THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976) – The Dungeon Review!
I was completely unfamiliar with the title The Witch Who Came from the Sea until I picked it up at Black Dog Video last week. I did not read the back of the DVD to see what it was about only the comment written on a piece of paper taped to the front of the case; “This film is freakin’ awesome. It’s weird. It’s fun. It won most popular film at Cinemuerte 2004!” I lived in Vancouver in my twenties and moved back to Ontario for ten years. While I was away a short-lived film festival was concocted by former Black Dog employee Kier-La Janisse who was a huge horror fan. Black Dog Cambie was practically my second home back then. In a large part that was due to Kier-La’s presence. To this day I have met very few women who are passionate about horror films the way I am; very few women or men for that matter. Of course online I have connected with loads of folks but I am talking my everyday reality here. I used to enjoy just chatting with Kier-La, and she was always good for a solid recommendation. Unfortunately, I missed out on the awesomeness that was the Cinemuerte Film Festival which ran from 1999 to 2005 and featured such films as Massacre at Central High, School of the Holy Beast, Let me Die a Woman and Poor Pretty Eddie. I moved back to Vancouver in 2007 and while Cinemuerte was defunct I am happy to say that Black Dog Video is one of the few rental outlets still left standing. I rented The Witch Who Came from the Sea based on the aforementioned comment and what a fucking treat! What an unusual, hypnotic, fascinating journey this trippy psychological horror-drama was! I can’t thank the good people over at Black Dog Video enough for this brilliant recommendation! It’s just like old times.
Molly is spending some quality time with her nephews Tripoli and Tad at the beach. Molly is staring intently at two men working out. She is admiring their physiques. As Molly continues to admire the men the music becomes more frantic. Images are shot at the viewer like bullets as Molly eventually pictures both men dead. There was an animated image of blood drops pouring from one of the men’s heads that was so fantastic! The bloody image is flashed so damn quick however I was unable to catch it. I tried! For half an hour I tried! It just about drove me nuts!
Aunt Molly stays to watch the football game with the kids. Sam “the electric man” Walters and Austin Slade are the boys heroes. Molly speaks lovingly about her father to Tripoli and Tad. He was a Captain and according to Molly was lost at sea. Her sister Cathy, the kids mother has some different thoughts on dear old dad who she says was a real sonofabitch, an abusive alcoholic and an evil bastard. We learn early that Molly is in complete denial; powerful denial!
Molly has “episodes” but they are actually not really “episodes” at all. In Molly’s warped mind she believes she is imagining these events but in reality the are recollections of events that actually happened. Voice distortion is used when Molly is wigging out or recollecting an event which gives these scenes a particularly warped vibe. Molly picks up the two football players Sam “the electric man” Walters and Austin Slade. The trio go to a hotel together where they get naked and smoke pot. Molly ties them up and kills them. As a Captain’s daughter Molly knows how to tie a good secure knot.
“Do you shave with a straight razor? Or is this all going to be agonizingly slow?”
Molly works as a waitress at the Boathouse. The bar is owned by Long John who Molly is also sleeping with. Molly spends the night with Long John and is woken the next day by a newscast reporting the deaths of the two football players Sam Walters and Austin Slade. Molly is very upset and worried about her nephews. Molly is also becoming obsessed with a handsome man in a shaving commercial.
Molly has regular flashbacks to childhood. These flashback gets progressively creepier as the film roles along. In this flashback her and dad are building a boat and dad gets uncomfortably intimate.
Billy Batt is a movie star and regular customer at the Boathouse and has invited Molly and Long John to a party at his home. This scene explains the origins of the film’s title.
