the subtler things she does is alternate between calling her dog “him” and “her”. I can’t tell if it’s accidental (she’s clearly not a “professional” actress) or part of her gimmick. Maybe Chewy is one of those gender-fluid, non-binary zoomers from TikTok.

Stewart retreats to his basement to mope next to his furnace. Morris follows him down. “What’s up, man? You called me a jerk-off for no reason.” No he didn’t. Nobody said that. Is there a scene missing here? That’s when the unlikely friends notice an ominous green light coming from behind the wood paneling. Lots of wood paneling in this movie. Stewart reaches his hand in.

“That’s not ordinary, right?”

“I don’t know if you should be doing that.” Morris cautions. “Remember in the movie The Amityville Horror where they found that weird room in the basement that was painted in human blood?” As I recall, the detail about the red paint being blood only appears in the book.

Stewart pulls out the diary of a man named Goodman Benny. He recognizes the name as one of his great ancestors who hunted witches and built his family’s house. He reads a passage aloud dated July 15th, 1693.

“That’s today,” Morris notes. “That’s three-hundred years ago today.”

The passage relates how Goodman Benny captured the queen of the witches, Morgana of Oberon, and banished her to Limbo using a spell. He did so to prevent her from activating a powerful machine called the “Pazuzu Configuration” capable of immersing the land in eternal darkness. At that point, the machine was still missing three crucial components: “Meat that is not meat, a clock that counts the beat of a heart, and three drops of virgin blood”. I wonder where Oberon is, and if it was named after the fairy king of mythology, the Uranian moon, or the metal god from the Metal Church song “Metal Church”? I’m guessing the latter.

“Geez, sounds like the end of Star Wars.” Morris says, putting the info in terms we can all understand. “You know, right before the Death Star blew up, before Darth Vader could use it to destroy the Rebel Force.”

Somehow, out of all of this, I’m having the most trouble believing Stewart’s modern-looking home in the middle of a subdivision is three-hundred years old.

Stewart tempts fate by reading an incantation Benny warns will reverse the spell. The incantation is a bunch of silly nonsense words including “bing bong bada bing bada bing bong” and the phrase “klaatu barada nikto” from the same year’s Army of Darkness, which Sam Raimi got from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still. I swear I can hear someone snicker off-camera when Stewart gets to the part that goes “blah dah blah fahrvergnügen”. Frankly, with all these popular movie references, I’m surprised it doesn’t contain Chucky’s chant from the Child’s Play series.

“Klaatu Barada Nikto.”
Credit: The Day the Earth Stood Still, YouTube

At that precise moment, the power goes out. There’s a faint rumbling sound which I think was supposed to be louder. Stewart brushes it off as an earthquake, a train, or his grandmother keeling over dead. “Gracious, Chewy, excuse yourself.” Gramma says.

By now, Morris is pretty freaked out. Stewart offers to get him a Coke™. The same green light from behind the wood paneling pours out of his fridge. He slams the door shut and whirls around with a panicked look on his face, uttering the most iconic line of the movie. “THERE! IS A HALLWAY! IN MY REFRIGERATOR!” He repeats himself twice. Fearing he’ll somehow get blamed for ruining the costly appliance, he decides to investigate.

“Hey, wait a minute. I’m not going in there.” Morris protests. “Nuh-uh, no way, and you can’t make me either.” Cut to them in a foggy room holding flashlights and baseball bats. “Oh, yeah, well, next time you won’t make me, I bet.” How is that a joke? And what perils await these brave men?

[continued below]

Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
The refrigerator leads them through a few rooms with rock walls to an open space in a cave where they observe Morgana (Veronica Orr) addressing three or four groaning zombie disciples. Morgana isn’t the witch from the VHS box. She’s black. So that’s confusing. There’s a rubbery wolf-like creature named Scully perched on her shoulder. This is the third movie I’ve watched with involvement from J.R. Bookwalter to feature a character named “Scully”. Morgana is flanked by two henchman in cheap Halloween masks. To her right, Beast. And to her left, Sluggo. Beast has a black face with little white splotches on it. He’s picking his nose and is wearing a White Sox hat, despite living in Limbo for three hundred years. Sluggo has a black turtle face, white slicked-back hair and a leather jacket, despite living in Limbo for three hundred years. Shouldn’t they be wearing waistcoats and breeches?

