Silly VHS Horror Gone Wrong

Witchtrap is pure, unmitigated schlock from the 1980s by director and writer Kevin Tenney (Witchboard). Known alternately as The Presence, a team of paranormal investigators battle an evil spirit trapped inside a haunted mansion. Hammy quips and wooden acting hold Witchtrap back, delivering little terror besides a memorable death in the shower for one of its featured stars.

The stiff leads include James Quinn and Judy Tatum, returning players from Tenney’s earlier and more successful Witchboard. Made on a shoestring budget with many of Tenney’s buddies from USC film school, the only cast member truly earning their paycheck is scream queen Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead and Night of the Demons) in her prime. Unfortunately for Witchtrap, Quigley makes an early exit in the story and the flick soon goes off the rails.

Attempting to go independent off his Witchboard fame, Tenney made Witchtrap on a shoestring budget with a few of his friends

It is rumored the ghost of Avery Lauter, played by another Witchboard alum in J. P. Luebsen, roams the halls of the mansion he left his sole heir. A disparate team of paranormal experts are gathered in the Lauter mansion, some completely skeptical like detective Tony (James W. Quinn) as opposed to true believers like Whitney (Kathleen Bailey). An odd clash of atheism versus religious belief is clumsily inserted as a sub-plot, I guess in some way to add a little character depth.

The team’s investigation unleashes a deadly wave of supernatural terror as members are picked off one by one in a series of hokey death scenes. The ghost has more on his agenda than mere mischief.

A few gory scenes were cut once upon a time to keep Witchtrap’s original R-rating. The movie has been restored to its uncut glory since 2017. Witchtrap’s effects aren’t cutting edge, but they occasionally hit home with a vividly gruesome nature. The scares are woefully undercut by the serious lack of atmosphere and a screenplay heavily loaded with bizarre exposition. You’ll be mystified by its quips and lengthy exposition more than entertained.

Witchtrap is a bad, silly movie even by b-movie horror standards. I guess you could chalk it up to the 1980s and the VHS rental market, cheesy and unpolished beyond belief. Attempting to go independent off his Witchboard fame, Tenney made Witchtrap on a shoestring budget with a few of his friends. Whatever happened, it all went comically wrong. If not for Linnea Quigley’s tragically brief screen time, Witchtrap likely doesn’t earn its questionable cult status.


Scanned and restored from the 35mm interpositive in 2K resolution back in 2016, Witchtrap’s uncut 1.78:1 presentation by MVD looks great for a low-budget 1989 flick. Sharpness and clarity are not a problem for this b-movie hackery.

Almost certainly sharing the same raw transfer released earlier by Vinegar Syndrome, the 2K scan is derived from healthy elements loaded with crisp definition and immense clarity. There’s a bit of telecine wobble but fine detail is abundantly sharp.

Actually one of Witchtrap’s many problems is the brightly-lit cinematography, a poor match for what is supposed to be a frightening journey into the ghostly realm. There’s no obvious or noticeable wear, the 1080p video is clean and fresh.

The main feature runs an uncut 91 minutes, encoded in sufficient AVC. Colors are strong, backed with a vivid and perky contrast. An unfiltered transfer reflects the movie’s modest grain structure. Maybe a hint of ringing is evident but the people behind this image harvest respect authentic 35mm film reproduction in its utmost fidelity.

If you own the Vinegar Syndrome BD, this is likely a sideways jump in picture quality. Who knows if Witchtrap will ever see UHD? I never thought the movie would get two Blu-ray editions, but here we are in 2023. I imagine the elements are in the shape necessary for a new 4K transfer.


Watching Witchtrap you’ll notice how much of it has been dubbed. Originally recorded in stereo, most of the audio recorded during filming was lost by accident, necessitating heavy dubbing in post-production. MVD provides a solid mono soundtrack in 2.0 PCM if you can accept the odd dubbing and minor sync issues.

Effects are crisply recorded and Dennis Michael Tenney’s 1980’s sounding score comes off with nice dynamics. If not for the dubbing problems, Witchtrap would score even higher for sound quality.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a yellow font.


MVD reissues Witchtrap on Blu-ray after the movie saw a technically more “complete” edition from Vinegar Syndrome just a few years ago. Marked as #45 in their MVD Rewind Collection, Witchtrap comes in a snazzy retro-looking slipcover mocked up like a VHS rental with a mini-poster inside the clear case. Reversible cover art is another perk. The disc is coded for all regions.

Some special features are ported over from the earlier Vinegar Syndrome disc, but a couple are absent. MVD digs up a rough-looking SD copy of the original R-rated VHS cut as its distinguishing bonus.

Audio Commentary with director Kevin Tenney, producer Dan Duncan, cinematographer Tom Jewett, and actor Hal Havins – Recorded in 2017, the group discussion is a mostly fun-loving look back at the production.

Magnum Entertainment’s Witchtrap R-Rated VHS Version (91:20 in 1.33:1 SD; 2.0 Dolby Digital) – Now that the film’s uncut version is available in HD quality, this is more of a novelty bonus for those deep into VHS nostalgia.

Interview with Director Kevin Tenney (23:36 in HD) – The 2017 interview has the director discussing the limitations working with a far reduced budget from earlier projects like Witchboard and how Linnea Quigley joined the cast.

Interview with actress Linnea Quigley (13:40 in HD) – Definitely an interesting segment with Quigley, discussing her death scene in the film and early career working as an actress. She seems to have enjoyed her time making films in the 1980s.

Interview with Cinematographer Tom Jewett (15:09 in HD)

Interview with Special Effects Supervisor Tassilo Baur (17:11 in HD)

Photo Gallery (01:06 in HD)

Witchtrap Original Trailer (02:31 in SD)

The Dark Trailer (02:52 in HD)

One Dark Night Trailer (02:16 in HD)

House On Sorority Row Trailer (03:10 in SD)

Mortuary Trailer (02:30 in HD)

Forbidden Zone Trailer (00:46 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

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There’s not enough Linnea Quigley in director Kevin Tenney’s lame pastiche of Evil Dead and Ghostbusters influences, cheap horror schlock from the tail end of the 1980s

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 47 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:

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