Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil (1993) Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil (1993) -**

     Well, thereís one accusation we cannot, in good conscience, level against the creators of the Witchcraft series. Whatever else they may be guilty of, they sure as hell didnít simply make the same movie over and over and over again. With Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil, the series marches unabashedly into the territory of out-and-out softcore porn, moving the sex element which made its first appearance in Witchcraft II: The Temptress to center stage. Its creators also all but totally disregard the preceding four films, retaining little more than the name of erstwhile protagonist Will Spanner, and reducing him from the hero of the series to a mostly passive victim who takes no action on his own behalf until the movie is well nigh over. And shockingly enough, in ringing in all those changes, they manage to invest Witchcraft V with a modicum of entertainment value, even if itís strictly of the inadvertent sort.

     As usual, we begin with the bad guys. A skanky blonde named Marta (Nicole Sassaman, graduating from disposable bit parts in films like Bikini Summer and Sorority House Party) leads a pudgy, balding businessman to a room in a ratty hotel. Marta, evidently, is a prostitute, and Baldy has agreed to hand over $50 for some manner of action. Actually, itís all a setup. The moment Baldy lays Marta down on the bed, her boyfriend, Bill (Freddy Andreiuci), pops out of hiding and whacks the luckless john on the back of the head in preparation for relieving him of everything valuable he has on him. Itís a scam the couple have used any number of times, but on this particular occasion, the caper goes awry, for Bill has gone overboard and killed Baldy. Sniping at each other all the while, the two conspirators sneak the body out of the hotel room, lock it in the trunk of Billís Caprice Classic, and drive off in search of someplace where they can dump Baldy in safety. But between Billís state of mild shock and the distraction of the ongoing row with Marta, his focus is extremely poor, and he gets into an accident before driving more than a few blocks. Bill runs down a homeless wino, and nearly rams the limousine of televangelist Reverend Meredith (Lenny Rose, also generally a bit-playeró look for him in Beach Babes from Beyond and Lap Dancing) while heís at it. The criminals are just lucky that Meredith is more interested in seeing to the bum than he is in getting their license plate number; they make as clean a getaway as possible under the circumstances while the reverend is busy practicing what he preaches.

     Thatís no ordinary back-alley drunk Bill has run over, though. Heís still alive when Meredith reaches him, and he unexpectedly grabs the preacher by the throat and begins strangling him. Whatís more, in the few seconds before the wino expires, something mystical transfers itself from his body to Meredithís. The preacher is a visibly changed man when returns to his seat in the limo beside his attractive young secretary (Kim Bolin, from Atomic Samurai and Samurai Vampire Bikers from Helló yes, apparently there really is a movie called Samurai Vampire Bikers from Hell).

     As for Bill and Marta, their car breaks down for no fucking reason as soon as they get far enough out into the countryside for something like that to pose a nearly insoluble problem. Well, at least the site of the Capriceís demise is sufficiently isolated that they can bury Baldyís body without being seen. While trying to find their way back to some semblance of civilization, they come upon a ramshackle campsite where an obviously crazy man who calls himself Cain (David Huffman) is amusing himself by tossing great gouts of whooshing powder into his fire. Marta initially takes Cain for a religious hermit (Lord knows he talks enough like an unhinged holy roller), but when he refers to himself as a ďcollector,Ē Marta jumps to the conclusion that heís a freelance repo man instead, and sets her mind to scheming. While Cain goes to his shack to bring his guests some coffee, Marta gives Bill his marching orders, and the two of them prepare to give Cain the same treatment they gave Baldy earlier in the evening. The plan goes well enough at firstó Marta turns on the charm and Bill knocks Cain cold with a piece of his own firewoodó but thereís no sign of either cash or repossessed valuables in the manís shack; the one thing Marta finds that might be worth stealing is an antique sword. Thatís when Cain bursts in. Now seeming less like a Recluse for Jesus than a comic book supervillain, Cain makes a little speech, and then magically induces Marta to run her boyfriend through with the sword. Afterwards, he tells Marta that she will henceforth be his slave. Satan has a big job for Cain, you see, and itís going to be a huge pain in the ass if he has to do it all by himself.