Her and everyone else call them “oh-cul-ee-its”. I can’t tell if they’re trying to say “acolytes”, “occultists”, or “affiliates”.

Morgana announces Benny’s spell has been broken to mild groaning approval. She instructs Beast and Sluggo to go to the physical realm and retrieve what she needs to complete her Pazuzu Configuration, because, apparently, even though they’re the least human-looking of the bunch, they’re the only ones who can set foot in sunlight. I guess that explains why Morgana wants to immerse the earth in eternal darkness.

Morris burps from the Coke™ he drank, alerting the ghouls to his presence. He and Stewart narrowly escape to the kitchen. They chain the fridge shut.

Stewart goes upstairs to lie down. He says he has an “adult-size bangaroo” (a reference to an old Bayer aspirin commercial). A hooded figure emerges from his bedroom closet. The figure lowers its hood, revealing a harmless-looking blonde girl with stupid, poofy bangs. This brings up an interesting question. Do bangs on a woman count as a mullet? I say yes.

Stewart threatens to channel Jeff Jarrett and smash a guitar on the harmless-looking blonde girl’s head, but she sends it flying across the room with a single finger-pointing motion. The girl introduces herself as Bethany, Morgana’s step-daughter, and pleads for help destroying her wicked step-mother’s contraption so that she can do all she’s ever wanted, live a normal life as a mortal. She pathetically sticks out her bottom lip until Stewart agrees. I don’t want to call her the worst actress ever, but I haven’t seen worse. God bless her, she tried.

Downstairs, Scully just sort of shows up in the kitchen. There’s a point-of-view shot of him scurrying across the floor to bite Chewy, completely undetected.

Mr. Flopchek invites himself in to watch nude female mud wrestling with Morris and Gramma, citing an inability to do so at home because aliens control his TV. He turns on the show and makes a comment about how he hasn’t seen so many breasts since he was a grade school teacher. Oh, Flopchek, you rascal! The characters sit through an advertisement for “Let’s Scare Crazy Fat Ethel to Death”, which sounds like a mashup of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and Criminally Insane II, also known as “Crazy Fat Ethel 2”. I wasn’t expecting a Nick Millard reference. It brings a tear to my eye. Gramma gets up to give Chewy a bath.

Scully is back on Morgana’s shoulder. Morgana peers through a crystal ball (snow globe) and sees something in Stewart’s house that meets one of her three requirements. She commands Beast and Sluggo to get it. They tell her they can’t; the fridge is chained shut. Ok, what’s going on? Are we pretending we didn’t just see Scully and Bethany inside the house? How’d they get there, and how come they can go in the light all of a sudden?

Morgana conjures a demoness wearing chains and a cape “from the Ninth Circle of Hell” directly into the house to attack Morris and Flopchek. The Ninth Circle of Hell is Treachery. It’s where history’s worst traitors go. I don’t think that’s a factor here. The writer probably just picked that term cos it sounds cool and sinister. Anyway, the demoness crawls out from behind the TV. Morris and Flopchek put her over as majorly ugly. Flopchek gets up to fight.

“Oh my god! You think her face is bad, you oughta smell her breath!” he yells back to Morris.

The demoness throws Flopchek into a corner and lifts Morris up by his throat. Stewart hears Morris’ screams of rape and heads down with a bat. He swings away but it has no effect.

Meanwhile, a feisty pizza delivery girl named Dixie arrives at the door with some other family’s pizzas. Morris politely takes time to answer. In accordance with her restaurant’s delivery policy, Dixie flashes her breasts, causing Morris to faint. Dixie steps in to set down the pizzas and comes upon a bizarre scene. She pulls out her .357 Magnum, because of course she does, and drops the demoness.

