The Possessed (1976) + Demon Witch Child (1975)

The only thing these Code Red films have in common is that both were released as THE POSSESSED at one time or another.  The first has nothing to do with demonic possession while the second is one in a long line of THE EXORCIST knock-offs. 

The Possessed a.k.a. Help Me… I’m Possessed

Dr. Arthur Blackwood (Bill Greer) runs a sanitarium in the desert.  He’s the quintessential mad doctor who has a dungeon in his basement complete with raving lunatics, fairly attractive, scantily clad, chained females, and the obligatory hunch-back (Pierre Agostino).  It seems he is trying to eradicate the madness of his most extreme patients by torturing them and trying to get them to repent…it worked well enough during The Inquisition why not in Bronson Canyon?  

The fully equipped dungeon comes with shackles, cells and a guillotine.  The creepy hunchback follows Dr. Blackwood’s every order flogging the chained women and dismembering the deceased so they can fit in the undersized caskets.  A monster runs rampant in the desert wilderness surrounding the sanitarium.  The monster is never really fully revealed, appearing only briefly as Twizzlers or Red Vines being waved about, but the local sheriff (Jim Dean) is fairly sure it is tied to Blackwood Sanitarium in some manner or another.  The doctor’s wife (Deedy Peters) also knows something is amiss and agrees to help Sheriff Taylor stop the monster and end Blackwood’s mad experiments.

The source material was fairly damaged.  There are scratches, specks and tramline marks throughout the film but though they are severe, they are not really distracting in this 70’s schlock horror.  I’ve never been one bothered by artifacts or damage as long as the film is watchable and the picture quality on THE POSSESSED is quite adequate for viewing.  The scratches even add to the sleaziness of this low budget horror.  The picture is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.

Demon Witch Child

A gypsy crone, Mother Gautère (Tota Alba) gets caught for stealing the parish church’s chalice.  The police run her in and begin questioning her about a missing infant when she curses her interrogators and hurls herself out the station window and crashes to the ground below.  Susan (Mariàn Salgado), the precocious daughter of the local police commissioner, winds up on the receiving end of the hag’s curse.  A beautiful gypsy witch (Kali Hansa from NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS, THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOF, and COUNTESS PERVERSE) entices Susan with a totem and necklace of Satanic design.  These enable the crone’s spirit to possess the young girl and soon she begins levitating, spouting copious amounts of profanity and some pretty pointless but violent and creepy things.  The young girl turns old and bears more than a striking resemblance to the dead Mother Gautère as she leads the coven in their quest for Satanic world domination or some such thing.

DEMON WITCH CHILD is written and directed by the great Spanish filmmaker Amando de Ossorio who also wrote and directed the Blind Dead series of films.  THE POSSESSED is an alternate title for this pretty straightforward retelling of THE EXORCIST story.  There is levitation, remarkable amounts of profanity and the fact that Salgado voiced Regan MacNeil in the Spanish dubbing of that film.  Even the differential diagnosis plays much like Friedkin’s classic.  Susan’s governess bears an uncanny resemblance in dress and appearance to Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil.  The priest in DEMON WITCH CHILD is very ineffectual and serves no real purpose prior to the climax.  The character seems totally superfluous and only adds an insignificant and unnecessary subplot to this tale of the Devil.

Ossorio doesn’t rip off THE EXORCIST entirely.  Susan is much more mobile and actively seeks out victims-she is not confined to a bed like her counterpart.  There are a few truly horrifying things in this otherwise boring by the numbers shocker.  Among them are the young girl appearing as old as the hag, the possessed girl climbing down the side of the building is unnerving and a graveyard encounter that leaves her victim castrated is more than disturbing.

The picture quality is better than it’s co-feature but the source still shows much wear.  The colors are much better on this feature and the sound is good as well.  The dubbing is laughable as is often the case for many of these possession knock-offs.  The picture is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.  There are no special features on this release but there are several trailers.  There is a forced trailer for FAMILY HONOR while those for THE SEEDS OF EVIL, DEVIL’S EXPRESS, HEATED VENGEANCE, HOUSE OF INSANE WOMEN, and VAMPIRES’ NIGHT ORGY can be selected through the menu.  This double feature can be purchased through Code Red’s Big Cartel shop.

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