Demon Witch Child!!! And Some Other Piece of Crap

So, ever since I first did a "Catch-Up" series on this site, I knew it was only a matter of time until Code Red's.  There's just all these great, older Code Red releases that need covering on here: great but overlooked DVD-only horrors and yes, a couple more DVD/ blu-ray comparisons.  And we start out with one of my favorite horror DVD, which I can't believe isn't better known and in more fans' collections.  I mean, don't get me wrong; I completely understand why it isn't in most peoples' collections and isn't regarded alongside mainstream horror classics like A Nightmare On Elm St or The Omen.  We're talking crazy, cult, obscure 70's insanity, not slick, streamlined, and glossy high production values.  This is for a select audience only.  But that select audience should be all over this disc.

Update 11/26/17 - 5/4/24: Aw yeah, now it's on!  Demon Witch Child has been restored and released on blu from Ediciones 79 in Spain.  Big thanks to Bruce of Cinema Arcana for hipping us to that in the comments.  And thanks to JMan for pointing out that Help Me... has also been released on blu from AGFA, but I don't think I'll be reviewing that one anytime soon.  😜
Since Code Red's disc is a double-feature, before we get to the neglected masterpiece, let's get the other film out of the way first: the "piece of crap" from this post's title.  It's a little film called The Possessed.  Actually, both films have been called The Possessed.  That's why they're paired up on the same disc.  Otherwise, they have nothing in common.

This The Possessed - on-screen title: Help Me... I'm Possessed - is an American film from 1974.  Screenwriter Bill Green also stars as a doctor of a sanitarium/ castle somewhere in Southern California.  He has a hunchbacked assistant, a mad woman for a sister and a new bride who begins to suspect unorthodox things are going on behind closed doors.  Patients are tortured and killed, and an unseen monster chases a nurse through the woods.  But things aren't nearly as interesting as that description makes it sound.  It's mostly long, droll scenes of conversations as characters stand around in front of a static camera.  It's just tongue-in-cheek enough that there's nothing to get invested in, but utterly fails in its attempts at humor with dialogue like, "who are you?"  "I'm fine.  How are you?"
I have to admit... I do love this location.
The police come and just... mill about the grounds aimlessly.  The premise and marketing promise sleaze and shocks, but that mostly just amounts to women in their bras pretending to be dead and a rubber leg or two.  It's absolutely Mystery Science Theater fodder-level (Season 14 show runners, take note), and deserves a little credit for trying to be an 'everything and the kitchen sink' movie where you never know what's coming around the next corner - mad scientist, hunchback, lunatic or off-camera monster?  But it's all just so flat and lifeless in execution, the fun the premise could offer just makes the film all the more disappointing.  If you're in the absolute right mood, and very patient, you might be slightly amused, in a laughing at it as opposed to with it kind of way.  But it's definitely not the reason to add this DVD to your collection.
2013 Code Red DVD.
...Of course, it's not a pristine, or in any way cleaned or remastered, film print.  This is another one of Code Red's patented "grindhouse" experiences, where the print is covered in dirt and chemicals, with green spots and lines everywhere.  It's also got a faded, washed out and soft look.  But it's still 100% more authentic and satisfying than any of VHS dub.  It's 1.78:1 (or more like 1.76 with the dead space in the overscan area's edges) anamorphic, progressive, and the mono audio, well, it matches the print.  There's a bassline soft hiss that isn't too distracting, with plenty of pops, but surprisingly robust library music and clear dialogue.  There are no subtitles or alternate audio tracks.
But the real gem is 1976's The Possessed - on-screen title: Demon Witch Child - a delightful killer kid film from Spain.  This one's written and directed by none other than Amando de Ossorio, the man behind The Blind Dead and Lorelei's Grasp.  But Demon Witch Child may have actually usurped all his other work as my favorite de Ossorio film.  It's just so much fun.  If you appreciated Cathy's Curse, oh boy, this is like its equally nutty prequel.

The premise is perfectly simple: the local police bust up a coven of witches, so their leader takes revenge by possessing the chief's daughter.  It starts off in some predictable Exorcist rip-off territory - not that that's a bad thing - with the girl floating out of her bed and a priest being brought in to chase the evil out of her.  But she quickly transforms into a delightful, balding foul-mouthed witch child, using her powers to wreak havoc on everyone in her life.  She laughs maniacally as she displays all kinds of fun magical powers and goes pretty psycho in some edgy ways that I'm super tempted to spoil right now, but I won't.
Meanwhile, everyone's trudging around in super 70's earth tones, and there's a melodramatic subplot where the priest's ex-girlfriend has become a prostitute.  The local townspeople form a mob and dig up graves, the bad-ass police captain, the parents, the priest and an ace reporter are all following separate paths to find the truth, and the witch cult comes back to help their crazy little girl kidnap a baby.

