Saturday, August 25, 2012

Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology) (1972)

Directed by:
Victor Luminera

As a teenager back in the mid / late 90s I began obsessively collecting any horror or exploitation movie I could find on VHS. I'd get them at flea markets, video rental places or any store that stocked em, and when the internet became more commonplace I was an eBay junkie for years and would spend upwards of 100 bucks a week on used tapes. I had filled up numerous bookshelves and boxes. I had so many I had to put them all in alphabetical order or else I could never find what I was wanting to see. So we all know what happened when VHS fell out of favor. I, like many other people, started buying DVDs instead and taking advantage of things like streaming sites and Netflix. For years I had a job where I was relocated quite frequently up and down the East Coast. I clung to the 1700+ tapes for awhile. When I arrived at my new home, wherever it happened to be, I'd unload the twenty or so heavy boxes time and time again and stick them somewhere in the back of a closet. I noticed that the boxes remained sealed throughout many of my moves. In other words, I just wasn't watching these things anymore. In what will probably make most VHS collectors gasp and shake their heads in disbelief, before my last big move as I was loading up a U-Haul, I took one look down at the boxes and finally said "Fuck it." I had all of the movies I wanted to keep or still hadn't seen transferred over onto DVD-R's and left all of the tapes behind like one would an old stained mattress.

Then I noticed a peculiar change in myself... As much as I loved movies, I was now officially sick of collecting them. I grew tired of having to find a place to put them, tired of hauling them around and tired of the clutter. I was especially tired of watching a movie one time, hating it, never watching it again and still feeling some need to keep it for my collection. Over the years, I've found that when I buy a new movie, I don't even want to keep the cases for them any longer; the same cases I used to so proudly display back in the day. So in the trash they go. Right now, I have a dozen black binders which hold about 100 discs apiece. They're convenient, zip up, have a handle and are easy to take with me wherever I go. Between those dozen binders I have thousands of movies; ones I've purchased, ones I had transferred from my former VHS collection and others I've acquired via trade or other means. I watch hundreds of movies a year, and guess what? I still haven't made it all the way through my collection yet. Not even close.

This long and completely unnecessary tale does tie into tonight's feature. Sometimes when I'm indecisive about what to watch from all of my options, I'll close my eyes, flip through one of my binders and just pop in whatever DVD I happen to point at. Tonight my finger happened to land on the Something Weird double feature DVD of MONSTER A GO-GO (1965) and Psyched by the 4D Witch. Fuck! I already suffered through the incredibly boring Monster and even watched the bonus featurette DRIVING MISS DAISY CRAZY (1969), which really isn't too bad. All that was left was Psyched, which I'd already tried watching three different times before and kept turning off in the first ten minutes because it managed to annoy me that badly in that shot a period of time. I took a deep breath, tried to clear my head and looked at the bright side of things: Once I was done, this DVD could officially be retired over to one of my "already watched" folders in my closet where it can stay for the rest of eternity for all I care.

If I'm being generous, Psyched has perhaps three things going in its favor. 1: A pretty cool title. 2: A pretty cool opening theme song ("Beware of the 4-D Witch!"). 3. Tits. The credits reveal that what we're about to see is in "Transetheric Vision" and will be co-starring "a host of astral demons." Translation: It's shot on grainy 16mm with no sound and some people wear plastic fright masks. We meet our annoyingly perky virginal junior college student heroine Cindy (played by Margo), who narrates because they couldn't afford to do sound. Bewigged in a curly blonde mop, Cindy tells us a little about her spooky house, how she's the descendant of a Colonial witch named Abigail and how her exploration into the occult is meant as a warning to us all. So remember, when it comes to the practice of "sexual witchcraft," just say no, kids! Cindy takes off her top, lights candles and waves the candles around, then lounges in bed in only her saggy panties and decides to "bone up on witchcraft" by reading a book entitled "Rituals of Sexual Witchcraft." Visions of skulls, snakes, smoke, flashing lights, people in masks and a topless woman dance through her head.

