With a plot centred on yet another upwardly mobile young couple, this follow-up to the turgid Witchboard (1986) and likeable Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway (1993) concerns Brian (David Nerman), an unemployed stock broker, and his lovely and devoted wife Julie (Elizabeth Lambert) who befriend their seemingly amiable old landlord, Francis Redmond (Cedric Smith). Desperate to get back into the commodities game, Brian is intrigued when Francis unveils a Ouija board through which he is seemingly able to contact the spirit world for tips on the stock market! When the old man inexplicably commits suicide he bequeaths the Ouija to Brian. But when Brian attempts to summon some supernatural financial aid, his soul is snatched into the netherworld which enables Francis to inhabit his body. Poor, clueless Julie is promptly seduced by the wily warlock as part of his scheme to sire a demon baby.
Much like a satanic-themed episode of popular Nineties soap Melrose Place, Witchboard III: The Possession is decidedly soapy in both plot and tone but unlike the original film makes a valiant effort at being scary and suspensful. It partly succeeds with some icky latex gore effects and impressive freak deaths including a loan shark impaled by flying butterfly pins and a naked woman bisected by shattered glass. Series creator Kevin S. Tenney was on script duties only this time, working from a story devised by co-writer Jon Ezrine. Taking over as director, Peter Svatek creates an ominous mood aided by autumnal hues woven by cinematographer Barry Gravelle although the film’s look proves somewhat inconsistent, alternating from moments of visual flair to cramped framing that betrays the low budget. Svatek debuted as a director with children’s adventure film The Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck (1975). He earned cult acclaim with another horror film, Haemaglobin (1997) but was thereafter active largely in television including the silly teen werewolf show Big Wolf on Campus (1999).
Scripted by people with evidently little knowledge or even interest in the stock market (frankly, who can blame them?) the film fails to involve viewers in this particular sub-plot or remove any of the inherent silliness from scenes where Francis asks an ancient spirit whether it feels like talking about commodities. Does anyone feel any sympathy for stock brokers anyway? Happily, there is more going on. Love and the bond of marriage were always major themes in the Witchboard movies. Here, the film gets by on the strength and sincerity of the central relationship between Brian and Julie. It is easy to empathise with the heroine as she fights to save her husband’s soul. David Nerman and Elizabeth Lambert deliver the strongest acting of the series and overcome some of the cheesier aspects of the script.
With his excessive hair gel, hideous ponytail and loud sports jackets, post-possession Brian behaves less like the embodiment of pure evil than a love rat from a daytime soap, trying to make a move on then eventually murdering Julie’s sexy friend Lisa (Donna Sarrasin). He is also dead set on conceiving a child, which results in a satanic sex scene lifted straight from Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Several other sequences come across like low-rent knock-off of set-pieces from Carrie (1976) and Suspiria (1976) but Svatek makes them work so that no matter how derivative, the film remains modestly engaging.