Since the dawn of human thought, the occult, supernatural, and dark figures bathed in sin have held a prominent position in the pantheon of storytelling themes. This is as true in cinema as it is in oral folklore or the written page. Witches, devils, and the wonders of the invisible world have haunted the silver scream since the art form developed. From the dark beauty of Haxen to the mainstream popularity of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, the occult has been one of the major dark symbols upon which he hang our collective fears. Regrettably, the results of these dark imaginings have proved as undependable as a deal with ole Scratch himself. For every Omen there is a Daughters of Satan, with a majority of occult films weighing in between the frightfully insightful to the completely ridiculous. Superstition, a joyfully decadent witches cauldron of clich´┐Ż, pulp sensibility, and excessive violence, stands firmly between the extremes of the successful and inept, managing to entertain if not philosophically provoke due to its unapologetic love of violence and demonic atmosphere -- if not for any attempt at subtlety or true insight into human nature.

All of your fears are realized in this often silly if wickedly entertaining conjurer's spell of ancient evil. In the vein of traditional supernatural English supernatural fiction, owing particular allegiance to the melodramatic sensibilities of the British Gothic, Superstition tackles the oft-employed thematic device of a witch returning to wreak vengeance on the descendents of those who wronged her. Elondra Sharack, in 1784, is sentenced to death by crucifixion, but her demonic spirit survives in legend-haunted Black Pond, bidding time until it may again. While this premise is sure to upset modern Wiccans and Neo-Pagans, who rightly assert that their own magical traditions stem from ancient matriarchal Mother-Goddess and Nature religions, the Witch as demonic archetype is perfectly acceptable as a figure in storytelling. The Witch as evil consort of the Devil and practitioner of black magic is as old as legend, representing our communal fear of the unknown. Alondra isn't a Wiccan, she is a continuation of the folklore-persona, and the rage and unholy hunger which she typifies is the very dark glue which holds the rest of this exploitative thriller together. 200 years after her destruction, she emerges from her dark prison to haunt a house that Rev. David Thompson has newly moved his family into, despite warnings from the neighborhood. Havoc ensues with style and enthusiasm, horror after horror accompanying mysterious disappearances, grisly 'accidents,' and spectral possession.

While lacking the emotional power or occult authenticity of such Witchcraft films as Burn Witch Burn or Curse of The Demon, Superstition never pretends to offer a socially relevant or philosophical approach to the supernatural. This is popular entertainment first and last, content to tell an intriguing if pulpy story of suspense and gore. Bleeding atmosphere enlivens things, as do effects that celebrate the pleasure of fear. Superstition plays with the age-old conflict between evil a frail sort of human compassion, focusing on the friction that occurs naturally between the supernatural and physically repellent. Funhouse 'Boos!' are well represented, and the effects are delightfully sordid. Feeling like a distant cousin to the Italian horror films of the period, this grand guignol flesh feast survives its bumbling plot-line and lapses of illogic through sheer mood. The director evokes a deadly air of menace that surrounds the house and its owners, with shadows bleeding from the walls and suspense pouring like sweat from its victims. A far cry from the intellectual themes inherent in the mainstream occult films of the late seventies, Superstition is a child of its age, dedicated to effect and pace, not character. A perfect party film, the chills are quick and rowdy, and the treatment of Evil and the occult bawdy and vicious (if far fetched). Setting out to scare, Superstition makes for perfect Halloween-time viewing, spewing forth its goody bag of 'Tricks-n-treats' with infectious relish!

Visual quality is nothing less than one has come to expect from Anchor Bay, with a visually enhanced picture in widescreen (1.85:1) capturing all the gory-glory of the eldritch settings that are no less characters than the living personas that inhabit the nocturnal world. Colors are crisp and vibrant, playing an important role in the story. No lines or speckling are obvious, making this the clearest presentation available. Audio is clean and clear, free from the typical distortion expected in such cheaply produced low-budget pictures. An equal balance is maintained between the creepy (if overbearing) soundtrack, creepy sound effects, and the dialogue. Extras are minimal if pleasing, including the expected theatrical trailer and promotions for other Bay titles.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Anchor Bay
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review