Demon Witch Child (1975)

JANUARY 17, 2020


I saw Demon Witch Child during last year's New Beverly all night horrorthon, but as it played fifth in the lineup (starting around 4 am) the idea of me seeing the entire thing was absurd, and even when awake my mind was more concerned with, well, trying to stay awake than letting myself get caught up in the movie's shenanigans. So I missed a chunk of the middle and had rather hazy memories of most of the rest, and so I asked my friend (and trivia teammate) Amy to borrow her copy so I could see what I missed. And in true BC fashion, I didn't get around to actually watching it for almost three months, which means by that point I barely remembered what I saw, either.

But it's fitting that I finally finished "rewatching" today, because as I write this very review there's a bunch of folks at the Alamo Drafthouse in Houston watching Cathy's Curse with a video intro from yours truly, and Demon Witch Child is very much in the same vein, in that it's an Exorcist wannabe that retains the foul mouthed child but none of the quality. It's actually much more of a ripoff of Blatty and Friedkin's film than Cathy's was though; while that one was basically just "evil kid who swears now", this one has the head spinning, the priest, the mom going to see the priest to ask for an exorcism after doctors fail... hell, they even went so far as to hire the girl who dubbed Linda Blair's voice for the Spanish release to play the titular child. There are certainly more shameless Euro knockoffs of certain films, but this still serves as a prime example of a producer seeing a big hit American film and hiring some folks under the strict rule of "do the same thing, but cheaper and in 90 minutes!"

That said, there's one big difference: witches! The plot is a bit fuzzy due to weird dubbing, a very beat up print (from what I understand, the print we saw at the Bev was the same one they used to make this Code Red DVD), and the usual liberal approach to things like logic and coherency that these films offer, but from what I can understand there's a witch who is the prime suspect in a child's disappearance, and after being harassed by the cops she jumps out a window and dies rather than go to jail for her crimes. And so the rest of her coven does what anyone would do - transfers her soul into the still living and healthy body of a 12 year old girl, who - in fulfillment of the scriptures - starts swearing and killing those she considers responsible for the witch's (so, her) death.

And that's all well and good, but the movie can be a bit on the slow side, and somewhat repetitive - she gets fully possessed by the witch (she shapeshifts into the crone, and while the effect itself isn't good, I must say they did a great job of casting as the little girl and old woman share enough of a body resemblance that it does a chunk of the heavy lifting for those scenes), kills someone, goes home, turns back into the little girl, swears at her mom, and then the cycle begins again. In between these scenes are several (read: too many) of the girl's dad, a cop, a newspaper asshole, and a priest all trying to figure out what's going on. The father's political ties almost make it seem like they're cribbing from The Omen, too, but this actually came out a year or so before that one, so they're strictly aping Pazuzu.

One thing they took from that film, not often one of the copied elements, is Regan's ability to mimic voices. She only used it to freak out Father Karras, but our girl Susan uses this superpower to really mess with people, like calling her mother's lover and using her voice to get him to meet her somewhere for a rendezvous, only to kill him. She also does it to a cop while talking to him, prompting him to angrily yell "Hey that's my voice!" in the same manner one might shout after someone who just stole their car or something. These things, along with some other choice bits of nonsense (like the priest's old flame, who became a hooker after he decided to leave her to pursue a life in the clergy) help offset some of the film's slower elements, but - to be fair, like Cathy as well - it can try your patience from time to time in between goofy highlights.

But it's still an enjoyable way to kill 90 minutes; it might never actually be scary or suspenseful, but its gonzo charms more or less make up for it as long as you're not sitting down expecting to be frightened or tense in any way (that said, the ending is a bit of a downer, and she does attack a baby at one point, so be warned). I wish they could find a better print (and perhaps the original audio) to give it a proper presentation, but since we still don't even have Blu-rays of director Amando de Ossorio's far more famous Blind Dead films, I wouldn't hold my breath. Instead, it's packaged with a movie called The Possessed, which is amusing/confusing since DWC itself is also named The Possessed. The other one is about a guy who whips women and cuts their legs off, which sounds real lovely (sarcasm), so I don't know if I'll be getting around to that unless I hear it's worth my while and possible post-viewing shower. Granted, the best way to watch the movie is when you have no idea it's coming and are surrounded with fellow sleep-deprived (read: loopy) horror fans, but not everyone can have that, and the same version from the DVD is on Prime, so that's the next best option if you'd like to see for yourself. Double it with Cathy's Curse - it'll act as a form of birth control!

What say you?


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