The Witch Who Came From the Sea
Title: The Witch Who Came From the Sea
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Exploitation (Psychological Drama)
Starring: Millie Perkins
Director: Matt Cimber
Well known film critic Mark Kermode once described this as one of the unsung gems of the video-nasty era – films deemed too psychologically harmful for viewing by the general public, resulting in a ban. Oddly, it feels wholly undeserving of this status; usually emerging as a result of being horrifically violent and showing depictions of subject matter on the extreme end, the only perceivable reason for this film being banned is the core plot, hinging on the psychological trauma of our protagonist who was sexually abused as a child. Much of the violence is implied rather than specifically seen; this is no “I Spit on Your Grave” but rather almost a companion piece in a similar vein but focussing on her mental stability and just how ill she truly is.
The plot never seems all that stable – a good reflection on our leads mindset perhaps – and seems to sway as we learn more about the bloody murderous events that unfold and the constant implications of how she is connected but never given a clear answer as to why. A lot has gone into this film, and despite the occasional dodgy looking effect that could only have been considered appropriate in a 70s flick, there's a surprising amount of thought that has gone into this script; symbolism galore in the occasionally cryptic dialogue, the truth behind her fathers demise, the significance of Venus the Sea Witch and of the mermaid all pieces of this elaborate puzzle we are given to figure out the details of her condition, often given context through the use of flashbacks where she is forced to re-live her past and allow us a snippet of what caused the damage that we observe now.
Much of this couldn't have been possible without Millie Perkins allowing herself to be subjected to such a daring role, frequently displaying nudity – if often not in an erotic but a naturalistic manner; she just happened to have her tits out – and requiring her to play an almost “The Shining” lead role, treading along the knife edge of sanity and occasionally sliding down. Really, this barely feels like a horror film at all, once again given the title more for it's implicit content rather than the explicit and lending a very different tone to it all; more than a traditional revenge film this is a character driven story of how her life has been impacted by her childhood, now manifesting itself in the present, and going in expecting anything more gruesome will likely end in disappointment for this is one video-nasty that feels like it was misplaced. Yet whilst there is unquestionably more to this film than your average nasty of the era, it never quite manages to find its way to the peaks set by others; it doesn't quite keep you guessing enough, and much of the symbolism by the films conclusion becomes all too obvious. A misunderstood gem of the era that nearly forty years on it still finds difficulty in finding its audience, given more harsh a treatment than it truly deserved and yet, this is not to be remembered as one of the classics.