February 24, 2017

Blacksploitation: Abby

This possession movie was notoriously difficult to find due to Warner Bros. suing American International over the claim that Abby was a direct rip-off of their film the Exorcist. Warner won that suit, so when we finally sat down to watch this, we were fully expecting a blatant Exorcist rip-off. Funny thing though? The only real similarities between Abby and the Exorcist are that someone gets possessed by a demon and then exorcised. Full stop. 

The plot unfolds something like this: Abby's father in-law (and pro bono exorcist), Bishop Garnet Williams, is away on an archaeological dig in Nigeria when he (pretty recklessly) releases a demon from it's millennia old prison. This is bad for Abby and her husband, Reverend Emmett Williams; they're blissfully unaware of the wrath the Bishop has inadvertently unleashed (that's now inexplicably traveling across ocean to their exact location). But it's especially bad for Abby, as this sex-crazed demon has singled her our for possession, making her sessions as a couples counselor SUPER awkward. Bishop Williams must get back to the States to exorcise this demon and return it to it's eternal prison, before it's too late for Abby!

Carol Speed as Abby: Some of the elements of this film are over the top cheesy, but Speed's performance is not on that list. She does a fantastic job playing all the facets of this character, and she wrote and preformed a song she sings in one of the church scenes in the flick to boot! That kind of makes her the anti-Vanity...

Who is Eshu?: There's a long opening to this film that explains the god Eshu, leading us to believe that this was going to come into serious play later in the film. And most of the film seems to build up to that, until the last 10 mins when it's revealed–in full Scooby Doo fashion–that it was a demon pretending to be Eshu the whole time! It leaves viewers with a sort of "oh, um... alright I guess" feeling in the middle of the film's finale.

Cast and crew: Yet another Blacksploitation film that features most of it's Black talent in front of the lens rather than behind it. But, actors of note in this movie are definitely co-stars William Marshall and Austin Stoker!

Special effects: There's some fun possession effects in this film (stuff flying around, explosions, etc.), but Abby's makeup is aaaaallll over the place. There's quick cuts to what looks like cheesy rubber masks throughout the film, but for most of the film her makeup is pretty toned down and effectively creepy. (Honestly the images they flash to (pictured to the right and below) look like they were screen tests for versions of the makeup they abandoned.)

Your fave is problematic: This movie doesn't hide it's anti-feminism very well. Abby is a damsel in distress who must be saved not just by one man, but two. When she's possessed she embodies and amplifies some of the fears that men had during the women's rights movement of the 60s (i.e. Abby becomes sex-crazed and independent). And when she's "saved" in the end, it's literally the end of her character's importance. There's a tacked on (and completely nonsensical) epilogue where she has some incidental duologue, but after she's no longer possessed, the men are the only ones talking about it. It's seriously frustrating because this isn't a terrible movie otherwise. 

Warner Bros and their obsession with having the only possession movie: Abby wasn't the only possession movie that tried to ride the coattails of the Exorcist, but this seems to be the only one that actually got pulled from the market. We've seen movies that more closely rip off the WB film, so it makes us wonder: why this one and not the others? (Just kidding, we know why.)

Over all: This movie should be on more b-horror required viewing lists. It's bad, fun, cheesy, entertaining, sometimes even good, all in the right doses. It's too bad that Warner decided to create a sub-genre of horror just to keep it to themselves. 

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