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  Demon Witch Child Another potty-mouthed poppet for Satan
Year: 1975
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Stars: Julián Mateos, Marián Salgado, Fernando Sancho, Lone Fleming, Ángel del Pozo, Kali Hansa, Daniel Martin, Tota Alba, Roberto Camardiel, Maria Kosty, Fernando Hilbeck, Julia Saly, Maria Vidal, Concha Gómez Conde, Ernesto Yáñez
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: An ugly old witch (Tota Alba) trashes a church, steals the communion chalice and kidnaps an innocent baby. She is promptly arrested on the orders of stern police commissioner Mr. Barnes (Ángel del Pozo), but ignores the pleas of the child’s grieving mother (“Shut up you stupid bitch) and flings herself out a window to her death. The witch’s coven, led by a wild-eyed gypsy (Kali Hansa) take revenge by passing on a devil doll to the commissioner’s daughter, Susan (Marián Salgado) allowing the witch to possess her body. Quicker than you can say Pazuzu, sweet little Susan starts floating in mid-air, crawling up walls and spouting obscenities in the time-honoured Linda Blair tradition, making life hell for long-suffering governess Anne (Lone Fleming). Periodically, she also morphs into the hideous, balding, witch and slaughters that poor baby as a ritual sacrifice. Troubled young priest Father Juan (Julián Mateos) is certain Susan is possessed but has trouble convincing the dopey police chief (Fernando Sancho, who previously played yet another dopey police chief in Voodoo Black Exorcist (1973)) and crusading journalist William Grant (Daniel Martin) who both have their own theories.

As many horror fans know, the global success of The Exorcist (1973) spawned a slew of European knock-offs. Most of these came from Italy, but Demon Witch Child a.k.a. La Endemoniada a.k.a. The Possessed was a Spanish effort written and directed by horror veteran Amando de Ossorio. De Ossorio began his career making paella westerns and famously advised his friend, actor-writer Jacinto Molina a.k.a. Paul Naschy to avoid dabbling in horror because it was box-office poison. He changed his tune after Naschy scored a huge hit with Werewolf Shadow (1971) and began producing horror films that were sometimes slapdash but often distinctive, notably his signature movie Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971) which spawned three sequels and also Lorelei’s Grasp (1974).

For his take on the Exorcist sub-genre, de Ossorio seemingly set out to make some kind of social statement. His screenplay is rife with the same sort of metaphysical debate on the nature of good and evil in modern society that marked the work of William Peter Blatty. Whereas Blatty set out to make the Devil a credible metaphysical threat in a secular society, de Ossorio has a tougher task doing the same with witches. Not those trendy, sexy wiccans you see on The Secret Circle. Oh no, we’re talking old-fashioned, pointy-nosed, gingerbread house-dwelling, hob-toed boot wearing, cackling hags. Frankly, it’s rather ludicrous to see this lot chanting in the woods just a stone’s throw away from a thriving city or led off in cuffs to the police station. However, actresses Tota Alba and Kali Hansa - who gave a far worse performance in de Ossorio’s Night of the Sorcerers (1973) - have a genuinely unsettling presence while juvenile lead Marián Salgado is a suitably spooky child. Try not to laugh though when she shoves her hand down one dead character’s jeans then rasps: “Mmm, you’re well hung, but what good is that you now?” before castrating him.

De Ossorio takes a more conservative stance than Blatty. Throughout the movie, various altruistic or liberal minded characters, including Father Juan, exhibit compassion and try to deal rationally with the witches, only to be rebuffed. The underlining message is there is room for neither Christian charity or secular humanism when dealing with the minions of Satan. Journalist Grant blames Barnes for his heavy-handed persecution of the old crone, but given she was a homicidal bitch to begin with his argument lacks weight. Sexual repression is another major theme in the movie. The characters are almost comically prim. Italian Exorcist rip-offs typically use demonic possession as an excuse to turn nubile young women into raging nymphos, but little Susan is quite the opposite. She repeatedly lambasts other characters for their sexual activity, both real and imagined. When Father Juan suggests Susan should repress her sexual curiosity, she hilariously replies he must be either “a queer or impotent.” Turns out Father Juan is haunted by the memory of Esther (Maria Kosty, another de Ossorio veteran) the woman he spurned for the church and whom he later discovers has become a hooker wearing a ridiculous Ronald McDonald ginger wig.

Part horror film, part Latin soap opera, Demon Witch Child plods through an array of ludicrous subplots but proves not without camp interest including one doctor’s ridiculous scientific theory about Susan’s behaviour, seemingly contrived to make the paranormal explanation sound rational, plus the concept that a witch able to debate philosophy and arcane mathematics fluently in ancient Greek, Latin and Sanskrit would be so mortally afraid of needles. Things turn more interesting when Susan frames Ann for murder (but not before handing her the victim’s gift-wrapped penis!) then kidnaps yet another innocent baby, setting the scene for the graveyard showdown between demonic moppet and cross-wielding priest.

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Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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