Witch Hunt was written by Joseph Dougherty, the same bloke responsible for its predecessor. In comparison to Cast a Deadly Spell, this horror noir had a thicker budget and a more recognizable troupe of name actors. That's why I can't wrap my head around the fact that it's insufferably dull. What the hell happened? To be perfectly honest, I can't recall the granular minutiae of the plot because I paltered in and out of consciousness with cardinal fidelity. This film couldn't hold a newborn's attention if it were plastered with nipples. Such a film would hold my attention (go figure), but only temporarily. It wouldn't take long for the flat pacing and the prosaic dialogue to temper my pulse.
Fred Ward wasn't asked to reprise his role as H.P. Lovecraft, but we did get a fair consolation prize. Dennis Hopper plays the acerbic detective who abstains from using magic in a world where sortilege is widespread. The setting from Spell is carried over into Witch Hunt; we're still in Los Angeles. A few years have passed since the events of the original, and Lovecraft has been tapped by a seductive starlet to shadow her husband. Soon after, the husband - a studio executive - is shrunken and murdered (the tiny chalk outline was a nice touch, I have to admit). I'm mindful of meting out spoilers, so I don't want to enucleate too many twists in the script. Trust me, dear reader...you don't want to be near me when I enucleate. That's a mess no one should have to clean up.
I dig Dennis Hopper. Who doesn't? And yet, Witch Hunt needed a hearty dose of Fred Ward. I believed that he was Detective Lovecraft. Hopper sleepwalks through every scene, and truth be told, it's almost as if he was instructed to ignore his instincts as an actor. If I didn't know any better (and I don't), I'd swear that he was told not to be Dennis Hopper. If that's the case, why hire Dennis fucking Hopper? This flick's foibles do not fall squarely on his shoulders, however. Despite a slender splash of nudity, this production definitely bears the stench of a made-for-TV misfire. The editing is banal, the special effects are mediocre and the score...fuck, I didn't even notice a score.
Witch Hunt is excruciatingly bland. I wouldn't say that it's awful. It has its moments, and the ancillary players (Penelope Ann Miller, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Julian Sands) make estimable contributions. I tried to get on board with the whodunit storyline, but man, it gives a new meaning to the word "blah." The hamfisted social commentary didn't help matters. Shockingly enough, this lukewarm sequel was directed by Paul Schrader. He clearly wasn't interested in serving up a fun genre picture, so my advice is to stick with Cast a Deadly Spell. But hey, I appear to be in the minority. Most reviews stamp Witch Hunt as a clever, inventive period piece. You know what they say; opinions are like...singular expressions of one's taste.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 11:46 PM