by: Dr. Boogie
The Exorcist. As you know from reading this site, it has had some sequels that never should have been made, as well as imitators that just couldn't duplicate the film's success. What I have for you today is a film that brings the horror of The Exorcist (along with much of the script) into the most serious of all genres: blaxploitation.
Think about it: what classic film wouldn't be improved by giving it an all-black cast of mostly untrained actors and a shoestring budget? Taxi Driver, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List; these are just a few films that would not have benefited from such a treatment. Another film that shouldn't have a blaxploitation version of itself: The Exorcist. And yet, Abby (1974) was created.
Nevertheless, Abby did make quite a bit of money in theaters... until it was forced out of theaters for being a bald-faced ripoff of The Exorcist. So grab your popcorn and your crucifix and lower your expectations way, way down as we delve into the funky depths of Abby.
In a park somewhere, a group of college kids are having a going away party for their professor, Dr. Williams. Dr. Williams, you see, is about to leave for Nigeria to study the Cult of Eshu. Who, or what, is Eshu? Well, the movie won't let you think on that for very long, as the cast tries to cram as much exposition as possible into the scene, while simultaneously urging Dr. Williams to just open his damn present.
The short answer is that Eshu is some kind of demon with a penchant for possessing black female Kentuckians, but never mind that. The important part here is the doctor himself:
Dr. Williams is played by Shakespearean actor and one of the country's leading producers of gravitas, William Marshall. You might remember him as the King of Cartoons on Pee Wee's Playhouse ("Let the cartooooon... begin!"). In this context, though, you may also remember him as the guy who played the title character in Blacula. If there's anyone who knows blaxploitation, it's William Marshall. And also Richard Roundtree.
Being that Dr. Williams is a reverend with countless other degrees under his collar, his students decide to give him a big, gaudy crucifix as a going away present. That will definitely not come in handy much later in the film. No siree. In fact, I wonder why they bothered to show us this scene at all...
The title card rolls up in an extremely ill advised red-on-black font that is damn near illegible. Not that you'll recognize any of the names that come up anyway.
Instead, you'll likely be focusing on the song in the background: Just as The Exorcist had its iconic "Tubular Bells," so too does Abby have a theme all its own. Well, "all its own" might be a little strong, considering how much it sounds like a rejected James Bond theme.
Deep in a Nigerian mine, Dr. Williams unearths a giant cylinder made of ebony. Carved into the giant black tube is an all-too-familiar character, notable for having a "cock's comb" and an erect penis (which Dr. Williams clumsily pokes while laughing): Eshu.
It's hollow, Dr. Williams notes. Must be some kind of Eshu-branded tackle box. Dr. Williams searches for a way to open the container, and wouldn't you know it, he finds the release mechanism:
Ha ha, oh Eshu. That's a pretty sneaky way to get people to touch your wiener.
Twisting Eshu's mystical knob turns out to be a big mistake:
Opening the chest triggers a windstorm that rips through the caverns. Mostly it just knocks a few workers over, but through the miracle of reversing the film, we see that a couple are tossed into the walls as the struggle against the force of...
Oh... we're done with that scene.
Back in the US, our title character and her husband, Emmett, are moving into their new home. All you really need to know here is that Abby has just been certified as a marriage counselor, and both she and her husband are super into the church. How else could they have gotten the deacon the help them move all their crap?
Point is, now it's extra tragic that she's due for demon possession any time now.
That night, Emmett wakes up to the sound of wind howling through their bedroom, wreaking havoc on their precariously-placed knickknacks. Abby, on the other hand, might be the world's soundest sleeper. She doesn't wake up to the howling wind; she doesn't wake up when a lamp falls off the table and breaks; she doesn't even wake up when their bed lifts a few inches off the ground, only to drop back to the floor the moment Emmett takes notice. He seems upset, but Abby calms him down with a little PG-13 makin' out.
In the morning, Abby is taking a shower when out of nowhere, she starts moaning and vigorously rubbing herself. Suddenly, I understand how this movie was able to pull in $4 million in 1973.
Later, she's in the basement doing some laundry when the door blows shut and wind starts throwing clothes all over the place. But there's no moaning at all in this scene!
Later still, Abby is having dinner with Emmett and her mother and brother. I'm beginning to think I'm not going to see any more suggestive behavior or partial nudity.
In the very next scene, I find that I'm only partially correct: Abby and her mother are at the church carving some chickens when Abby starts getting into it. I mean REALLY getting into it. Chicken isn't enough, so she takes the knife and filets her own arm before passing out.
By now, the family is getting a little worried. Sure, a doctor was able to suture her arm shut this time, but what about next time? Nevertheless, life continues on as normal for Abby.
Hey, what's that white woman doing there?
Anyway, Abby sings a song at church and Emmett delivers the sermon. A few seconds into the sermon, Abby starts having a severe coughing fit. No, we haven't quite worked our way up to pea soup yet, but we're getting there. A parishioner helps Abby out of the chorus, but she turns on him. Giggling like a madwoman, she knocks him out a door and starts crawling around on him, drooling all the while.
Now Emmett is really getting worried. Unfortunately, he hasn't seen The Exorcist, so he doesn't know the signs of demon possession. As far as he's concerned, Abby just needs some good lovin' to set her straight.
Whoops, wrong again, Emmett! Abby's voice gets deep and she declares, "I'm not your ho!" before kicking him right in his Emmett Browns.
While Emmett nurses his bruised crotch, he asks Abby's brother, Cass, if she's ever done any drugs. The answer is no, so the mystery continues. Abby tries to console a couple from church that weren't put off by her maniacal giggling and satanically dry throat earlier. Emmett looks in on the couple, but Abby is not pleased to see him.
Her lips turn ashy, and her eyes change color. What's more, that deep voice she had earlier has developed into a genuine demon voice. She tells the woman that she's going to take her husband and, "fuck the shit out of him!" Mortified, Emmett hauls his cackling wife upstairs for a stern talking to. I hope he's wearing a cup this time.
The first thing he says to her is, "Whatever possessed you to do a thing like that?" Get it? "Possessed"?
Hearing that unintentional play on words brings Abby back around, but only for a moment. Once that moment passes, she throws Emmett onto the bed, beating the crap out of him and laughing all the while.
Emmett is quickly running out of options to help his crazy wife. In an act of sheer desperation, he sends one of the more able-bodied members of the church to check in on Abby while he's at work:
Look, I get that Emmett isn't aware of the whole demon possession thing just yet, but Abby tackled him the previous night and slapped him around like it was nothing. Did he really think some frail old woman would be just the thing he needed to rein in his violently psychotic wife?
Well guess what: his plan completely failed.
There's still plenty more Abby madness to see!
Click here to continue onward to page 2!
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