• Spellbinder

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: January 5th, 2016.
    Director: Janet Greek
    Cast: Timothy Daly, Kelly Preston, Rick Rossovich
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Janet Greek in 1988, long before she worked on Babylon 5 but after she made the Weird Al Yankovic video for Ricky, Spellbinder stars Timothy Daly as a young lawyer named Jeff Mills who works at a Los Angeles law firm who heads out of the gym one night with his pal, Derek Clayton (Rick Rossovich), and witnesses a greasy looking asshole with a ponytail slapping around a foxy young lady. He interferes and sends the grease ball on his way and offers to drive the foxy young lady home. They chat it up, and it turns out her name is Miranda Reed (Kelly Preston) and she doesn’t really have a home. Well, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Jeff offers her his bed, noting that he’ll sleep on the couch. She takes him up on the offer and before you know it the two are madly in love, screwing like rabbits and bathing together by candle light, kissing one another’s kneecaps.

    So yeah, Jeff and Miranda hit it off, much to the delight of all of Jeff’s friends who are stoked that he landed such a hottie. After all, as they keep reminding him, ‘you deserved it.’ The singular voice of discontent is Jeff’s assistant, Grace Woods (Diana Bellamy), who grows very suspicious of Miranda when she sees her reading palms at a party and taking a turkey out of the hot oven without using oven mitts! She warns Jeff that something is amiss with his new lady friend, but he’s not hearing any of it. It isn’t until strange stuff starts happening around Miranda that Jeff wonders if maybe something suspicious is going on – well, as luck would have it, Jeff finds out that she’s the member of a coven, that her mother was a bad witch, and that her coven is looking for someone to serve as their next human sacrifice! Oh snap!

    A pretty hokey mix of occult chills and marginally sexy thrills, Spellbinder is deadly in its predictability and more or less screams in your face about where it’s heading very quickly but it moves at a good pace and offers up enough skin and Satanic hijinks that easily amused trash movie fans will dig what this movie delivers. The obvious reason a good chunk of the movie’s male viewership will be interested in the film is the fact that Kelly Preston (of Blue Thunder fame, among others, but Blue Thunder… fuck yeah!) gets naked here. Aside from that what else works? Well, the last thirty minutes do a good job of amping up the horror movie clichés in a good way, from an attack on Jeff’s house by the coven members all the way through to the finale and ‘see it coming from a mile away’ twist ending. Predictable or not, it’s a fun ride and the movie does what it does well.

    As far as the performances go, Timothy Daly is likeable enough as the male lead even if he does remind you of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman at times, not in his personality type but in his appearance and style. If he and Preston don’t have instant chemistry it’s close enough – we like them as a couple and want to high five him for boning her after knowing her for twenty four hours. Rick Rossovich as the wing man is… goofy but goofy is in keeping with the rest of the movie so that’s less a complaint than it is an observation. When the dust settles Spellbinder is as entertaining as it is dopey – worth a watch? Absolutely, just be prepared for all that the eighties had to offer and a fun movie ridiculously devoid of anything remotely resembling suspense.


    Spellbinder looks great on this AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Colors are very nice in that garish eighties sort of way and black levels are definitely solid. The scenes that take place indoors often times lean towards shadowy and dark – some detail and crush poked into these bits on the DVD but they look much better here on Blu-ray. Detail is also pretty quit strong and nicely improved, texture as well. Sometimes the picture looks a bit soft but this is an eighties movie so it’s sort of in keeping with the movie’s aesthetic.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track sounds just fine, offering up clear dialogue without any noticeable background hiss or noise and the incredibly eighties sounding score has pretty impressive range. The levels are well balanced, the score sounds good and there are no problems here to complain about. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.

    That aforementioned MOD/DVD-R release only had a trailer in terms of supplements but this Blu-ray release fixes that, starting with an interesting commentary track courtesy of the film’s director, Janet Greek. It is, in a word, enlightening and anyone even remotely interested in why this movie turned out the way it did would do well to give it a listen. Greek is upfront and forthright about how large chunks of the movie she tried to make have been cut out of the film and the struggles that she had with the producers at MGM in trying to get her vision for the project into the finished film. It’s quite clear that she lost this fight, she doesn’t mix words here, but it’s not all piss and vinegar as she’s able eloquently discuss aspects of the film that she’s happy with. She also offers up her thoughts on the performances, the locations, the horror elements in the film and quite a bit more. There are stretches where she clams up and goes quiet, these hurt the pace of the talk a bit, but when she’s on target and engaged she’s got some really fascinating stories to share about what it’s like to go up against the Hollywood machine.

    On top of that, we get an interview with Anthony Crivello that runs almost a half an hour in length. He talks about being cast in the film, his thoughts on the picture, what it was like working with Greek, studio tampering with the film and the effects featured in the picture. He also talks about some of his other projects. It’s a pretty interesting piece, definitely worth checking out. Outside of that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    There’s no denying the fact that Spellbinder is really goofy and ridiculously predictable but it’s a fun late eighties mix of Satanic Panic and sexy softcore cheesecake. It’s not a great movie in its current form, on is it well-acted or well-written, at least not as presented. Despite all of that, however, Spellbinder is completely entertaining in a brainless sort of way. The Blu-ray release from Kino offers a really nice transfer, solid lossless audio and a few choice extras too. All in all, it’s a strong package.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!