The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

OCTOBER 4, 2012


Was incest a running theme throughout the Video Nasties? I haven't seen a lot, and there are others that I can't really recall too much, but it's odd that the two entries I've watched this week for the Cinefamily's series on this infamous list both featured family members being very inappropriate with their children. But while Night Warning's mom on son stuff (just a few smooches) was perversely funny, The Witch Who Came From The Sea deals with something far more disturbing - a father molesting his adolescent daughter. Yeah, not funny.

However, that didn't stop some creeper from laughing during the scene. Now, I admit I laugh at inappropriate stuff in movies, but it's mostly based on really bizarre dialogue or just completely strange moments, like the scene in Witch when an Asian man and his son are suddenly seen watching other characters fight in their driveway - the two of them have never been seen, they're apparently just chilling in these folks' yard, and we never see them again - it's ridiculously odd, and thus it makes me laugh. The rape scene, however, doesn't have any such qualifications - it's upsetting and sad, and you really have to be a special kind of asshole to start laughing at it.

As you might expect, this one is a bit of a puzzler. For 75% or so of its runtime, it's a perfectly sleazy psycho-drama about a woman with sexual hangups that strikes back at a few of the men in her life, usually going after their manhood (off-screen). So it's sort of like a proto-rape revenge film, setting the stage for later movies like I Spit On Your Grave and Ms. 45, but with the rape being kept as a "surprise" until the film's final reel, where the brief flashes we've seen of some childhood trauma are seen in full, once a bunch of relatively innocent dudes have been castrated/killed.

OR HAVE THEY? We know Molly has killed one guy, because a pair of cops are after her (one played by George "Buck" Flower, who plays the most normal character in the film - how's THAT for a plug?) for a murder. But some of the others, I'm not so sure about, as it's a very scattershot movie - the number of flashbacks and dream scenes make it difficult to tell what's happening now vs. what happened in the past (if it ever happened at all), so I wouldn't be surprised if the others were just part of her fantasies. Add to that the film's curious approach to editing, which is to simply cut to something else as soon as any character says anything, and you have a movie that demands 100% focus. Which, of course, it won't get at the Cinefamily with everyone laughing at every other line while trying to ignore the pain in their bottoms from those torturous seats (no, the pillows don't help).

But those lines I DID hear? Oh man. The screenplay almost seems like it is comprised exclusively of non sequiturs - rarely has the phrase "You'll never know what they'll say next" been so apt. Randomness seems to be the order of the day; when someone needs to get out of town another character suggests going to "Daphne's, or Bakersfield", and I guess I should point out that Daphne is not a character we've ever met. When an actor character's less than glowing reputation is being discussed, a colleague explains that they did a western together, and that even the horses hated him - in most movies that would be enough, but he continues on with this puzzler: "And not because he couldn't ride. He can." OK, so then why did they hate him? Just because he's an asshole, as was already established? Why this extra bit of go nowhere dialogue? That's a question I'd ask any other movie, but in this one it's just one of many that will cause your mind to melt if you try to find some logical reason for their existence.

Some make sense but are just as funny, like the repeated references to shaving (the object of her desire was in a shaving commercial), or the actress who claims she's too sexy to play wives in commercials but that Molly would be perfect. But the highlight (assuming a better one wasn't drowned out by laughter at the line before it) has to be when she's getting a tattoo of a mermaid on her chest, with the tail ending just below the belly button, or, as the tattoo artist describes it, "above the curly black sea". I mean, that is just pure gold right there, the sort of line we just don't hear often enough in today's films. Of course, there's almost nothing in this movie that you'd see often in a modern movie, and that's not always a complaint.

As for the violence, it should satisfy anyone who came in expecting the sort of schlock that the poster suggested, but then again there are only a few kills (and again, some might just be hallucinations, if that matters to a gorehound). There's a truly horrifying bit with a razor that starts at the neck and ends (again, off-screen) in the guy's groin, a frequent target for our deranged "heroine". And I should warn prospective viewers that none of that violence comes at the end - it seems like a bloody showdown is coming between Molly, the cops, and other characters, but it just ends on a real violence-free downer; a character ODs and dreams of an afterlife while the other characters either cry or watch. It's a fitting ending for the film itself, but it's hardly what you'd expect from something described as a horror movie.

Despite being the kind of movie that you'd expect would be on a Mill Creek budget pack and looking like shit (it actually reminded me of Haunts in a way, which is odd since it was five years ago yesterday that I watched it), apparently this is actually on a special edition DVD, featuring commentary by director Matt Cimber, Millie Perkins (Molly) and the film's DP, who happens to be none other than the legendary Dean Cundey (misspelled "Cundy" for one of his credits), plus a transfer that's said to be pretty good (probably better than this faded, occasionally broken print, at any rate). It's an unpleasant movie (save for the weirdo dialogue) and thus not something I'd like to watch again, but I'd love to hear that track someday. There should be a Netflix that just has commentary tracks!

What say you?

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