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The world of horror is vast. With so many films across the spectrum of budget, studio involvement, quality, availability, and, above all else, pure scare-the-living-shit-out-of-you-ness, it helps to have trained professionals parse through some of the older and/or lesser-known offerings. That's where Team Fangrrls comes in with Deep Cuts, our series dedicated to bringing the hidden gems of horror out of the vault and into your nightmares. Today, we look at '70s "witch-sploitation" film Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology).
The ‘70s was a truly great decade for horror. You have The Exorcist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Alien and Halloween. The Wicker Man and Don’t Look Now. Carrie and Suspiria and Jaws.
And then there’s Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology). Stacked up against the horror classics mentioned above, this 1973 release is… also a movie.
Is it a movie, though? Is it a real thing that whole tens of people put time and effort into? Or is it a fever dream that crept upon my poor, innocent person after some heretofore unknown nemesis laced by Bagel Bites (yeah, I’m 12) with hallucinogenic mushrooms? I’m still not sure about the Furby movie. Log into Amazon Prime and tell me if Psyched by the 4D Witch shows up for you. If it doesn’t—if this bizarre mix of porn and prudishness is straight out of my own addled imagination—then boy, do I have a script that absolutely no one in their right mind will want to buy.
Written and directed by Victor Luminera, Psyched by the 4D Witch tells the tale of Cindy, a teenager and novice witch recently contacted by her dead ancestor Abigail—who's popped down from the "Astral realm" to teach Cindy how she can have "an adventurous sex life and still remain a virgin." A deal is struck: Once a week, Abigail will use the phrase "let's fantasy f*ck now" to send her young charge into a sort of sexual trance, during which she'll have sexual exploits with: Herself. A gay neighbor. Her aunt, who sounds like a British Ethel Merman for some reason. And others.Like many of its fellow exploitation films, Psyched by the 4D witch offsets its tawdry shenanigans with an "educational" message—in this case, "Just Say No to sexual witchcraft"—thus giving the film a patina of respectability.
That's the idea anyway.
"But Mo-ommm. It's not softcore porn! It's a PSA on how I shouldn't let a witch teach me how to masturbate!" Even if that witch does have one hell of a villain monologue:
"You've just had the world's greatest climax, Cindy. A beautiful astral orgasm. And I shared it with you. That's why I'll keep coming back. To share these adventures in climaxing with you through fantasy. And you know why? 'Cause I never did get enough in real life. I was brought up in colonial times, a prude like you."
The James Bond movies would never.
Hard as it may be to believe, the basic plot description above only scratches the surface of Psyched by the 4D Witch's sublime weirdness. To start with, there's no on-screen dialogue, per se. Scenes have people reacting to each other by way of over-the-top facial expressions, but everything that we hear is voiceover. Take, for example, the following scene, which gets a content warning for homophobia and just being... well, just being Psyched by the 4D Witch.That musical cue, or something similar, will occur approximately 600 times over Psyched by the 4D Witch's one hour and 21-minute runtime. Every time there's some sort of "dramatic" revelation—or, more often, when there's a sex scene—Luminera cuts away to a neon-tinged montage that pairs stock footage of fireworks and palm trees with... Tchaikovsky? This montage-heavy film also cobbles together random shots of: Ducks. A fountain. More ducks. The ocean. A school. Frankenstein with a mani. And... Noel Fielding? Luminera also shelled out for a custom theme song for Psyched. Performed by someone named Johnny By the Way, it warns viewers against the dangers of sexy witches with the following lyrics:
So beware of the 4D witch, beware.
She’s in your mind, she’s everywhere.
She came from the belly of the devil’s bitch.
Beware of the 4D witch.
It’s actually a pretty catchy song. Luminera clearly thought so too, because he uses it no fewer than six times over the course of the film.
For all that it's inept on virtually every level, for a few minutes Psyched by the 4D Witch actually stumbles into being something of an effective horror film. The particular scene is one where Cindy is made to watch as her best friend Jan has sexual relations with a snake. (Don't worry—all we really see is sweet, sweet montage action.) It's a horrific enough premise that Psyched's sheer ineptitude can't quite undercut it all the way, even though the scene looks like it was shot in a linen closet.
And there's something to Psyched's badness that makes it... well, almost otherworldly. You feel like you're watching something you shouldn't be because it's hard to believe something like this exists. Psyched is a movie where the actors frequently pause mid-line as if they can't quite believe what they're reading. Or maybe they just can't read, which would explain lines like "As I watched breastlessly" and "then, like a belt from the blue, it hit me."
It's the laughing with you vs. laughing at you distinction, but for horror. Still, it works.
Then we get to the plotline where Abigail turns Cindy's brother Mark into "something you've always secretly dreaded... a sex vampire," and things are off the rails all over again. I don't know that I've ever really dreaded being a person with insatiable sexual lust and bad plastic vampire's teeth. That seems awful specific to me. But you do you, Mark. It's not nearly as weird a thing as Cindy's wig.
The movie ends with Cindy and Jan breaking free of Abigail's spell by calling her a "witch bitch." Words hurt, Cindy. Cindy then channels her sexual energy into intercourse with Jan's father, which isn't quite as empowering as the movie wants it to be. Actually, I'm not sure what this movie wants, other than to drive me insane. Psyched by the 4D Witch curdled my head so much that, when Dr. Kleinmetz compliments Cindy on her "hungry" vagina's "very powerful magnetic field," the first place my brain went was: "Huh. You know, that's not the worst compliment to get."
I'll leave you with a quote that could only come from Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology):
"Make love to a female corpse? Of a close friend? You are Satantic, Abigail! You are a devil worshipper. And this is one of Satan's rituals for sure! 'Cause I read about them."