Admittedly, the pacing drags at points, with dubbed dialogue and scenes which can only be honestly described as bad writing.  The score is also clunky, though it concludes with a pretty dramatic, rousing number, that reminded me of Frizzi's main theme for The Beyond.  And Code Red clearly agrees with me, because it's the music they use for the DVD menu.  There's also a weird aspect to the DVD  presentation where the first minute of footage repeats with alternate credits over it.  Unsurprisingly, Ediciones 79 fixes that.
This print's been badly damaged, but we've got the fingerprint of the man responsible!
This time Code Red's disc wasn't the only release of Demon Witch Child.  It was included in one of those no frills budget packs of multiple films called Grindhouse Experience: 20 Film Feature Collection from 2007.  But that's reportedly another one of those 4:3 VHS-sourced editions.  Meanwhile, just like the other The Possessed, Code Red's got another, much more satisfying anamorphic widescreen transfer of a film print.  That was a nice, if battered, upgrade for its time.  But as of October '23, we've got a brand new 2k restoration clearly using superior film elements on BD (no, not BDR) from Ediciones 79, and it takes the film into a whole new world.
2013 Code Red DVD top; 2023 Ediciones 79 BD bottom.
Code Red's transfer looks just like their other The Possessed.  I could pretty much copy the entire paragraph I wrote about that transfer and it would apply equally to this one.  1.78:1 anamorphic, progressive transfer, with slivers of pillar-boxing down the sides making it more accurately 1.76:1.  Tinted and drained colors with washed exposure, and yes, plenty more green chemical damage all over the place.  But now, just look at it!  The framing has been tweaked to 1.94:1, which is a little curious, but basically just means there's more information on both sides compared to the Code Red.  The washed colors, over exposure, chemical damage, horizontal pinching... all of that is completely gone, giving this film a total make-over, now looking far more vivid and life-like.  Plenty of detail that had been missing is now visible for the first time... look out the windows in that second set of shots.  Grain is light and a little patchy; the encode could probably have been better.

The DVD's mono audio is about the same as the other The Possessed, too; except the crackly hiss and pops are just a little bit worse.  A word or two are dropped when damage causes the film to be spliced, but for the most part, you can get used to it.  You won't have to, though, with the new blu which is infinitely cleaner and clearer.  Edicione 79 gives us both the Spanish and the English tracks, though only the Spanish is in DTS-HD.  The English track is lossy.  And sadly, the only subtitles included are (removable) Spanish ones, so we're stuck with the English dub.  But, then, we always have been; and both tracks appear to be dubs, anyway.
There's basically nothing by way of special features on the double-feature DVD; we don't even get the films' trailers.  We just get the traditional Family Honor trailer on start up and a couple of Code Red bonus trailers.  But Ediciones 79 has some real goodies.  Unfortunately, the only English friendly one among them is the trailer.  That's nice to get, but some of the other stuff is so tantalizing and frustratingly untranslated.  Chief among them is a 20+ minute interview with the demon witch child herself, Marian Salgado!  There's also another brief featurette that talks to her a bit more at a film festival, and introduction by the Ediciones 79 guys, a longer discussion between the Ediciones guys about the film, and a short horror film from 2023 called Angustias, which also stars Maria Salgado.  Their release also includes fun, reversible artwork styled after an old VHS cover, and the first limited run of 666 copies also includes a slipcover, booklet and poster.
Code Red's presentations what they are: direct, un-restored standard def transfers scanned from a pair of beat up old film prints.  They sure beat the video-tape crapola that came before 'em, but we don't have to accept that as the best offer anymore; we have proper blu-rays now.  It sure is frustrating that the Spanish blu didn't throw in English subtitles (though understandable... it is a Spanish release, after all), but it's light years beyond what we've been stuck with up 'till now.


  1. Fingers Crossed, Scream might be thinking about this title for 2018.

  2. Love Demon Witch Child. It's so strange & atmospheric

  3. Horror flick trivia: Marian Salgado, who played the possessed girl in Demon Witch Child, dubbed Linda Blair's dialog in the Spanish language version of The Exorcist.

  4. As I recently found out, "Help Me... I'm Possessed" actually made it to Blu-ray, as part of the American Genre Film Archive's "Blood-A-Rama Triple Frightmare" set. In comparing screenshots, it looks to be the same source on the Blu-ray, with color correction applied.

    Alas, no such luck for "Demon Witch Child." Figures that "Some Other Piece of Crap" would be the one available in HD.

  5. Actually, de Ossorio's THE POSSESSED / DEMON WITCH CHILD just came out on legit Spanish Blu sourcing a gorgeous new 2K restoration. English or Spanish audio choices, but no English subs.