The voice of Abigail calls out to her from the darkness. She offers Cindy the chance to live an adventurous astral sex life while keeping her virtue intact. All she has to do is drink from a special cup and wait for the words "Let's fantasy fuck now." A week later, Cindy is visited by her Aunt's spirit, kaleidoscopic lights flash and she has "the world's greatest climax" complete with the "Mountain of Venus afterglow effect." Now she's ready to take on the real thing and decides on her new neighbor Mr. Jones (Kelly Guthrie). She comes on to him, he informs her "I'm a homo!" and she uses her powers to make him comply. To what, I have no clue since this film has the bad habit of filming the top half of people's faces while the "action" is going on. Cindy goes over to her best friend Jan's home to study but passes out and has another sex fantasy about Mr. Jones. She then has an "exhausting three-way lesbian climax" with her large-breasted Aunt Fanny (Annette "Williams" / Michael) and her witch ancestor. While some of this may sound enticing, trust me when I say that this is about as far removed from erotic or entertaining as it could be possibly be thanks to the irritating narration, awful camerawork and lighting and the habit of cutting away from the sex every few seconds.

Cindy wonders "Did someone spike my orange juice with LSD or is this Abigail's idea of a joke?" as her witchy ancestor turns her fantasies a little darker. In one, Jan drinks a concoction of "spider broth" and menstrual blood and apparently has a snake inserted into her vagina and rectum before she's forced to bite its head off. Just like most other things in this film, we don't actually get to see any of that, the narrator just tells us. The "Salem witch bitch" puts Jan ("Sandra Lane" / Tracy Handfuss) into a coma and then puts Cindy into a deep sleep. Narration then kicks in from Cindy's older brother Mark (Tom Yerian), a parapsychology student. Abigail uses an evil eye to transform him into the "king of the sex vampires." He goes to Chinatown for dinner, eats a heart, runs around outside that night, does some things you can't see because it's too dark and finally chases a woman for several minutes in slow motion. When he finally catches her, he rips her top open and bites her and some guy shoots him. Cindy wakes up and wonders if what happened to Mark is reality or just a projection. She goes to Dr. Ambrose Kleinmetz ("Don Markos" / Keith Erickson) for hypnotic therapy and instead gets a "flesh and blood climax" as the good doctor decides to finally pop her cherry.

Whoever was responsible for this seems to have taken a dozen silent experimental / student short films and edited them all into one headache-inducing mess while bullshitting their way through an amazingly stupid "story" told exclusively through voice-over. The storyline seems made up as they went along and is padded out with tons of unnecessary shots. Of what, you ask? Well, pretty much everything that will fill time. There are long, boring and sometimes slowed-down shots of people walking around, people doing lawn work, buildings, the beach, trees, mountains, ducks, dogs, a lake, whatever. Much of this is tinted red or green or distorted (scenes overlapping, shown upside down, etc.). Many shots of the same things are reused over and over and over again. Despite full nudity and lots of vulgar, perverted lines, the words "fuck" and "pussy" have been removed for some reason.

The soundtrack is all classical music (including "Night on Bald Mountain") and some stolen snippets from Pink Floyd's "A Saucerful of Secrets." I cannot adequately put into words just how tedious thing whole thing is to sit through but I can say that I don't think I've ever wanted to turn off a movie so badly in my life.


Newlydeads, The (1987)

Directed by:
Joseph Merhi

A mysterious, tall, husky-voiced, hardbodied blonde named Jackie shows up at a lakeside hotel late one evening looking for a room. The owner, Lloyd Stone (Jim Williams), likes what he sees, and vice versa. Right as the two begin kissing, Lloyd goes to run his fingers through the sultry blonde's hair and ends up pulling the wig off a lusty transvestite instead. Lloyd snaps, tries to throw Jackie (Scott Kaske) out and, after being punched in the face and kicked in the groin during a scuffle, grabs an ice pick off of the counter and sinks into the side of his / her head. He throws the body in the lake and goes about his business. Fifteen years later, Lloyd's successful little hotel empire has expanded and he's set to marry the sultry Lynda (Roxanna Michaels), who looks about twenty years his junior. Right in the middle of his wedding ceremony, the undead-looking ghost of Jackie pops in long enough to inform him that "I'm not going to let you have anyone but me!" Why Jackie's ghost is obsessed about a not-very-good-looking middle-aged man he/she was around for about five minutes is anyone's guess. Lloyd doesn't heed the warning, goes through with his wedding and other guests start filing into the hotel soon after.

