Well I’ve saved the best for last to finish off possession week here at Screamzine. Today I’m reviewing director William Girdler’s classic bit of Blaxploitation and possession cinema Abby. Time to jump into the review.
William Marshall of Blacula fame stars here as Bishop Garnet Williams. We see that in addition to being a Bishop he is also a professor and perhaps an archaeologist. He heads off to a dig where he unknowingly opens a box containing a demon. To get its revenge on Bishop Williams the demon zips on over to American, specifically Louisville Kentucky where it takes over his daughter in law. Of course no one realizes that right away until poor Abby (the daughter in law) starts to act oddly and attacks everyone in sight! The Bishop eventually makes it to Louisville and with the help of his son and Abby’s brother does battle with the demon to save her.
I love this movie. The story is paced well, interesting, and a nice change from your normal demon possession flick. They establish the characters quickly and waste no time getting to the action. This also saves enough story for us to get to like the Abby character and then feel bad for her when she starts to change. I thought that the revenge angle was a nice twist that makes it different from the other movies in this popular horror subgenre. The demon isn’t doing evil for the sake of evil, but is in fact doing it to torture and hurt the Bishop character. This makes the big showdown at the end even more fun.
In the course of defending this movie I have heard people complain that it is a bit silly at times. I can’t deny that fact. Why would that detract from the fun? This is an early ‘70s movie that is exploiting the success of the Exorcist and tapping into a black audience by the use of a mostly black cast. It also is a lower budgeted movie that has to be more creative and frugal to get the finished product to the screen. If some of the scenes or situations are goofy I’m good with that. Heck isn’t that part of the reason to watch a movie like Abby? If you want a big Hollywood movie, then you shouldn’t be sitting down to watch this or any other movie made for this audience. Just my two cents.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cast. We get a regular all-star lineup here. I’ve already mentioned the great William Marshall. In addition to him we get Austin Stoker, who is another familiar face (Assault on Precinct 13, Horror High). Terry Carter (Foxy Brown, Battlestar Galactica) plays Abby’s husband. Abby herself is played by the legendary Carol Speed (The Mack, Black Samson, The Big Bird Cage, many more). You know I test people who claim to be big Blaxploitation fans. If you don’t know Carol Speed you don’t know what you are talking about. All of these actors do great jobs in their roles and make the so much better just by being on screen. If I had a complaint it would be that the professional cast is surrounded by amateurs that stumble over their lines and deliver them woodenly. But I consider this a necessary evil when making a low budget movie and the stars more than make up for it.
Finally we need to chat a bit about the director William Girdler. In my opinion he doesn’t get nearly the credit for his work as he should. Here he manages to do a whole lot without the unlimited resources a bigger budget movie would have. To convey the demon possession he uses a lot of classic movie making tricks. We get loud sounds, shadows, slamming doors, furniture dancing across the screen. He also uses camera lenses to give close up shots of Abby’s face a distorted look which are punctuated with a full on demon face that is flashed on the screen to great effect without lingering enough for the eye to pick out defects. This is a very technically well-made movie. I often wonder what we would have gotten from him had Girdler not died so young.
Just in case you haven’t been reading my reviews here at Screamzine I should let you in on a few secrets. I love drive-in movies, regional cinema, and Blaxploitation movies. So obviously I was inclined to like Abby before the movie began. The fact that it is well made and entertaining was a bonus. I doubt given the first line of my review that it is a shock that I’m recommending everyone check this out but you really should.
Well that is it for possession week. What do we have planned for next week? Check out the posters Monday for a hint.