“Who is she?” -Molly
“She is a witch who came out of the sea.” -Billy
“She’s not a witch, she’s beautiful.” -Molly
“Why did she come out of the sea?” -Molly
“Venus was born in the sea.” -Billy
“Her father was a god, they cut off his balls, his sperm got into the ocean and the sea was knocked up and Venus was the kid.” -Billy
Molly ends up in Billy Batts bedroom and bites his lip. Billy slaps her and Molly ends up getting pushed out the door by him into a room full of people. To those in the room it appears that Billy Batt was the aggressor; little do they know of Molly’s psychosis.
Back at the bar Molly complains she has a bad headache. Fellow waitress Doris offers her some pills.
“…and they’re two colors I’ve never seen in pills before; shocking pink and electric blue, and they’re a knock out.”
Molly meets the man in the shaving commercial, Alexander McPeak along with his girlfriend Clarissa.
“Do you love him?” -Molly
“McPeek? Gee, why?” -Clarissa
“Because I do. I want him.” -Molly
A very odd thing to just come out and say, but everyone seems to think Molly’s childlike wonder is charming. Well, Clarissa did not think it was terribly charming.
Molly gets a tattoo of a mermaid on her stomach; one just like dad used to have. She chitty chats with tattoo artist Jack Dracula and shares with him the name she gave herself as a child; Molly Contiki Polynesia Easter.
Molly will not get undressed in front of Long John on account of her new tattoo. Molly and Long John have a conversation about when Molly first had sex. Molly does not know the answer to that question. “How could you not know Molly?” Long John asks. This triggers a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious trip out to an event where it appears that Molly has killed and chopped up several men on a boat! It is a very lovely and cool looking psychedelic colored-tinted segment!
Molly goes to see Alexander McPeak.
“Who are you? Did you shave this morning? I never see your face in color, I only see it in black and white.”
As she is speaking these words, warped circus music is playing in her head as a creepy looking clown is making silly gestures.
Long John wakes up to see Molly lying beside him covered in blood.
No one knows better than her sister Cathy what ails Molly.
Tripoli and Tad come by Long Johns for a visit with Aunt Molly. Molly’s facade of sanity if finally slipping.
The final and most disturbing childhood flashback.
All drugged up and Molly is floating on a calm sea.
I knew in the first five minutes that I was going to love The Witch Who Came from the Sea. The wacky opening scene with Aunt Molly and the kids at the beach was totally one of a kind! We are completely aware of Molly’s severe psychosis and there is no mystery for the viewer of who killed the football players. It is however a mystery to the film’s characters. Although we are aware of Molly’s mental state there is much we still need answered. The film leaves no loose ends and offers a few surprises also. Despite being completely loco, Molly is a likable and empathetic character. Molly appears to genuinely be unable to control her actions and her back story is so distressing it is easy to understand why her mind has become such a prison. A huge part of this treasure’s charm was the strange and compelling lead performance from Millie Perkins who plays Molly. Perky Perkins quirky performance, her child-like wonder and natural beauty had me enthralled. Molly is the film’s focus but there are some fun and eccentric supporting roles that are worth noting; especially Long John and the foul-mouthed waitress Doris. They add some humor to the proceedings. The Witch Who Came from the Sea has several surreal and hypnotic moments. Although I included pictures for several of these scenes they really can’t do them justice. It is the voice distortion, the camera tricks, the tinting, the sound effects and the music that accompanies these images that intensifies the trip. The Witch Who Came from the Sea is horror of the psychological persuasion and the violence is not graphic. It certainly offers up an array of disturbing moments but they are of the variety that get under the skin and messes with the psyche. The Witch Who Came from the Sea is definitely my favourite film of the year thus far, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sad about returning a rental. Why isn’t this mine?! I am supposed to be easing off the DVD purchases to save up for a trip to New York later in the year but I MUST have this film in my collection. The Witch Who Came from the Sea gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Matt Cimber
Starring: Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury, Jean Pierre Camps, Mark Livingston, Rick Jason, Stafford Morgan, Richard Kennedy, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Roberta Collins, Stan Ross, Lynne Guthrie, Barry Cooper, Gene Rutherford