When you drag your net along the fetid depths of cinema’s bowels there are rare occasions when you find, amidst the refuse, a truly golden bit of genius. A really smelly, misshapen, pearl stuck the muck. I loved this film and although it has all the hallmarks of something terrible it has a special alchemy that transcends its humble, little shell. If you can imagine an hour and twenty minute long Kenneth Anger film you at least have a reference point to start you toward understanding Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology).
In his book, The Poetics of Music, Stravinsky writes “My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.” Psyched by the 4D Witch seems like it embraces limitless freedom. The writer and director Victor Luminera, AKA Lawrence Milton Boren, flies in the face of almost every convention, but it is clear that the constraints that fuel the film’s creativity were a complete lack of money and resources. Stravinsky’s obstacles were formal, Luminera’s obstacles were economic. Here is what I believe Luminera, had to work with.
I’m guessing he had a 16mm film camera with a half broken lens. The camera did not come equipped with a mic or a light meter, attached or otherwise. He had an extremely small amount of film to shoot with but a huge pile of stock footage he probably lifted from some editing suite floor. I’m also guessing that if he had managed to get his hands on some money it would have gone straight to quaaludes and cocaine. I could be wrong. If Luminera made this movie the way it is by choice instead of necessity he is an even bigger genius than I thought.
There is no synchronized sound in the movie. There are three main visual sources. 40% of the film is stock footage of everything from people feeding ducks, a promotional video for a mountain lodge, footage of a college campus on a sunny day, and family vacation home movies. In order to create a narrative arc there is another 40% of footage that may have been shot by Luminera specifically for Psyched by the 4D Witch. The last 20% seems to be completely out of focus material shot off of a projection screen. Nothing is distinguishable its just moving colors. Sometimes in the midst of the fuzz halloween masks appear, or a lady who looks like a cross between a belly dancer and a dominatrix.
The soundtrack to the film, like the imagery, is also a jumbled melange of material. I was able to discern snippets cut from Night on Bald Mountain, John Philip Souza marches, Ravel’s Bolero, Pink Floyd’s A Saucer Full of Secrets, and a very strange sounding opera involving a soprano and a banjo, The transitions from one piece to another are random. One piece simply cuts out and another begins without any consideration as to where the needle drops.
Its very hard to describe the magic of this film. When someone says a movie was so bad it was good, they mean that the film was so bad it became funny, but Psyched by the 4D Witch (A Tale of Demonology) is truly so bad it is transformed into something good, better than good, great! Something great with really horrible exposures. Its hard to tell if any of the scenes are meant to depict day or night.
The film does have a relatively coherent plot and premise. A witch named Abigail (played by someone named Esoterica) manages to leave the Salem era and travel through time to 1973 (when the film was made). She finds the young and virginal Cindy innocently attending classes at an unnamed college. Using her fourth dimensional astral magic, Abagail possesses Cindy and forces her to go on a sexual odyssey.
Images are used symbolically. They all emerge without boarders from a hazy double exposed darkness. There is often just a close up of an eye or hand or gauzy lights on the screen. Even the sex scenes are strange montages of symbolic imagery. In an unexpected bonus I learned that the 180 degree rule not only applies in dialogue but in the depiction of doggie style intercourse as well. Abagail initiates each sexual encounter with a magic phrase, “Lets fantasy fuck now!” which places poor Cindy in a hypnotic state. She then must do the witches bidding. Each encounter ends in an orgasm symbolized by an image of silhouetted palm trees against a burning sky of red and orange, usually followed by some stock footage of people strolling in a park, or walking their dog.
Psyched by the 4D Witch never stays with one scene or character long enough to develop depth or insight. It is more like a collage than a painting, or more like an attempt at a painting using collage as a technique. All the pieces are meant to add up to a coherent whole but they don’t quite succeed. Its this failure that makes the film interesting. It seems as if it wants to be a sexploitation film but the sex scenes are so cut up, out of focus and riddled with cutaways, the eroticism is completely short circuited. If it is meant to be a sexploitation feature it strangely conveys a strong puritanical message about the evils of casual sex, witches and Satan but then proceeds to get lost in its own dreamy fantasies.
After reading the ponderous seriousness of someone like Eisenstein and his theories of montage, or examining Hitchcock’s meticulous mise en scène there is something wonderful about witnessing a filmmaker like Luminera who engages the process with such abandon and yet still manages to sculpt something curious enough to be interesting.
This film is either the best lemonade made from life’s lemons or an intentional effort made by someone who deliberately bought lemons so they could let them rot and ferment into some kind of spectacular, fruit based, moonshine.
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