Flopcheck can’t find his hotdog. Stewart concludes that it must have been taken to fulfill the “meat that is not meat” requirement. After that, Morgana sends a hex through time and space to the house, where it ricochets off a table and hits Morris, turning him into a frogman (i.e. him with a green mask and gloves).

From there, things only get weirder. Gramma unchains the fridge to get prune juice and is kidnapped by Sluggo. Morgana devises a plan to rip out her pacemaker and use it as “the clock that counts the beat of a heart”. Morris is frog-napped as well for his virgin blood. Stewart finds himself in a swordfight with Beast, except instead of swords they use blowup dolls. Yep.

Stewart, Bethany, Flopchek, and Dixie eventually re-enter Limbo. A skeletal corpse (Fred the Corpse as “Himself”) appears out of nowhere to greet them. “So glaaad you could make it! Let’s show them some hospitality, shall we?” Fred croaks. I’m 99% sure he’s the prop from the melt scene in Ozone, also 1993.

Will our heroes be able to foil Morgana, save Gramma, change Morris back, and fix the refrigerator, all before Stewart’s parents get home? Tune in and find out!

The Witching was shot on video in 1993 near Kansas City, Missouri, Todd Sheets’ neck of the woods. The area’s many caves account for the rocky locations in Limbo. However, the movie takes place in the fictional town of Wembley, with no state being given. I assume Wembley is situated further east in New England somewhere, due to the witch hunting angle.

The movie shares its name with an alternate cut of the 1971 movie Necromancy starring Orson Welles and a generic-looking 2016 movie. While you wouldn’t be wrong to assume it’s at least partly horror like those two, The Witching is in every way comedy.

It was written and directed by screenwriter/musician/occasional filmmaker Matthew Jason Walsh, who’s worked closely with David DeCoteau and J.R. Bookwalter over the years, writing thirty-two scripts for the former and six for the latter. It was produced by Todd Sheets, using his regular actors, but wasn’t done in his dreary, gloopy, gory style. In fact, it shows very little blood.

Sheets is also credited as “director of photography”, although I’m not sure why you’d need one of those for a movie shot with a camcorder. It’s not like camcorders had interchangeable lenses, filters, or media. They zoomed in and out and recorded to videocassette. That’s about it. Sheets doesn’t seem to have done anything special with the lighting either. The whole movie is dark and extremely hard to see.

Editing was done by J.R. Bookwalter under the pseudonym “Darryl Squatmpump”. The final product was issued by Video Outlaw, a subsidiary of Bookwalter’s main label Tempe Video (confusingly, based out of Akron, Ohio). I’m not sure what the point of the separate sub-label was, considering Tempe’s catalogue was already pretty diverse — they had SOV movies, legit films, in-house productions, and acquisitions. I’m guessing it was a means for Bookwalter to release movies he wasn’t especially proud of or willing to put his name on.

I have mixed emotions about the VHS box (click here). On one hand, it lets us know up front that we’re getting a comedy. It doesn’t put up a pretense of horror.

Credit: The Simpsons, Frinkiac.com/Disney

On the other, it features a random white witch who’s not in the movie.

Credit: The Simpsons, Frinkiac.com/Disney

I can see her boobs.

Credit: The Simpsons, Frinkiac.com/Disney

Like the last Walsh/Bookwalter collaboration I watched, The Witching contains and relies on elements lifted from other more popular movies. As I’ve already mentioned, it references Star Wars, Phantasm, The Amityville Horror, and the same year’s Army of Darkness. You may have also noticed how “Pazuzu Configuration” is just a combination of the words “Pazuzu” (the demon from The Exorcist) and “Lament Configuration” (the puzzle box from Hellraiser). Plus, my gut tells me Flopchek was based on Rumsfield, the militant guy from The ‘Burbs.

The bones of the story were scavenged from Warlock. In both movies, witches are captured by witch hunters three-hundred years before present. The witches are then loosed in modern times where their main objectives become finding three scattered pieces of things to bring about the end of the world. At surface level, the movies are nothing alike, but the core similarities are there and they’re striking.

