Monday, May 2, 2022

Poor Unfortunate Souls

Ahoy mateys! 

That's it. That's the intro. Let's set sail. 

Quick Plot: Meet Molly, a troubled soul with very complicated theories about what it means to be a great man. When not working as a cocktail waitress at her boyfriend's dive bar, she spends most of her free time babysitting her adoring nephews and regaling them with stories about the wonderful legend that was her late sea captain father. 

The fact that Cathy, Molly's sister, has no such memories tells you a lot about Molly's state of mind. It's immediately clear that Molly has done some serious disassociation, rewriting her childhood to turn her abusive dad into a hero. She does the same with celebrities who run in her social circle. Football players and television actors represent a very specific brand of masculinity that she craves, and, we soon learn, will take very dramatic steps to own. 

The Witch Who Came From the Sea is a strange, haunting little sea yarn that I 100% bought hook, line, and sinker (and yes, I'm attempting to make some kind of nautical joke so lob your fresh tomatoes my way and I'll make you a spicy shrimp scampi). Screenwriter Robert Thom (of Death Race 2000 fame) apparently penned it for his wife, lead Millie Perkins, and she brings such a weird, twisted energy to Molly that it all kind of makes sense in its own alien way. It's even more interesting a film when you dig through director Matt Cimber's career.

Cimber worked in the theater world for some time before pivoting to B-movies, among them several blaxsploitation flicks and the Pia Zadora punchline Butterfly. More importantly, he spent a good chunk of the '80s creating something near and dear to my childhood: GLOW.  

And yes, by some light internet research, it does indeed seem like he may have been the basis for Marc Maron's character in the Netflix show. 

Like GLOW, The Witch Who Came From the Sea is a complicated beast when it comes to understanding exactly what it's saying about or doing for the female sex. Molly is a fascinating, complicated woman both ahead of and behind her time. She craves the attention of men (and very traditionally "masculine" ones at that) but also has a commendable forwardness in how she goes after what she wants. The Witch Who Came From the Sea feels its 1976ness deeply in the best of ways. 

And not just the fashion. 

Even after decades of devouring horror, it still amazes me in the best of ways how much a low budget, rarely discussed little movie once banned as a video nasty can accomplish so much thoughtful exploration of something so deep. What a world indeed. 

High Points
Perkins is by far the beating pulse of this film, but I'll also throw a nod to cinematographer Dean Cundey (you just might have heard of him if you've ever watched a movie), whose early work here helps nail that dreamy tone

Low Points
Look, Molly's childhood abuse is a huge part of the film, but I can't imagine there weren't better ways to express that than showing such a grisly reenactment 

Lessons Learned
A sailor might curse, but a captain keeps his mouth clean

Only hippies wear glasses

Good men don't have tattoos

The Witch Who Came From the Sea is a strange, special little oddity that's well worth your eyeballs. Find it streaming on Shudder. 


  1. I watched this last year on Tubi, and man what a disturbing little film it was! And yes, that abuse reenactment was something I found really icky--it gave me "Precious" flashbacks. Millie Perkins was a LONG way from Anne Frank here, but her performance was very effective and unsettling. I felt really bad for the sister character, poor thing her own kids weren't believing her side (aka the truth) of events when it came to her and Molly's creep of a dad! Apparently, George "Buck" Flower's (Detective Stone) daughter Verkina played young Molly in the flashbacks. I didn't realize that Dean Cundey was the D.P. for this, that's a cool factoid!

    1. It's such a neat little film. And yes, the sister could have had her own movie and it would have been worth watching. Really interesting stuff.