It took six entries - not six-hundred and sixty-six, though I can see where it feels like that many - for the Witchcraft franchise to arrive at a point that I honestly expected to show up a lot sooner: a film entirely devoid of merit about which I despair of finding anything to say. I will not say that Witchcraft 666: The Devil's Mistress, which was eventually edited down to just Witchcraft VI (I can't use the joke "because they were preparing for the possibility there would eventually be that many entries in the series", because El Santo at 1000 Misspent Hours already did, but I can at least confirm that it is a very necessary joke to make), is the most boring of the Witchcrafts to that point. It has a fuckload of nudity, if nothing else, and all things being equal, a jaw-droppingly terrible film with lots of nudity is going to be an easier sit than a jaw-droppingly terrible film with no nudity at all. But it does not, to be very clear, have enough nudity to make us lose sight, for even an instant, of "jaw-droppingly terrible".

When the Witchcraft series found its groove with 1991's Witchcraft III: The Kiss of Death, I was all set to assume it was going to latch onto its newfound formula like a vampire bat and suck it dry till there was nothing left but a husk. This did not end up happening. While almost every film has basically the same plot - William Adams Churchill Spanner (played in this entry by Jerry Spicer, the third different actor to play adult Will in his five appearances), bred by Satanists to be the vehicle of the Devil or whatever, now turned mystery-solving lawyer in Los Angeles, finds that one of his current clients put him in direct contact with malevolent occult forces; some of those forces are nekkid ladies - both part 4, The Virgin Heart, and part 5, Dance with the Devil, actually taking that material and striking out into some new direction with it. The Devil's Mistress gets us into pure retread territory: it undoes the main innovation of Dance with the Devil, which made Will the victim to be saved rather than the protagonist, and otherwise re-runs its scenario, in which a demonic envoy of hell, Savanti (Bryan Nutter) is trying to find a soul to sacrifice in order to pave the way for Satan's return to rule Earth. He does this by having his lackeys, Jonathan (Craig Stepp) and Cat (Shannon McLeod) hunt for a virgin woman to sacrifice. Their strategy is for Jonathan to hit on women wearing cross necklaces (presumably religious = likelier to be chaste, but the film lets us figure that one out on our own), take them home, drug them, and then investigate their limp bodies to see if they're virgins or not. And of course they have a terrible success rate, since "women who are willing to go with a lunky bozo in a sleeveless shirt who picks them up with an awful line at a bar" and "women who have never once in their lives had sex" are two more or less non-overlapping populations. So there's a real question if they're going to have a victim for Savanti to sacrifice in time for the upcoming lunar eclipse; if they fail, it will be decades before the next one comes along, because co-writers Julie Davis and Peter E. Fleming have both apparently confused lunar eclipses with solar eclipses, and don't understand how either one works.

This is all actually the subplot. The A-plot focuses on the two detectives in the service of the LAPD who are investigating the serial murder of young women with cross necklaces, Lutz (Kurt Alan) and Garner (John E. Holiday), and have called in every wacko psychic expert who has ever worked with the department. This is what puts them in touch with Will, presently working as a divorce lawyer specifically (I think he was a public defender before?), but still living with his girlfriend Keli (Debra Beatty), in a touch of continuity I was not even slightly prepared for. And Cat and Jonathan are about to reach out to Will as well, she presenting herself as a prospective client, so they can win the ex-warlock back over to the forces of evil, as one does.

Recasting all of this material into the form of a police procedural was presumably how the filmmakers planned to make this one feel a touch different. If so, it doesn't work as intended. Sure, it's different, but it's also godawfully boring to watch, especially because the film cannot decide what to do with Lutz and Garner. Often, it feels like they're meant to be played as comic relief, getting screamed at by their exaggerated dickhead superior, and getting saddled with a running gag of "cops, they look donuts, huh? heh heh" that is played with awkward stiffness by all involved. And yet, there are enough places where the film doesn't even have jokes at all, not even the very bad ones, and so the two cops are just kind of gruffly saying cop shit and looking vaguely unsure of how to stand in front of the camera. Which gets us to two other things: The Devil's Mistress is a particularly dismal showcase for acting, and a little surprisingly, for directing: Julie Davis would go on to have something like a genuine, legitimate career as a indie director, responsible for movies that people saw and liked, but there's no trace of her later success here, in a film whose blocking has about as much visual inspiration as the group photo at an office Christmas party.

Really, this is across-the-board the worst-made Witchcraft to this point, with only two exceptions: Spicer is by far the best of a bad lot, our first Will Spanner who actually has the carriage and attitude of a working lawyer. A seedy, disreputable one, but it works. His interactions with Lutz and Garner are the best part (while showing up Alan and Holiday at every turn), as he throws out a certain "fucking cops" good-natured irritation that suggests a man for whom negotiating with the law is one of the most tedious parts of the job. The other exception is Miriam Cutler's score, which comes the closest any of these have to feeling like actual music from an actual music, and not like the electronic woodwinds section from a black-market Casio keyboard.

Outside of those two slivers of light, though, this is dire. The sound recording instantly announces itself as a huge problem, staticky and hollow; I have no idea how this was filmed or even what the state of the technology was in 1994, so I'm just pulling this out of my ass, but it frankly sounds like they just recorded straight into the video camera, without a dedicated team running a separate sound recording system. The production is riddled with dirt cheap cheesiness from the moment it starts, and the opening credits announce themselves in a curlicued font that looks exactly like what you get on a St. Patrick's Day greeting card or a tacky framed picture of a clichéd Irish saying. Though I do like the terrible "dripping blood" effect animated onto a particularly digital-looking version of the Witchcraft title logo that kicks us into the credits. The visual effects are few, but they are disastrous, especially the eclipse itself, an MS Paint circle in front of an MS Paint halo. And, like, mid-'90s MS Paint.

The film can't even do soft-core pornography right! Obviously, it suffers from direct comparison to Dance with the Devil, which was a really leering, smutty piece of trash, and I of course mean that in the best way. The Devil's Mistress has a lot of nudity and sex, and it's even sometimes lurid, as when we get an out-of-nowhere riff on the Basic Instinct leg-crossing scene. But mostly the sex scenes are shot with the same slack "are the actors' faces visible? Then I don't care where the frame is" approach to composition as the rest of the movie, making it less erotic than robotic and perfunctory. And special note must be given to the bathtub sex scene, where to make sure we don't see anybody's genitals, Spicer and Beatty rut around in opaque grey water, making the second Witchcraft in a row with a sex scene that leaves me convinced that the participants are going to end up with hepatitis. Pretty sorry stuff when a cheap-ass direct-to-video skin flick can't even be bothered to get its exploitation right, but it fits a movie whose wall-to-wall shittiness has all the weight of what feels like the moment this series pivots from "these are actually better than I was expecting" to "oh God, this is even worse".

Reviews in this series
Witchcraft (Spera, 1988)
Witchcraft II: The Temptress (Woods, 1989)
Witchcraft III: The Kiss of Death ("Tillmans" [Feldman], 1991)
Witchcraft IV: The Virgin Heart (Merendino, 1992)
Witchcraft V: Dance with the Devil (Hsu, 1993)
Witchcraft 666: The Devil's Mistress (Davis, 1994)
Witchcraft 7: Judgement Hour (Girard, 1995)