Most important amongst the guests is Kris (Jean Levine). Chris is a psychic and her husband Ron (Jay Richardson) would prefer her to use her powers in a more useful way: namely helping him make money. Kris is also one of strangest choices for a heroine in slasher flick history. She's middle-aged, loud, abrasive, bitchy, has a grating voice and is just extremely unlikable. After seeing Jackie's ghost outside the lodge, Kris demands they spend the night there. Amongst the other duos to show up to there are rednecks Blanche (Rebecca Barrington) and Bull (Michael Springer), who can't even wait to get to the hotel to start "balling" and just pull their car over to the side of the road, elderly couple Marilyn (Jean Lowry), who's hard of hearing and needs everything screamed at her, and Mathew (Dick Crawford) want to celebrate their second honeymoon, blonde hottie Brenda (Renee Way) and the geeky, scrawny Tim (Doug Jones) are celebrating their honeymoon and pot-smoking, rainbow-haired Aussie punk rocker Roger (Ron Preston) wants to propose to his girlfriend Sabina (Michelle Smith).

Their first night there, Kris informs her husband that "Someone is going to be murdered tonight!" and then hysterically (and hilariously!) starts shrieking and hyperventilating about someone breaking into their home. She tries to warn Lloyd, but he ignores her and returns to his room where his new brides awaits. Unfortunately, the honeymoon bliss is ruined when Lloyd tries to strangle Lynda after having visions of her turning into Jackie and biting out his tongue. Lynda promptly packs her bags and refuses to come back until Lloyd sells the place. Chris' premonition ends up coming true when Tim and Brenda are discovered dead the following day. For some reason that defies adequate explanation, Kris talks Lloyd into not contacting the police! Instead, he hides the corpses under the cover on a boat down at the docks. On her way out, Lynda is carjacked (!) by the ghost and has to return to the lodge. Jackie does the same routine she did before and tricks Lloyd into stabbing her to death in the shower. Kris pops in long enough to recommend they hide her body, too. When Ron goes into town to get help, he's stabbed through the throat in a public place which finally brings a pair of detectives to the lodge.

The last fifteen minutes or so consist of about ten people running around in the woods getting picked off by the laughing ghost. A maid runs into a saw and decapitates herself, a guy is accidentally blasted with a shotgun and there are a couple of impalements (on tree branches, with a cross, etc.)... and then it just sort of ends. After setting up what could be an adequate body count, only about half of the characters actually die, making us realize that most of these idiots serve no purpose whatsoever aside from eating up time. In fact, judging by what a huge, rushed mess the ending is I might venture to say that this wasn't even completed. During breaks in the horror, there are some lame attempts at comedy, such as a foul-mouthed, drunken, singing minister (Captain Mike) wandering around and the old couple playing Trivial Pursuit and her mistaking "fox" for "fuck."

I know this sounds pretty fun. A killer transvestite ghost is a cool idea and all but these folks pretty much just turned it into a tedious, inept bore. It's also a really ugly, cheap-looking film, with murky and often blurry photography. It appears to have been shot on video, but I'm not 100 percent sure about that. The funny song that open the film, a decent amount of female nudity and OK make-ups from Judy Yonemoto are all it has going for it. Still, this was the little acorn that helped grow Merhi and Richard Pepin's City Lights Distribution company, which specialized mostly in direct-to-video action flicks. The company was also responsible for EPITAPH (1987), FRESH KILL (1987), DEATH BY DIALOGUE (1988), HOLLOW GATE (1988) and some other genre films.

Troma handles the distribution these days and released it on a 3 DVD set along with Dead Dudes in the House (a re-title of THE HOUSE ON TOMBSTONE HILL) and SPACE ZOMBIE BINGO!! (1993).

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