     And now, at last, we see what Will Spanner is up to. Seems heís got still another pneumatically embosomed, blonde girlfriend (Carolyn Taye-Loren, yet a third bit-player, who would later beautify the landscape a little in Scanner Cop), and while heís supposedly still an attorney, his profession will have absolutely no bearing on the plot this time around. This is just as well, really, since Will is now played by Marklen Kennedy (who spent most of the years since Witchcraft V inching ever closer to hardcore in movies like Girl for Girl and Voyeur Confessions, acting under the names Jack and Jared Lincoln), an actor considerably younger and prettier than Charles Solomon, whom nobody would ever take remotely seriously in a courtroom scene. For that matter, we wonít be seeing much evidence of Willís ostensibly immense magical power, either. Will has promised Keli (apparently under duress) that he will take her out to a dance club tonight, despite the fact that he loathes both dancing and loud music. That being the case, it looks at first as though his luck is in when it turns out that Keliís favorite club is unaccountably having a magician/hypnotist in to perform in place of the usual DJ. Of course, since the magician in question is Cain, and since his traditional T&A assistant is Marta, Iíd say that luck is with Will only to the extent that your definition of luck is broad enough to include coming face to face with potentially apocalyptic evil. Cain instantly detects Willís magical aura, and convinces Keli to make her boyfriend volunteer to be hypnotized onstage. While heís putting Will through his hypothetically humorous paces, Cain plants post-hypnotic instructions putting the other warlock just as thoroughly under his power as Marta.

     Why would Cain want to do such a thing, you ask? Cainís mission on Earth is nothing less than to bring Satan onto the material plane, and the way he means to do so is by collecting soulsó evidently Armageddon works essentially like those stamp-book giveaway programs they used to have back in the 1950ís. Thatís what Cain was talking about outside his shack in the wilderness when he told Marta he was a collector. Evidently Willís demonic heritage gives him the power to seize, store, and transport souls, so by taking control of the reluctant warlock, Cain will be able to double the efficiency of his soul-harvesting operation. For some reason, the pre-programmed stimulus which will trigger Willís Satanic errands is sex with Marta, and that means that Marta will spend the rest of the movie sneaking into Willís place to screw him just about every night. Incredibly, the first instance of this happens while Keli is lying right there in the bed beside him, and she never once stirs no matter how acrobatic her boyfriendís coupling with the other woman becomes! Whenever Willís Satan-switch gets tripped, he goes out to see someone who once struck a Faustian bargain with Cainó a nightclub owner, the lead singer of a heavy metal band, that sort of thingó and sucks the soul right out of their body. He then drops off the extracted soul at Cainís lair and goes home, remembering nothing when he awakens the following morning.

     Keli, however, rapidly comes to suspect that something is up, and she turns to her minister, the Reverend Meredith (remember him?) for assistance. Because, you know, strange behavior on your boyfriendís part is always a sign of demonic agency. You recall how I said that Meredith changed a bit as a result of his encounter with the flattened wino? Well get a load of thisó the first thing he does upon learning of Willís trouble is to call in a white witch named Astasia (Aysha Haueró Rutgerís daughter!) to cast some cockamamie protection spell over him. Nobody bats an eyelash at this decidedly heathen approach to the situation, either. The protection spell is such a resounding success that Marta not only has sex with Will in the center of the magic circle and sends him out to harvest souls again, but hangs around to kill Astasia after sheís finished with her main business. Eventually, it comes out that Cain and Meredithó or rather, Cain and Softra, the infernal entity which jumped to Meredith from the bum when the two of them met upó are old enemies, and that Softra knows the one way to kill Cain and release Will from his domination. Unfortunately, Softra/Meredith is also too chickenshit to battle Cain directly, and so it falls to Keli to take the fight to the evil sorcerer.

     As you have surely gathered from the above synopsis, Witchcraft V is scarcely less trite and stupid than its four predecessors, yet it is far less taxing to watch than any of them. Why? Partly itís because this movie, at bottom, isnít especially interested in being anything other than a softcore skin flick with supernatural trappings. Since the story exists only to set up the sex scenes, and since the sex scenes are mostly of vastly higher quality than those in the preceding installments (although the mechanics of a few of them are hilariously tweakedó that up-against-the-wall-in-the-cellar business wouldnít work unless Willís cock was a good sixteen inches long), it doesnít much matter how miserable the writing is. But more importantly, Witchcraft V has, in the person of Bill Huffman, one of the worldís truly great community theater scenery-chewers, and his monumentally bad acting (itís on par with Hy Pikeís performance in Spawn of the Slithis) introduces a degree of accidental entertainment value that none of the earlier films can match. Donít let me leave you with the impression that Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil is in any way good, or even more than marginally enjoyable, but unlike the rest of the series up to that point, it at least isnít likely to make the unwary viewer want to claw his or her eyes out.



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