This unremarkable horror flick from low-budget king Fred Olen Ray is less concerned with chills than lubricious thrills.
Successful author Howard Hansen (Ted Prior) is stymied in writing his first horror novel; for inspiration, he buys a thing-in-a-jar from a mysterious shop in LA's Chinatown owned by Mr. Wong (Joe Kuroda). The thing, he's informed, is left over from "some old carnival or circus sideshow"; its
crazed former owner went on a killing spree. Coming under its spell, Howard starts cranking out the pages, but his wife Peg (Sandahl Bergman) becomes alarmed at his newfound violent lovemaking technique. Howard's agent, Murray (Frank Sivero), who's been skimming the author's royalties to feed his
gambling habit, sends him curvy live-in secretary Carol (Shannon Tweed). Her real mission is to steal an unpublished manuscript; Murray intends to sell the book to publisher Beckman (Turhan Bey) in order to pay off bookie Scott Lindsey (Henry Silva) and his collector Gus (Chad McQueen). Carol is
soon totally possessed by the thing: she seduces Howard and later forces him and Peg to make love while she masturbates with a pistol. The finale has Gus killing Lindsey in a flash of morality attributable to his pregnant wife, Sheila (Elana Shoshan); he arrives at Howard's to see Carol shoot
Murray. In a blaze of gunfire, Gus and Carol kill each other. Still possessed, Howard terrorizes Peg until the latter throws the thing-in-a-jar into the fireplace where it explodes, thus freeing Howard for a fade-out embrace with Peg.
Although he appears to be working with a comparatively sizable budget (i.e., well into six figures), prolific B-film director Ray (EVIL TOONS, INNER SANCTUM, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS, etc.) fails to transcend his customary schlocky approach; the result is contrived, slow-moving, and obvious.
The skimpy screenplay, by Mark Thomas McGee (a frequent Ray collaborator who has written lively books on American International Pictures, teen pics, and Roger Corman), has only two plot strands, but Ray has trouble sustaining interest in either. Like most of Ray's efforts, the movie is fun in
spots--it's an obvious homage to Corman's THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES (1958). However, it's no longer the Eisenhower era, and extensive, energetic nudity from straight-to-video queen Shannon Tweed and aging Amazon Sandahl Bergman (CONAN THE BARBARIAN, RED SONJA, BODY OF INFLUENCE) doesn't quite
compensate for a 1950s-style story line and special effects--the latter mostly limited to bubbles occasionally rising from what appears to be an eye socket of the thing-in-a-jar. As is Ray's wont, the casting features B-movie vets; Turhan Bey has only one scene, while Henry Silva looks embalmed
but is lively enough to greet two scantily-clad massage cuties (Melissa Braselle, Amy Rochelle) with an eye-twinkling, big-grinned "I love bimbos." Chad (son of Steve) McQueen actually turns in a decent performance here--he's looking and acting more and more like a B-grade Mickey Rourke, and fans
will enjoy unsung Ray regulars like Peter Spellos and bits by producer Amiel and Ray himself (as a detective and a waiter respectively). For the first time in Ray's career, he secured a major distributor (Columbia-TriStar) for one of his pictures; POSSESSED BY THE NIGHT was released
direct-to-video and pay cable. (Violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: This unremarkable horror flick from low-budget king Fred Olen Ray is less concerned with chills than lubricious thrills. Successful author Howard Hansen (Ted Prior) is stymied in writing his first horror novel; for inspiration, he buys a thing-in-a-jar… (more)