Deadly Messages (1985)

A woman finds a Ouija board and discovers that she has been marked for termination by a vicious killer. The Ouija board also makes her doubt her identity. She must now back-track through her own memory in order to find out who the murderer is, and more importantly: Why is he after her?




Full plot:
TV-movie “Deadly Messages” from 1985 opens with the antagonist putting on black leather gloves and packing a knife, while the protagonist, Laura Daniels, searches her closet for her boyfriend’s cufflinks. She and Michael Krasnick have been together in Los Angeles for almost a year now, and are leaving their apartment for a formal dinner downtown while Cindy Matthews, a friend of theirs, housesits for them.

Before leaving, an old Ouija board slips off the top shelf of the closet and falls directly into Cindy’s hands. She takes it as a sign, and after Laura & Michal has left the apartment, she sits with the board and keeps repeating the sentence “Is anybody there?” until the planchette moves to “Yes”.

She learns that a 21-year-old man named David was killed in this very same apartment in 1978. She writes down her findings, but is interrupted when the planchette on the Ouija board suddenly goes to “Goodbye”. This leaves her with the unfinished word “Ma…”

She then tries to start a new Ouija-session and repeats “Is anybody there?” until the planchette again goes to “Yes”. The main door is then slowly opened behind her and an intruder with black gloves sneaks in.

Laura comes back to the apartment while Michael needs to go somewhere else shortly. When she notices that Cindy won’t let her in Laura climbs up the maintenance stairs. Looking into the window of her apartment, she sees Cindy being strangled to death by a man with leather gloves and sunglasses. She climbs down again and asks people on the street for help but nobody wants to help her.

She then calls the local fire department, which helps her breaking into the apartment together with Detective Max Lucas, but neither the firemen nor the policemen find any signs of struggle in the apartment.

Detective Lucas is very skeptical as to whether a crime even took place at all, but Laura is certain of what she saw, and fears that the murderer was actually after her but instead caught Cindy by mistake.

While at a mall, Laura buys a pen with an integrated assault-alarm. In the boutique’s mirror, she sees the same man who murdered Cindy, but he is gone as soon as she turns around. Elsewhere in the mall, she discovers that she is being followed by the murderer with the sunglasses, and when he holds out a knife she runs through the mall. In an elevator, another man behind her blinds her with his hands, so she triggers her new alarm-pen and runs out of the elevator until she finds Michael, who is also at the mall.

They are quickly approached by Kenneth Blatt, the man who blinded her in the elevator, who says that it was a prank and claims that he and Laura and know each other from the past. Laura does not recognize him though, and Michael believes him to be a lunatic. Laura and Michael are left with Kenneth’s business-card (stating that he is a physician). They hurry out the mall to avoid further encounters.

Back in their apartment, Laura brings the Ouija board to bed and begins asking the same question: “Is anybody there?” The planchette moves out of her hands (by itself) and heads to “yes”. Laura believes she has made contact to a spirit and keeps asking questions. She learns that the spirit calls itself “Mark”, that Cindy is indeed dead and that the spirit wants to kill her because she is a “murder witness”. Perplexed and horrified, she faints and falls over.

At the local hospital, she gets CAT-scanned and Dr. Roger Kelton proscribes a drug against stress for her. Laura is soon after fired from her job because her boss claims that she has lied extensively about her curriculum vitae in her original application, and this renders her extremely confused.

While at an indoor swimming pool, the light goes out and the murderer appears at the edge of the swimming pool. He attempts to stab her with his knife, but disappears when a lifeguard appears on the scene. The police again find no trace of these events afterwards.

Back home in the apartment, Dr. Kelton telephones Michael and asks him to come over to the hospital alone to discuss the results of the CAT-scan. The scans indicate that Laura has once been treated with electroshock therapy. Dr. Kelton furthermore suspects that Laura might have been making stuff up all along. When Michael speaks to Laura again, she insists that she has never undergone electroshock therapy.

She also tells him that she has done some research and found out that the city block, in which they live, used to be a hotel, and she proposes that they begin to research the place’s history further.

Next day, in a bookstore, Michael sees a book series on display. It bears the name “Laura Daniels” and Michael buys one of the books in the series because of the puzzling coincidence. As he reads through the book, he discovers that everything he reads corresponds to Laura’s life and identity. He begins to believe that Laura is completely counterfeit.

When he arrives home, the two have a heavy argument about it and he ends up leaving the apartment without direction. After he’s gone, Laura grabs the Ouija board and asks: “Am I Laura Daniels?” and the Ouija board answers “No”. She then asks: “Will you tell me who I am?” and the Ouija board likewise answers “No”. She then goes to a library and finds a newspaper archive documenting that a murder, plus an arson, took place in the hotel which is now their residential block.

Back in the apartment, she takes the meds that Dr. Kelton gave her and continues her research. Meanwhile, the murderer enters the block through the basement and grabs a fire-axe in the hall-way. She hear this, and while begins chopping up the door with the axe, she call the police. The police send Detective Lucas to the apartment, but the murderer has already carved his way through the door. She manages to escape from the apartment and the block, and runs into Michael outside, although he doesn’t believe that anyone is following her.

At the police station, she tells Detective Lucas and Lieutenant Burton that she found out that a man named Mark Banning had his skull crushed in the fire at the hotel, more particularly, in what is now her apartment. Present on the scene when Mark died was Jennifer Banning, and she asks the police to track this name. The police take this into account but are still very skeptical.