Even the part about the refrigerator being a doorway to another realm had been done before in the equally obscure would-be cult classic The Refrigerator (1991), in which an old Norge refrigerator (possibly a ’57) eats several people who enter its New York City apartment home.

Believe it or not, there’s a long history of refrigerators in horror. The modern conveniences make our lives easier; it was only a matter of time before we turned them evil. In Friday the 13th Part 2, Alice opens hers to find Pamela Voorhees’ severed head grossly touching her milk. The 1984 Filipino anthology film Shake, Rattle, & Roll, features a segment called “Pridyider” (pronounced something like “pree-jih-der”, derived from the brand name Frigidaire) about a fridge that scares a mom by turning her food into bloody body parts and slams shut on people until they die. It was remade as a stand-alone CGI-fest in 2012. A talking severed head appears in a fridge in the original (superior) 1990 version of It. That same year saw the release of a short film titled Attack of the Killer Refrigerator… and that’s just the tip of the icebox. What are your favorite moments involving refrigerators? Leave a comment below.

Getting back on track, I will say The Witching has an overzealous fanboy attitude that can be off-putting at times. It’s also a bit silly for me. Another big problem it has is its climax, which makes no sense and looks terrible. Morgana has most of the heroes lined up and restrained. Gramma punches Morgana. Dixie throws Scully at a cave wall. Somehow, this sets off an explosion. The explosion is five frames of spray paint from Microsoft Paint overlaid on the image. There’s a green orb and skull. Five more frames of spray paint signify a second explosion. Bethany kisses Stewart and says “Now that my step-mother is dead, and the Pazuzu Configuration is destroyed, we must get out of here quickly.” I didn’t omit any details.

On the plus side, The Witching is never boring, and packs a lot into its barely-feature-length runtime. I watched it because I’d never heard of it before and I have to admit I was thoroughly entertained. I feel like I’m part of a secret society watching a movie with only two user reviews and three critic reviews on IMDb.

Oddly, The Witching made its DVD debut as a bonus feature on Seduction Cinema’s release of The Witches of Sappho Salon. Seduction Cinema was the company responsible for all those late-night erotica flicks starring Misty Mundae back in the early 2000s. It also appeared in a bargain bin “Hardcore Horrors” six-pack along with The Vulture’s Eye, This Darkness, Soul of the Demon, Hollywood Vampyr, and Terror at Baxter U, which is now out of print.

I watched it on the Kings of Horror YouTube channel. Most of the comments there are complaints from casual horror fans who probably don’t even know what SOV means and felt tricked by the clickbaity title — “The Witching | Full Movie English 2015 | Horror”. If anything, all their negativity made me want to enjoy it even more. I’m a contrarian at heart. When movies are universally loved, it kills my interest in them and vice versa. I don’t know why I am the way I am.

The Witching is also available to rent and purchase digitally through Amazon Prime Video. Hilariously, Amazon lists two directors — “Eric Black Matthew” and “Jason Walsh”.

Whatever his name is has only directed two subsequent movies — I’ve Killed Before (1995), a short about a serial killer who takes an apprentice under his wing, and a feature-length remake called Bloodletting (1997). Slightly related: he wrote a movie called Blonde Heaven, directed by David DeCoteau, that’s alternately known as “Morgana”/”Morganna”.

Now, to quote Stewart, “Let’s make like a baby and head out.”

Body Count
In the end, the villains are vanquished, but we don’t see them “die” and it’s unclear how many there are… I’ll just put 0.

Bod Count

Overall Enjoyability
3 fanboy movie references out of 5 (I’ll be honest, I never rate anything lower than 3 because I only like to review movies I genuinely enjoy).

I Got My Copy From

these other “witch” movies from around the same time:

Witchboard (1986)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Witchcraft (1988) and its fifteen sequels
Witchery (1988)
Teen Witch (1989)
Witch Trap (1989)
The Witches (1990)
Witchboard 2 (1993)
Witch Academy (1995)
Witchboard III: The Possession (1995)
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Witchouse (1999)
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Witchouse II: Blood Coven (2000)
Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (2001)

I also highly recommend The Refrigerator (1991)