A Woman Possessed/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Described at the time of its original release by the French Minister for Culture as ‘an uninterrupted succession of scenes of sadism, torture and violence’, Mario Mercer’s ‘A Woman Possessed’ is an intoxicating stew of psychedelic black magic, S & M erotica, Manson-esque hippie cultism and pseudo-pagan feminism and is an absolute must-see for all fans of 1970’s Euro horror.
Hedonistic artist Laurent is seeking initiation into a hippie black magic cult ‘whose origins are lost in the mists of time’. His first trial involves being buried up to his neck inside a circle of fire while a basket of snakes is poured on his head. Later he is hung from a cross and whipped. Salt water is used to clean his wounds. Laurent and his wife Aline argue about his obsession with magic and spirits but he tells her that he wants to live in ‘another dimension’.
Laurent is introduced to the leader of the cult, a frosty looking madam named Geziale. ‘You have a repressed and neurotic wife - she’ll make an excellent medium’, she says before ordering him to kiss her leather boot. Meanwhile Aline is wandering the woods in search of her husband and stumbles across a pair of robbers arguing over who deserves the larger share of their loot. They follow Aline home and, terrified of what they might do to her, she swallows a fistful of tranquilisers. She is unconscious when her husband returns and Laurent takes advantage of his wife’s anxiety to persuade her to join him in his induction into the cult.
In the first of a series of bizarre rituals an almost naked Aline is given a bullwhip and forced to fight off the lustful advances of two male cult members called Borg (good French black magic cultist name) and Steve (not so good French black magic cultist name). Both men are dressed as Roman gladiators. She is kept tied up in a pig pen and made to eat slurry, even after Borg has pissed in it, and is later branded on the backside with a hot iron.
The night of the Sabbat arrives and Geziale speaks to the assembled congregation of her mission, as a ‘daughter of darkness’, to prepare for the ‘Age of Aquarius’ when women the world over will wrestle control of their destinies away from men using the magical powers that previously saw them persecuted as witches. To complete Aline’s welcome into the fold she is laid in an open grave while Geziale messily slits a chicken’s throat and splashes the blood on the younger women’s face. A long haired male member of the audience climbs into the grave and proceeds to screw Aline while hungrily licking the blood off her face. At the climactic moment he stands up and ejaculates (a considerable distance) into an ornamental goblet. Mixing the sperm with some more chickens blood Geziale raises a toast to the moon: ‘Accept this symbolic offering – of ecstasy and agony – taken from life and death’. This is a sure way of getting any party started!
Like all good 1970’s black magic orgies the ceremony predictably degenerates into hysterical naked writhing and evangelical bongo bashing while Aline is trapped inside a cave and molested by a scaly ghoul with creepy, long talons! Meanwhile Laurent is beginning to have second thoughts about hanging out with this bunch of weirdos but . . . it’s too fucking late for that now dude!! Your wife’s been screwed by half the commune; been beaten, branded, force-fed filth and driven half-insane; and she’s now making out with some muck monster with longer fingernails than Freddy-fucking-Kruger!!
Mario Mercer’s film transforms the forests and fields of the French countryside into a dark magical realm, outside of time, recalling 1971’s ‘Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fey’ and evokes the sexual sub-texts of the Grimm’s fairy tales through its Freudian dream world of erotic symbolism and pagan ritual iconography.
The detailed costumes and sets, cluttered with mystic paraphernalia, coupled with some delirious fluid camera work and striking use of coloured filters and negative effects suggest what may have resulted from an unholy collaboration between Jean Rollin and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Despite dwelling on the most lurid ritualistic details (blood and spunk milkshake anyone?) the film does not actually take a judgmental stance on the actions of the cult; as in The Wicker Man the group are depicted as existing outside of the dominant moral status quo of the time and they believe that what they are doing is serving a greater spiritual purpose.
‘A Woman Possessed’ is a powerful, provocative viewing experience; both visceral and visually shocking but also poetic, lyrical and strangely haunting. It’s also full of enough boobs, blood, beards and bongos to satisfy the more libidinous cult film thrill-seeker. Films about black magic, witches and cults flourished around the world in the 1970’s and ‘A Woman Possessed’ stands as one of the very best entries in this diabolical sub-genre.