Lori Brandon (Pamela Franklin) lost her baby recently, and it was extremely traumatic for her, but now she feels she is getting over the loss as her husband Frank (Michael Ontkean) has been offered a new job by a wealthy businessman, Mr Cato (Orson Welles), and things are starting to look up. However, they will have to move to a new town to work in its toy factory, a village out in the countryside where Cato owns just about everything there, and makes the rules as to what is permitted, such as his law that no children be allowed to stay in the place. Lori has her misgivings, but it does seem like an opportunity too good to miss, though on the journey there a tragedy strikes when a car almost collides with theirs and careens over a cliff, killing the occupants - a bad omen?
With a title like Necromancy you had better believe it was a bad omen, though the less generous would have observed the name of Bert I. Gordon in the opening credits was portent enough. This was one of the movies the exploitation auteur created once his ostensible heyday largely making science fiction about, well, large things. Giant monsters were all very well, but they were growing passé in the seventies (not that this stopped Gordon, who churned out another couple of examples this decade), and he had to find a new angle. The huge success of Rosemary's Baby four years before this had kicked off a rash of witchcraft and Satanism horrors, so he jumped on that particular bandwagon the year before The Exorcist delivered the last word.
This was hardly comparable to that, as it was your basic secret coven effort menacing the lead character who they want to join them, either to claim her soul, sacrifice her or both, the usual stuff you would get with this sort of low budget chiller. Looking like a TV movie for the most part, and even more so when the original nudity was edited out, there were very few thrills, if any, to be gained when everything was so predictable: you more or less had the measure of Lori's peril within nanoseconds of seeing Franklin in those opening titles that featured her screaming in a void, therefore suspense was at a minimum. Couple that with a possibly sozzled Welles acting sinister in surprisingly few scenes considering his billing, and you could write this yourself.
The fact that Welles was in a Mr B.I.G. effort illustrated how far he was falling professionally that he had to accept roles like this: the payment must have been negligible judging by the rest of the production, but he needed anything he could get to finish The Other Side of the Wind or whatever. However, Franklin a mere two years before had been appearing in an Oscar-winning movie with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and was already showing up in low rent schlock after her move to the United States, which may be more disappointing considering her talent; aside from maybe The Legend of Hell House her roles were beneath her from now on, and she ended up in the television guest star ghetto before deciding it was best to leave showbiz behind. Her fans hoped she would make a comeback for decades after.
Back at Necromancy, that predictability was pretty much what killed the suspense for there were no surprises, especially when you knew Mr Cato was obsessing over his dead son: does he wish to use witchcraft to do something about that? Of course he does, and Lori starts to notice a boy around the small town who seems to have some connection to that, yet what if she is the only one who can see him? And what is the significance of the rag doll she found at the site of the crash and now is reluctant to let go of? And why, in spite of her scepticism, does everyone want to talk to her about black magic? What kind of name for a town is Lilith anyway? And what is Brinke Stevens getting her knockers out for? Wait a minute, what? That's right, Gordon in the eighties took this film and added footage of glamour models in a state of undress to try and make some profit on it, and the original version has been sought after by collectors ever since, so if you are incredibly curious about this, be careful which cut you get. Music by Fred Karger.