Locally, she manages to quickly buy a handgun (a revolver), before heading to a city-archive. In some archives, she finds out that Jennifer Banning were hospitalized at the “Lancaster Mental Hospital” after the arson in the hotel. From this, she assumes that Jennifer is still hiding from her brother’s killer.

She packs her new gun as well as the Ouija board into her car and drives to the Lancaster Mental Hospital. She arrives at night, and asks to see the nurse in charge, Irma Crenshaw. Within a few minutes, the staff seizes her and Irma Crenshaw greets her with the words: “Welcome home, Jenny!”

Crenshaw explains to her that her real name is Jennifer, and that she must have forgotten this due to the severe amnesia she suffered when she escaped from the mental hospital, just over a year ago, after having been attacked by a mysterious man with sunglasses (fitting exactly the description she gave of the murderer).

Laura/Jenny says that she remembers no such incident in her past, but that she has indeed recently been stalked by a man wearing sunglasses. Crenshaw then explains that an article about the incident was published at around a month before she escaped. The article, titled “Amnesia: a girl’s best friend”, detailing Jenny’s problems with “coping with the murder of her brother”, was published freely in big newspapers for all to read, and Crenshaw now fears that the man who attacked Jenny has found his way to her again after having read that article.

Click here to unfold the remaining story (SPOILER WARNING)

Jenny is now really puzzled, and asks Crenshaw to see a copy of her personal records. Together, they go down to the basement and Crenshaw shows Jenny the institution’s library. There, Jenny rediscovers the “Laura Daniels” book-series, and Crenshaw confirms that Jenny used to be a great fan of the series, which would explain why she would subconsciously choose the name “Laura Daniels” upon being struck by such a heavy case of amnesia. Crenshaw also informs her that Jenny had two visitors while hospitalized: Her now deceased father and a man named Jack Franconi. She then gives Jenny a written note from Mr. Franconi which almost makes her pass out, although she does not reveal what the note contains.

Crenshaw judges that Jenny is mentally healthy enough to leave the institution unsupervised, but advices that she drives to a nearby motel since she is too exhausted to drive all the way home in the dark. Neither of them knows however that, just outside of the building, the murderer with the sunglasses has arrived and is waiting for Jenny in his car.

Crenshaw finally hands Jenny a picture from 21st birthday. On the picture is the physician she met in the mall, Kenneth Blatt, but Crenshaw says that his name is George Wilson and that he is not a real doctor but a poseur (i.e. his business card was false). Crenshaw also informs her that the old Ouija board was a gift to Jenny from the asylum.

Jennifer gets back to her car and drives to the nearest motel, while the murder follows her car. She checks in at the motel and puts her Ouija board and her revolver on the bed in her room. Before the gets close, Michael arrives to the motel in his own car and is very confused. The Laura that he used to know is now called Jennifer, but she tells him that she is first and foremost tired and starved.

Michael therefore leaves to get a pizza for her. Soon as Michael is gone, the man with the sunglasses (at night!) breaks into Jenny’s motel-room before she can pick up her revolver, so she runs to the reception for safety. The murderer then chooses to go for Michael first.

At the pizzeria, Michael returns to his car with a pizza, but is attacked by the murderer, who stabs Michael in the right thigh. The pizzeria-owned comes to his rescue though, so the murderer takes Michael’s car and heads to the motel. The pizzeria-owner puts bandages Michael’s leg and drives him back to the motel in his own car.

When Jennifer sees Michael’s car arriving at the motel, she thinks it is Michael and leaves the reception, but the murderer catches her and tries to stab her. She hits him with a lamp and runs into a wilderness outside, where she falls into a trench. Michael and the man from the pizzeria then arrive at the motel room and find Jenny’s revolver.

The murderer finds Jennifer hiding in the trench and assaults her. After being hit by the lamp, he lost his sunglasses, and she recognizes him to be Mark Banning, her deranged and criminal brother, and remembers that it was he who killed David, her former boyfriend, and not the other way around.

Just as Mark is close to stabbing Jenny with his knife, Michael arrives on the scene and shoots him.

Back at the police station, Jenny and Michael are joined by Detective Lucas and Lt. Burton, as well as Dr. Kelton, who asserts that the Ouija board’s planchette-movements must have been guided by Jennifer’s own subconscious fears that her brother was still planning to kill her. Lt. Burton adds that Jenny’s previous boyfriend, David Franconi, must have been the guy whose body was burned at the hotel during the fire; not Mark Banning.

Jenny’s brother was a violent misfit who was temporarily living at the hotel because he was kicked out of his home by their father, who was also was an enemy of David, so when Mark tried to blackmail Jennifer based on her relationship to David, she went to Mark’s hotel-room to talk him out of it. When David entered the room as well, a fight broke out and Mark killed him. Mark then locked Jenny inside a closet and set fire to the room, hoping that she would burn to death. She managed to escape however, and when David’s crispy corpse was later found, the police conveniently assumed that it was the corpse of Mark Banning (whose name was registered to the room).

Detective Lucas closes the case by adding that he has finally found Cindy’s corpse in the trunk of Mark’s car, not far from the Lancaster Mental Hospital.

Michael Cassidy as Mark Banning
Kathleen Beller as Jennifer Banning (AKA Laura Daniels)
Michael Brandon as Michael Krasnick
Scott Paulin as Dr. Roger Kelton
Kurtwood Smith as Lt. Burton
Dennis Franz as Max Lucas
Sherri Stoner as Cindy Matthews
Elizabeth Huddle as Nurse Irma Crenshaw
George Wyner as the Employer

Jack Bender

William Bleich

Deadly Messages (1985) on IMDB

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